Thursday, June 22, 2006

I took a week off to pack 6/22/2006

I was so busy with packing and arrangements, I had no time to write an article this week. Look to the 5 Towns Jewish Times next week for a new article.

How do we spell pressure? A-L-I-Y-A-H (Article #8) 6/15/2006

I had originally planned to write last week about our experience marching with the Nefesh Bnefesh contingent at the Salute to Israel parade in Manhattan on June 4. Since I got sidetracked, I thought I would share some brief observations with you this week.

I thought the parade was more sparsely attended than in the previous years that we have attended. With 6 kids to chase, we stopped regularly attending the parade several years ago when it became too difficult to keep track of everyone. Somehow the crowd seemed smaller than we had remembered from the past. Even the obligatory protest contingent of Neturei Karta Chassidim and their Arab allies were much fewer in number.

Having never experienced the parade from inside the barricades, I was struck by how quickly everything went by. We sang L’Shana Haba’ah B’Yerushalayim almost the entire way up 5th Avenue. We even sang a special round (after Goldie came up with the idea) of B’Chodesh Haba’ah B’Yerushalayim.

We also sang the “hey, hey, hey Goodbye” song, which was also kind of cute as we said goodbye to America.

Another thing I noticed was the immediate roar of the crowd as soon as they realized who we were. The support and encouragement the spectators expressed for new Olim was heartwarming. It was especially exciting to see people we have known for years; watching their reaction as soon as they realized that we were with the NBN group and making Aliyah.

We had a great time and I know that the kids will always remember the day they got to march in the parade.

As we get into the home stretch with less than a month to go, we find ourselves literally exhausted all the time. There is so much to do. At work and at home, we are both at wits end, trying to tie up as many loose ends as possible.

While I think there is certainly enough time to get everything that we control done, Goldie is a list maker and scorekeeper. So she really needs to finish things before she can feel accomplished, while I am content with simple progress.

For instance, I am quite happy to shop prices for appliances, trying to get the best price. I figure that as long as the appliances end up in our lift, we are okay. I also feel accomplished by speaking with vendors about our needs, since each conversation brings us one step closer to a final purchase.

Goldie on the other hand cannot understand how I can spend hours checking specs on websites and calling for price quotes without buying something and still feel as if I have accomplished something. She needs to know that the appliances have been ordered and will be on our lift, so that she can cross that item off her list. Until it is crossed off of her list, she feels as if we are wasting time that could be better spent buying something or at least packing it.

This theory applies to anything that needs to be done for our Aliyah. Schools for the kids? It doesn’t matter how many emails we send or phone calls we make, until the kids are officially enrolled, she feels as if we haven’t really set things up.

In fact, schooling presents its own unique challenge. Most schools in Israel are public schools. Even though we have requested specific schools for the kids, since the school assignments are made by the municipality, it is really up to them to determine who goes where, no matter what the parental preferences are.

In Beit Shemesh/Ramat Beit Shemesh, there has been a trend for Olim to populate certain schools. Accordingly, those schools have a high percentage of English speakers as students. The municipality prefers that the student populations of each Yeshiva be more representative of the population at large, so they will limit the amount of English speakers admitted to those schools, assigning them instead to other, more Israeli schools.

Since we are dealing with public school, it is not easy to undo the municipality’s decision. This creates a tremendous amount of angst for those who are assigned to schools whose ideals and hashkofa may be different from the student’s family’s ideals and hashkofos.

As the entire process is out of our control, I don’t really worry about it. I figure that I will either be happy or unhappy with the decision being made – and will fight it out only if I feel I can make a significant difference by saying something. Goldie worries about these things all the time.

There are many other personal issues that also need to be dealt with. What will we drive until we buy a new car? Which health plan is best for us? Which bank? What about property insurance? The list is endless, but needs to be taken care of in the next three weeks.

So, while we were busy running from one thing to another, packing boxes, sorting through old clothes and tying up our affairs, we also spent each day this past weekend in a constantly anxious state, worrying about the many things that we still need to take care of and haven’t.

Then there are the well meaning but incredibly repetitive questions. Are you guys all excited? (Answer: most of the time. Some of the time we just have a feeling as if we are standing on the train tracks while the train bears down us). What are you going to do if……………? (Answer: We have no clue. We will take each challenge as it comes). Are you ready? (Answer: See below) While we are thrilled that people are interested in us and our Aliyah, we sometimes feel as if we need to just sit in a quiet corner and decompress.

The workplace is no easier. We are both trying to close as many open items as we can so that there is less confusion when we leave. Working for our schools has allowed us the unique opportunity to mentally and emotionally invest in our careers. We are both extremely dedicated to our respective (Yeshiva) employers.

We are therefore extremely concerned that the transitions to our replacements be smooth. Much more so than an average departing employee. So we spend hours each working day doing our utmost to leave “neat desks” for those who will follow us in the workplace.

Simultaneously, we need to bring our replacements up to speed with where things stand on many different issues that will remain open. Of course, since they will be doing things in their own way, we need to constantly remember not to mix in and to allow them to do whatever they feel works best.

Further complicating matters is the fact that we have so many social obligations related to our Aliyah to attend to. The parade. A JUF farewell party for Olim in Manhattan. Various goodbye parties for the kids. The Yeshiva of South Shore’s special event in honor of all the Yehiva’s Olim. Different tzeischem lshalom kiddushim. And so on, and so on, and…….

Then there are the stresses over which we have no control. (Here come some shameless plugs and free advertising….) We still haven’t sold or rented our house (anyone interested in a 5 bedroom colonial with approved plans to expand to a 7 bedroom please give me a buzz). The cars are still ours too (1998 Town & Country and 2001 Durango – both low mileage and in excellent condition). We can only hope that we thought of all the other things to do.

All these various pressures result in a tremendous amount of stress. I have found that at times, we are so focused and pressured, that we seem to wake up for days on end “on the wrong side of the bed”. We can feel the increased tension in our lives and in our home, and it definitely takes its toll both physically and mentally.

Don’t get me wrong here. There isn’t necessarily anything wrong with what we are experiencing, and I am sure that many of the other families making the move this year also have a lot of stress and pressure. We are still excited to go and are looking forward to our new life.

It has simply gotten to a point that we just wish the whole process could be finished already. We are ready to open a new chapter in our Book of Life, but it seems like we can’t seem to turn the page from the last chapter without suffering a few creased pages.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Those We Leave Behind (Article #7) 6/8/2006

{I had originally intended to write about our experience at the Israeli day parade this past Sunday. We had the distinct pleasure of marching with Nefesh Bnefesh and our fellow 2006 Olim. I have included some captioned pictures from the parade for the 5TJT (and will post them on my website next week if I can figure out how). However, when I sat down at the computer to write the article, the following is what came out my heart and mind…..}

“Are you all excited?”

Boy do we hear that question a lot. I’ve got to say that it alternates between excited anticipation and a “get off the train tracks” sense of dread.

There are so many things to coordinate. We hope to sign our lease this week and work out all the final details for our lift. We have to figure out how to keep our American funds and Israeli funds in order. We have to navigate our way through what is sure to be a major bureaucracy. And much much more.

But our feelings pale compared to those of the family members who we will be moving away from in 4 more weeks.

It isn’t so tough for me. I haven’t lived in the same city as my siblings for 15 years. We left Chicago when Chaim was a newborn and have lived in the Far Rockaway/5 Towns area since then. We spent 8 years (literally) living next door to my in-laws. The last 7 we have been a 10 minute drive away. My parents live in Chicago (in the house I grew up in from age 7.5 when we moved there in 1975) and we get to see them some Yom Tovs, occasional simchas and if they can manage a quiet weekend here or there.

Goldie’s brother lives in Teaneck with one sister in Flatbush and the other in Far Rockaway. Her grandmother (our last surviving grandparent on either side) lives in Flatbush as well, and there are uncles, aunts and cousins throughout the metropolitan area.

On my side, there is a lone uncle in West Hempstead. I have one sister and brother who live in Israel, with my youngest brother currently living in Chicago but planning his own Aliyah within 5 years or so. All my other uncles, aunts and cousins live “out of town” and so we are used to seeing them all in short bursts.

So my relatives have only small if any regrets in having us make Aliyah. On the contrary, my 2 siblings will have another brother to share their lives with. My other brother will soon join us, and (I am sure) that my parents will eventually come for significant visits of months at a time once we are all there.

They are used to visiting with us and the kids on the phone, so it is certainly no more difficult for them. They will still call us on a 516 telephone number (I have to remember to order it) and visit for a week here and there. It will certainly limit the time we have to spend with my parents that would come from living only 800 miles away. Yet as a whole, some of my relatives will even see us more often than before. So for them this is a big win, or at least a tie.

Not only that, but we all grew up as members of Bnei Akiva; my parents were members of Mizrachi, Amit, Religious Zionists of Chicago, etc. We were literally raised with a constant message of love of Israel and (not as strong) live in Israel. It certainly worked, since we will most likely all be living in Israel within the next 5 years. Our family is really an Aliyah success story (and there is no way ANYONE would have predicted this 10 years ago).

The contrast to our NY family is astounding.

While we hope to visit as often as we can (and our jobs allow for a certain amount of travel), this move will dramatically change our lives as a family unit.

No more last second decisions for a kid to go to Bubbee for Shabbos. No more having Bubbee and Zaidy drop in to say “Hi.” No more family BBQ’s when we happen to catch a mutual day off. No more nothing.

Sure there will be the occasional visits, some of them being extended for weeks and/or months at a time. Yet, that isn’t the same as what we have now – at least on Goldie’s side of the equation.

It hurts. I know that when many of you read the fact that we lived next to the in-laws you cringed. I don’t. I think it was a great time for my kids, and for us. There was always an extra pair of hands around or babysitting services (especially when we would say to an innocent 4 year old, “Is that Bubbee calling your name? Go see what she wants!”) when we needed it. My brother lives 2 blocks from our parents in Chicago and I know his kids also benefit from similar circumstances.

We cannot even prepare ourselves for it, because we don’t know how we will react to the situation. The older kids might be able to guess at it, but the younger 3 (ages 7, 5 and 15 months) have NO CLUE what it means that they will be living so far away. They probably think it will be like our trip to Disneyworld or something, where we will “go home” after a few weeks. Certainly not somewhere we would stay forever.

Yet when all is said and done, we will still be with our children (at least until they move out themselves) living together as a family. Goldie’s family is going to have a void. We are taking their daughter, sister, grandchildren, nieces and nephews to a far away land. They have enjoyed sharing their growth with us, yet now we are taking that all away from them.

Think about that for a minute. Imagine for just a second what it means when a grandparent hears, “we are taking 6 out of your 17 grandchildren, who have lived within 10 minutes of you for their entire lives and moving them so far away that you cannot come to a siddur play or a channuka show without planning a several thousand dollar special trip.”

I just wrote that and I cannot imagine it myself.

Our younger children will grow up with radically different relationships to our families than the older ones. While some difference is expected, a lot of it will be simply lack of opportunity to build a strong emotional bond. And that is a shame.

Yet children are resilient. They adapt to their circumstances very well, and often are unaware that they are missing something. Even Goldie and I will adapt, in a major part because of our need to be supportive and strong for our children, but also in part because we will have new family relationships to (in whatever small way) fill some of the void we will feel.

There are many Olim who have absolutely no one to fill that void, so in this sense we are lucky. Yet there are no replacements showing up. There will be no “spare” grandchildren or cousins stepping up to the plate to take our spot. And you can be sure that the Bubbees and Zaidys, Aunts and Uncles and cousins all know exactly what they will be missing.

So when we hear that Goldie’s mother is upset or even heartbroken, it isn’t because she thinks we are doing something wrong. When we hear from a sibling that they thought we would always be there to help as our parents aged, it isn’t from a sense of selfishness. It is truly a sense of personal loss and grief that they feel.

While they may be just as proud of us as the rest of our relatives (and there is no one prouder of us than Goldie’s father, for him we are the ultimate success and realizing his greatest unfulfilled dream), they are also sad for themselves and their loss which is our loss as well.

Goldie is crying as she reads this. I don’t even have to look to see.

In many ways, Aliyah is infinitely more difficult for those we leave behind. We only hope that they join us just as soon as they can.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Going, Going...... (Article #6) 6/1/2006

In December of last year, we took a day off and made a special trip to the Jewish Agency to open our “Tik Aliyah” (Aliyah file). Any Jew is entitled to automatic Israeli citizenship should he so desire. The Jewish Agency is responsible for the evaluation of each applicant to determine if they are indeed Jewish and thus entitled to automatic citizenship under the Law of Return.

We met with our Shaliach Aliyah, Yonati Greenfield to discuss the various issues facing our family. She was extremely helpful to us in finding information and in wading through the red tape. Quite frankly, of all the current Olim I have spoken to, it seems as if our processing was as simple as it gets.

Right off the bat, we discussed our oldest son. At age 15, we feel that it is unfair to force him to become an Oleh and Israeli citizen, especially since he has already mapped out his schooling and career choices for the next ten or so years. In third grade he announced that he would be attending Harvard Law School (recently changed to Yale) in preparation for becoming the youngest partner in his law firm’s history.

While we will certainly encourage him to follow our example (and hope that his friends will do so as well), we feel that he is entitled to make his own decisions in life and we therefore made it a priority to arrange for the choice to be his. This will happen when he turns 18, the age of adulthood. Our other children, being younger, will not have a choice in this matter; they will be Israeli citizens from day one, with all the obligations and benefits that come with citizenship.

This is the plan that we felt worked for our family. As I have said before, I do not believe there is a right or wrong. Each person and family have to make decisions based on what they think is best for themselves and their families.

With that settled, Yonati carefully reviewed the documents that we had prepared (our passports, original birth certificates, marriage license and a letter from our Rabbi certifying that he knew both Goldie and I as well as our families and that he could vouch for our being Jewish). She noted what documents were not originals and then reviewed all the paperwork we needed to prepare to qualify for Aliyah.

Applicants for Aliyah under the Law of Return are issued a specific Aliyah visa in their foreign passport. Essentially, the paperwork is required in order to apply for an Aliyah visa. When the paperwork is approved, the visa is issued.

Each adult has to sign waivers and consents that they understand what the paperwork is for and that they indeed are applying for Israeli citizenship. Each member of the family (or their parent/guardian) must sign a medical form certifying that they are in good health.

I found the reason for the medical form quite interesting. As you may know, Israel has “socialized” health care, with full coverage for every citizen. Apparently, in recent years there have been olim who have moved to Israel in order to get coverage for expensive medical procedures for which they have no medical coverage in their home country, after which they return to their country of origin. This same thing is also done by Israelis who have left Israel, which has resulted in the Israeli Government legislating a mandatory waiting period before returning citizens can get medical benefits.

In addition to the Medical form, each person who will be making Aliyah must complete and sign a visa application. In duplicate. Many of the forms included a listing of the names and ages of all siblings, so they took quite some time to prepare.

With 5 children making Aliyah, this meant that we needed to fill out i) two waivers, ii) two general Aliyah applications, iii) seven medical forms and iv) fourteen visa applications.

We set aside 2 hours on a Motzei Shabbos to go to my office in the Yeshiva and prepare the forms with no distractions. About ten minutes before we completed filling out the final set of forms I realized that we probably could have saved ourselves a ton of writer’s cramp had I simply scanned the forms into the computer and just edited the information for each child. Too late.

We ordered certified copies of our missing papers and in late January we returned to Jewish Agency to give all our papers to Yonati for processing. Thankfully, we had actually prepared the forms correctly and within ten days we received notification that our Aliyah was approved.

I can tell you that many other Olim have a much harder time getting their paperwork processed. Although we were not required to (and I have no idea why), there is a certification known as “Apostille” certification that many people are required to have put on their birth and marriage certificates. This is a specific type of certification that can only be ordered through the City or State, and we have been told is a pain to arrange for.

Additionally, we know some families in which a grandparent was an Israeli citizen which made one of the spouses intending to make Aliyah an Israeli citizen as well. This puts them in a totally different category of Oleh, requiring not only a different visa but also the issuance of an Israeli passport for that particular person.

Other people have had difficulty getting birth certificates, marriage licenses and even acceptable letters from Rabbis who can verify the lineage of both parents as Jews. Thankfully we had none of these issues and we were approved very quickly without any issues.

With the notification of our visa approval, we were also given instructions of how to get our visas processed and put into our American Passports. Additionally, we had to notify Nefesh Bnefesh that our visas were approved and get them a copy of our visas once they have been issued, so that we could get scheduled on an Aliyah flight.

Before NBN, the Jewish Agency would schedule flights for Olim on regular El Al flights. Upon entering the country, Olim would first enter the country in the foreign passport control area and then proceed to a special office where they would wait (seemingly for hours) for their Visas to be processed. NBN has streamlined this process tremendously.

There is a common misconception that Nefesh Bnefesh is actually paying the costs of the charter flights that are leaving for Israel twice a month from JFK this summer (as well as flights from Canada and England). In truth, the cost of a one way ticket (except for a $50 processing fee per ticket) is paid by the Government of Israel for each Oleh as part of the Law of Return.

What NBN does, is assemble all the Olim together in group flights that the government pays for. They also arrange for officials of the Interior Ministry to be on the plane to process each Oleh’s paperwork inflight, saving countless hours of waiting in the airport upon arrival.

Olim are also entitled to free transportation to their Israeli destination upon arrival in Israel. Arrangements for taxis/transportation for all their Olim is also a service provided by NBN (among the countless other things that NBN does for Olim).

As NBN Olim, we had much less to do with the Jewish Agency than other Olim. Two weeks ago we presented our passports at the Israeli consulate for processing. We assumed that the consulate was in its own building, with soldiers posted outside guarding it. Turns out, that is the embassy.

The Israeli consulate occupies a floor in a midtown office building. They have a special elevator which is guarded and additional security outside the elevators on their floor. When we passed through security we entered a room that could have doubled as a bank. There were 20 or so bulletproof “teller” windows manned by consulate employees.

This of course being the Israeli consulate, we had to wait in line to see which window we would need to go to wait in line at. When we got to the “Aliyah visa” window, there was no one on line but we were still told to take a seat until we were called. I have no idea why.

Once we were called and organized our visa photos (we need something like 10 passport photos for each person to attach to the various forms we will have completed by the time we get to Israel) and documents, we were told to return in no less than ten days as there was no way we could get the visas stamped into our passports that same day.

This week we will go back to the consulate to pick up our passports with visas (and will have done so by the time you read this). We will copy the visas and send the copies to NBN, and they will literally make all the other arrangements for our flight on July 5.

In other areas, we hope to get a copy of our lease this week. We might actually have someplace to live (more details to follow once the lease is signed). We packed a few more boxes – our current total is 26. We also signed up to march with Nefesh Bnefesh Olim in the Israeli Day Parade this Sunday.

This past Shabbos a friend of our daughter came by the house. Her family is also making Aliyah on July fifth. When she saw me she excitedly announced, “Mr. Katz – 39 days!” I remarked to her mother later that day that it is almost like we are in a reverse sefira, counting down the days until we make the big move. Only 5 weeks left.

Approximately seven and a half weeks ago I got a phone call from Larry Gordon, the editor of the Five Towns Jewish Times. He had an idea for a new column that he wanted me to write. He told me that there are more and more people making Aliyah from the 5 Towns, but there are surely even more who are considering it and may be on the fence. Furthermore, while we often hear about people making Aliyah, once the people leave, there is very little personal connection that we here in America have to them in understanding the experience.

Larry asked me to write an Aliyah Journal (the Aliyah Chronicles) about our experiences. His idea was to personalize the process of making Aliyah. His only instruction to me was to try and make the reader feel as if he or she were standing right next to us as things unfolded. He felt that this might encourage others to consider Aliyah or at the very least give them a greater understanding of what Olim go through. “Who knows,” he told me, “this just might be the thing that gives someone the final nudge.”

This past Monday night, a group of adults got together at the home of Robert and Jennifer Airley in Cedarhurst. Each one of those attending will be moving to Israel this summer. (There will be another get together in mid-June, if you are moving to Israel this summer and would like to join us please send me an email)

As Goldie and I entered the house, I saw a very familiar face. I have known one spouse of this couple since college and our children have played together over the years as well. As far as I knew, this family had no plans to make Aliyah in the near future. Yet, here was the husband at a get together for Aliyah bound couples.

So I turned to this fellow and said, “What are you doing here? Are you making Aliyah?”

To which he replied, “Yes we are – and it is all because of you!”

I didn’t really believe him, but our hosts assured me that this couple was indeed planning to make Aliyah this coming September. Jennifer Airley even mentioned that she had been waiting for weeks to see the look on my face when I heard the news. I cannot describe the emotions I felt at hearing his words.

I was absolutely stunned. The thought that this family would even jokingly imply that I had something to do with their decision was overwhelming. I was literally moved to hug this fellow and I was trembling from nervous excitement.

I had no idea that this family was even considering Aliyah, and here they were talking about their post Shavuos pilot trip to find a community to settle in. Obviously this was something that they had considered over time, and clearly I had nothing to do with the process. Which is what I told him.

He assured me that I was wrong. This is what he told me.

He and his wife have talked for years about making Aliyah. They have talked about the need for parnossa and how to make Aliyah work for their family. Their children were encouraging them to make the move. But the task seemed too daunting to them; without a job they didn’t really consider it an option.

Then they started reading these articles, and it didn’t seem so overwhelming (it really is – but once you put your mind to it things just happen). So they gave Nefesh Bnefesh a call and they talked about jobs. After discussing it with his boss, it seems that commuting for 10 days a month will work for them, and all of a sudden here they are planning a September departure to join us this year. If all goes well they will make it official 2 weeks after Shavuos.

Even now, as Goldie and I talk about this, we are literally close to tears as we consider the profound impact our words have had on this family. Goldie even feels a sense of responsibility that their Aliyah be successful, as she would feel terrible if we were responsible for a negative outcome.

I wish I could take the credit. But the credit really goes to Larry Gordon. He came up with the idea for these articles and he is the one who thought that this very result would come from it. So I wish a Yasher Koach to Larry Gordon for coming up with the idea for these articles, and I hope to be able to wish an official Mazal Tov to this family in 2 weeks or so. I also hope and pray to be wishing many more Mazal Tovs in the near future.

Until then I wish you all a Gut Yom Tov and may we all be zocheh to celebrate the rest of our Chagim together in Yerushalayim, the capital of our holy land - Eretz Yisrael.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

You Haven’t Started Packing Yet? (Article#5) 5/25/2006

So we finally packed our first 9 boxes last week, essentially emptying the basement bookshelves from seforim and books. Although we move in just 6 weeks, we haven’t yet gotten that sense of urgency that the move is upon us and we have to get packing.

The whole process of moving our house is totally different from what we are used to. In our 16 years as a family, we have moved twice. Once to Far Rockaway from our initial apartment in Chicago (as a married couple of almost one year with a 5 week old baby), and the second time to our current house in Woodmere 7 years ago.

In both of those moves, we packed everything ourselves, taking all of our belongings from one place to the next in a matter of hours or days. We paid for the move based on the amount of stuff we had and the weight of our shipment.

Moving overseas is a whole different story. There are a whole host of issues to consider. Do we sell all our furniture and buy new things there to save the cost of shipping? Are we emotionally tied to our things and will the comfort of our “stuff” make our adjustment easier? How much can I take and have it fit within our new home that may have limited closet space and require a different style of furniture? And many other issues as well.

Shipping to Israel is not a weight based calculation. It is solely a function of space. Essentially, you purchase a certain amount of space in a container being sent by boat to Israel. You are then entitled to cram as much as you possibly can into that container (well, the movers actually pack the container – but you get my point).

In order to determine how much space you need, the shippers send an estimator who walks through your house with you. He calculates how much space each item that you plan on taking will use and then adds a certain amount for additional items you plan on shipping (see appliances below).

In order to ensure that everything is still in one piece when it arrives at our new home, the shippers told us that we are only responsible to pack all the “soft” goods like clothes and books. They will come to our home on the day we pack the lift and will professionally pack our breakable items such as dishes, paintings, etc.

There are many different shipping companies who ship to Israel and they all have pluses and minuses. We chose our shipper not only based on favorable recommendations from the Nefesh Bnefesh website, but more importantly on the fact that my brother had informed me that this particular shipper was also an appliance wholesaler who would beat any price on any item we needed to purchase for our new home.

We are essentially saying goodbye to almost every appliance we own. My shaver might work on 220 voltage. The computer too. But the microwave, toaster, fridge, cd/stereo, DVD player, hairdryers, alarm clocks and a whole host of other appliances simply won’t work in Israel. Interestingly, in Israel, the fridge, washer/dryer and oven are not left behind by the previous residents. So we need to add these items to our list as well.

There are several stores in the NY region that specialize in 220 volt appliances. This week, we visited one to select the various items that we will need in Israel. Initially, I felt uncomfortable shopping in a store and taking the salesman’s time when I knew we wouldn’t actually be buying there. My brother knows the salesman, though, and told me to tell the guy exactly what we were doing. There are many small appliances like a toaster that aren’t available through our shipper, for those we are using this specific store.

Two weeks ago, there was a special seminar held in New York specifically dealing with 220 appliances and what Olim should be looking for in appliances. Of course, Goldie and I had just gotten back from Israel and were still chasing down our rental home, so we did not make the time to attend. I have heard from those who attended that the seminar was very informative, but we had to rely upon our salesman for the same advice.

It seems that for major appliances, the Israeli/European options only come in small sizes with minimal capacities. So most people recommend buying American appliances, which can be imported import duty free with Aliyah Zechuyot (rights). Since we are initially renting our home, we aren’t sure what kind of oven/refrigerator we will need long term. So we decided to just get something simple and large. As far as washer/dryers go – everybody says get maytag (they are the most dependable).

These appliances are delivered directly to the shippers to be placed in our container for shipment. When our lift is packed, these items will already be included in the cargo container. Since we plan on shipping almost all our furniture, we will need almost an entire container for our things.

A side benefit of needing close to the entire container is that we will have room for additional things like aluminum foil, paper goods, giant buckets of advil, cases of Diet Dr. Pepper, etc. in the lift, since we get to use every inch of space for whatever we want. We made a significant dent in COSTCO’s inventory last Sunday as we loaded up on these items to pack them in boxes.

Which brings us back to packing boxes. Since we are only packing our non-breakables, we won’t have that much to pack. We might have about 100 boxes to pack all together and everything else will be done by the shippers. Another added benefit is that all the international shippers give you free boxes in which to pack your things. They ship them via UPS directly to your home.

So we had no problems arranging for brand new boxes to hold all our things. They include packing tape and magic markers in our box shipments, so we really had everything we needed when we began to pack. And it was also a very tangible reminder that we are really on our way. Next week: Visas – no not the charge card

On a personal note, we want to thank the many people who have given us so much encouragement these past few weeks. Knowing that we are fulfilling a dream that many of us share, it is truly heartwarming to hear your kind words and warm wishes. We look forward to the time when all of us will have the zchus of achieving this dream and live together B’Achdus in Artzeinu Hakedosha.