Checking my daughter's head for lice six months ago under the bright fluorescents of the bathroom, with my daughter's screams bouncing off the tiles and echoing throughout the house, I grumbled to myself:
I don't think I'm going to make it in Israel.
I already have too many tasks to complete before bedtime. Checking every strand of hair, while wrestling with my impatient five-year-old, might take me over the edge.
I dug the lice comb into my daughter's scalp thinking wistfully of my friends back in New Jersey, speaking English without having to look up every other word in the dictionary, giving birth in English, and managing bedtime routine without nit picking.
A friend told me the other day that a new family would be arriving that evening on Aliyah. I reminisced about the excitement and anticipation we felt as our own plane hit the tarmac at Ben Gurion Airport six months ago. How we stepped off the plane, and entered a whole new life. I remembered the exhaustion and the heat of Israel, our tiny apartment with mattresses on the kitchen floor, the jet lag, and the feeling of being completely lost.
And with a tear in my eye, I recognized how far we had come in six months.
Since arriving on our Yishuv six months ago via three taxis with 17 pieces of luggage, six carry-ons and three car seats, drained and overheated, we have accomplished much. We moved twice, unpacked our lift of 125 boxes, went furniture shopping in a foreign language, set up a bank account, obtained health insurance, bought a used car, fixed the used car, gave birth to a new baby (our first "Sabra"), lived through a war, and experienced my husband's first business trip back to America.
Not to mention how we watched the children settle into new schools, make friends, and learn Hebrew.
I can now call the gas company to get my BBQ hooked up to the gas line, and the furniture store to enquire when our wardrobe will be delivered, and the phone company to contest a phone bill. All this in Hebrew. Not great Hebrew, but Hebrew nonetheless. I've come a long way from Ben Gurion Airport.
My children are still not fluent in Hebrew, but they don't seem to mind. Just like me, they know what to say in Hebrew to get their daily needs met. They have lots of Israeli friends, and go to school happily. Every day, my daughter reports to me one more word that she understands, and one more word that she can say. We marvel at their beautiful Israeli accents, admiring their rolling "rs" and flawless "chs."
We've learned how to remain calm and to smile at our "Israeli moments."
Why would anyone want to blow up my math book and my tuna fish sandwich?
Like last month, when my son forgot his knapsack at the bus stop. We only realized it the next day when it was too late. His classmates informed us that the Yishuv security force had blown it up along with his new winter coat, which was sitting on top.
"What?" My son's eyes squinted in confusion. I could see he was thinking, why would anyone want to blow up my math book and my tuna fish sandwich?
"It looked suspicious," I tried to explain. He began to cry, fearing that he might have to redo all the work that he had done since September.
I told my son, "Thank God, they are looking after our safety here. And we should be very happy and grateful."
He returned to the bus stop and collected the remnants of his knapsack, including a piece of the zipper and a ripped math worksheet. His friends taught him the word in Hebrew for "blown-up." My husband and I smiled at each other, knowingly… Only in Israel.
This evening, I found a bug in my daughter's hair.
"Ew," she made a face and turned away. My son took the tissue to the toilet, and I continued running the comb through her hair giving that bug and the one after that little fan fare. My daughter has grown to accept these checks just like books before bed and treats on Shabbos (though a lot less pleasant), and ironically, I've come to appreciate the special mother-daughter time we have together (as long as I don't accidentally pull a hair out of her head).
We know we have a much longer road to travel, and greater challenges to overcome. But now that we've made the move, we have more confidence to forge ahead and to establish our lives here in Israel. We are less exhausted, and less overwhelmed. We understand that Aliyah is a process which does not end when you step off the plane or when the Israeli passports arrive in the mail. In fact, we've only just begun our Aliyah. But it's a good beginning, thank God.