Yom Aaliyah

Today I bought a pillow….

This is, essentially, all I accomplished. Which I guarantee you was not the plan when I woke up.

In fact, despite being rather exhausted after an incredibly draining day landing ba’eretz. Which was uninspirational (the Yemenites get a far nicer arrival from what I can see) and, frankly, a painful symbol of how little Israelis care that you have chosen to move to their country.

Sadly, instead of balloons and singing, we spent  hours in the absorption centre (and surely the absorption centre in Israel must be the only one to boast Louis Vuitton luggage – my guess is the French.) And then spent even more time wandering around Ben Gurion Airport sheparded by members of staff who, amazingly, seemed even more clueless than ourselves. Before finally finally arriving at a taxi tired, hungry and cold (more on that later) to be berated by the taxi driver for trying to shtup eight individuals’ wordly possession in his taxi. Let’s put it this way he did not handle with care.

Despite all this, and my aching arms from schlepping suitcases up and down stairs, I decided to wake up early this morning to get shit done. Because if there’s one thing I am good at – it’s ticking points off my to do list (obviously metaphorically, I’m not really the list type.) So bright and early I arrived in the moadon ready to be whisked through all the administration that needed to be filled in at ulpan. Of course, whilst I was bright eyed and bushy tailed (or at least my makeup hid most of my sheer exhaustion,) the ulpan staff were not really on board. Instead, I trawled through boring bureaucracy slowly, which included failing my Hebrew test – I have yet to be told of my set, but it sure as hell ain’t Solomon stream. And for those of you who keep telling me you can’t “fail” the test, honestly, you just don’t get “it.”

However, finally I had done all that needed to be done and seemingly signed my life away so I was ready to rock and to roll. So at midday, I left ulpan to go to central Jerusalem – terra firma if you will – starving (I had yet to buy food), but determined and proud.

I had two jobs

  1. To get a SIM with a UK landline
  2. To open a UK bank account

Obviously, I did neither.

I did shout at an Israeli and cry, but more of that later.

As I arrived in central Jerusalem a friend informed me that the banks close at 1pm and don’t reopen till 4pm. Why on earth they do this, I couldn’t even begin to fathom. But, ultimately it meant my whole rush was redundant. I could have slept, but I didn’t. I persevered, how wrong I was.

Firstly, the phone:

This is a very boring story so I won’t go into it at depth, but it involved me basically deciding to use the SIM I had originally been given at the airport, and wasting a huge amount of time (and money on roaming) in my pursuit of other, ultimately irrelevant options.

However, it was on my search for a workable SIM tailormade for my unique requirements that I learnt two useful things.

  1. Literally, no-one gives a shit that you’re an oleh hadashah. I had, mistakenly, thought that when I said those words doors would magically open, people would be nicer, more open, more forgiving of my dodgy Hebrew. I was wrong.
  2. No-one speaks English (or certainly not to me), I suspect this is part of a mass ploy to make my life harder than it needs to be, but this is yet to be confirmed. The irony is I had at one point joked I was going to pretend to be French forcing people to speak to me only in Hebrew so I could improve….be very careful what you wish for.

Then I dragged myself around town, as my mother would say, dreycoking before arriving at one bank at 3.25 ready for its doors to open at 3.30. Of course, what I didn’t realise was that you needed a ticket which meant I wasn’t even first. I was brusquely waved vaguely in the direction of a manager who thrust a number in my face and seemed to think I would be able to make heads or tails out of an Israeli switboard.
I could not.

But, then it got really interesting.

I went to Bank Hapoal’im ready to book a meeting for tomorrow. However, the signs were ominous as  in the huge queeue that formed outside I got screamed at first in Hebrew (and then when I pretended suddenly not to understand) in English for stealing some nuttas place. I was also balancing this drama with a client phone call, whilst offering retorts and trying to save my spot at the head of the queue in Hebrew. Finally, we were let in after a 20-minute wait. I was one of the first to be seen, and all was good.

However, the teller was very upset I had come to her branch and not one closer to me, despite my protestations that I had arrived but a day ago and didn’t know Talpiot (which I later realised isn’t even the right area) from my left foot. She also refused to book me an appointment. Legitimately refused, even though I know of others who had booked appoitments.

Then I lost it, and in my anger became a sem girl and questioned her ahava Yisroel, dramatically gathered my belongings, stormed out and cried. 

Looking back I may have overreacted.

However, whilst I did get very little done today. I must say that was has amazed me is the kindness of olim who have gone before me. Every single oleh has messaged to help with advice, counsel or simply words of empathy – which is really what I needed. And, thanks to them, I not only got through the day, but feel ready for tomorrow. Which is, thankfully, another day.



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