Settling Into A Routine

It has taken me a few weeks to get used to work, to learn new words and terms in Hebrew that only apply to field-work, and to figure out how In the Fieldsall the work gets done.  The people I work with are so nice and are always ready to explain something toOn the Mule me if I don’t understand what to do.  My first week of work was hard because it was my first week, but I enjoyed every day of it; the weeks after have been much better.  Now I’ve settled into a routine, which is exactly what I’ve needed these last few months.  From the time camp ended until now, I haven’t had a routine, something to depend on.  It’s nice to know exactly what I have to do when I wake up in the morning.

We usually work from 7:15am until about 4pm.  The crops that I work with are potatoes, garlic, beets, and carrots, lots and lots of carrots.  PotatosThe kibbutz has a factory that cleans and packages carrots, so they grow a lot of carrots here.  For the first week or two, we worked in these fields.  The pipes we use in the fields, which are made in Israel, are 12 meters long and 3 inches in diameter.  We put in lines of pipes, take them out, and move them within the fields.  Each pipe has a smaller pipe sticking up from it with a sprinkler head attached at the top.  We have to move lines of pipes in order for the tractor to come and till the soil, and then move the lines of pipes back on to the already tilled soil.  When carrots are ready to be taken out, we have to take out lines of pipes Pipes, Made In Israelso that the combine can come and take out the carrots.  We usually do this work in the morning, before lunch.  We eat lunch around 12ish and then go Carrotsback to work around 1pm.  In the afternoon, we fix any pipes that have holes or leaks, and we go around to the different fields and turn on the water to make sure all the sprinklers and pipes are working properly.  All the irrigation is done at night by an automatic command from the computer in the office.  It’s done at night because there is usually less wind, and because the water won’t evaporate as quickly as it would during the day, which allows for more water soak into the ground.  Last week, we started planting wheat.  Wheat is one of the hardest jobs to irrigate.  With wheat, you can’t just put in lines of pipes and leave them to water the field.  We put in two lines in the middle of each field, and then every day we take the lines apart Moving Pipesand attach them to hydrants Moving Pipesfarther and farther out towards the edges of the field.  Every day in the morning we move lines of pipes, and then in the afternoon, like before, we check to make sure everything is working as it should.


Irrigation is known as the physically hardest job on the kibbutz.  On average, I walk every day between 10 and 15 kilometers on either freshly tilled soil, or mud – which are both harder to walk on than sand.  WheatAlong with all the walking, I am Touching the Landconstantly lifting pipes.  Even though it is physically demanding, I love working in the fields.  I feel so connected to the land.  Every day when I work in the fields and I look at the soil that I walk on, I pick it up, sift it through my fingers, and I think to myself how lucky I am that I’m working the land of Israel.  For me, my work is a physical connection to the land.

There is more that I do here on kibbutz, aside from working in the fields.  I was given an incredible host family, the Shlomi family.  They are always asking how I’m doing and if I need anything, they’re here for me.  They have 7 kids.  The oldest is 26 and is already married with 3 kids of his own.  Then there are 2 daughters in their early 20’s who I have yet to meet.  The 4 youngest are 19, 17, 15 and 12.  Yair, the 19 year old son, just volunteered for the army in intelligence, the 17 year old daughter, Shlomit, is in high school in Be’er Sheva, Ariel the 15 year old son studies at a yeshiva high school in Yerucham, and then there is Amichai, the 12 year old son.  I go to their house a few times during the week to eat dinner with them and just to hang out.


Their daughter in-law works in the school here and she asked me if I would want to work a little with the kids on kibbutz.  I jokingly told her that I would only work in the school if there were special needs kids.  She was surprised, but she told me that their next-door neighbor was looking for someone to spend time with their son.  Their next-door neighbor, also with the last name Landau, has a son named Itamar.  Itamar is 7 years old and doesn’t speak.  He doesn’t use words, but he is a very talkative kid!  He has what to say and wants to communicate with others, to say what he wants, what he doesn’t want, just like any other 7 year-old kid.  He understands what everyone says to him, but instead of using words, he makes sounds, and it’s sort of like a guessing game to figure out what he wants.  So for the last three weeks, I’ve been spending two nights a week with Itamar.  He’s a very cute kid!  We go around the kibbutz and he has a few friends who he likes to go visit; I basically just do whatever he wants to do.  I’m having fun with him.  I’m also meeting other people on kibbutz and making friends.  There are so many people who invite me over for dinner or just to hang out.


The last few weekends I’ve been all over.  The Shabbat after I was in Modi’in, I stayed on kibbutz and ate with my host family.  The Shabbat after that, I stayed with my fiend at her house in Ashkelon.  The Shabbat after that, I went up to my friend’s house in Kiryat Motzkin, which is about half an hour north of Haifa.  This past Shabbat, I was in Jerusalem again with friends.  On Thursday night, I met up with a bunch of Israeli friends from camp.  We went to a park in Jerusalem and made a bonfire.  We did something called a “poyke”.  A “poyke” is a big iron pot, like a caldron that you put on a fire.  We put it on the fire and threw in oil, onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes, beets, rice, pasta, coke, beer, wine, and chicken.  After letting it cook for a few hours, we dished it out and ate – it was delicious!


I’m finally starting to set up my room.  I got a bigger mattress and I’m working on finding a frame, so right now I’m sleeping on my mattress on the flood.  I got a couch!  One of the people I worked with who is a few years older than me left last week to go traveling in South America, so he gave me his couch.  I’m also starting to hang things up on my walls.  My room is starting to look like a room – it’s really nice!


Like I said, it’s good to have slipped into a routine.  I’m spending time with friends all over, I’m enjoying my work, and I’m slowly adjusting to my new country.  All in all, life is good and I’m happy.



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Some Time to Relax

Wednesday October 17th was my brother’s 16th birthday; I thought about him a lot over the course of the day and wished I could be back in LA, just to give him a hug and wish him Happy Birthday.  That was one of the first times that it hit me that I was so far away from my family.  I went up north to the Sea of Galilee, the Kinneret, in the afternoon.  An Israeli friend of mine who lives in Eilat was driving up to Tel Aviv, so he picked me up on the way and then I took a bus from Tel Aviv to Tiberius, or T’veria.  I spent that night on a beach by the kinneret.  The full moon lit up the sky; the waves lapped up on the rocks of the beach in the shimmering light.  It was such a beautiful night.  It made me so happy to be back in Israel.


KineretThe next morning, I woke up and went to T’veria where I sat in a coffee shop for a few hours and read a good 50 pages of Exodus over a cup of coffee and some cake.  Lunchtime rolled around and I looked for the nearest Shawarma stand.  I found several, but I wanted to eat at the best one.  So I walked in to a small grocery store and asked the man working there where that was good Shawarma.  He pointed me in the right direction.  After good food and walking around the beachfront in T’veria, I took a bus to Afula to visit my cousins.  I spent the night with them, and then on Friday they took me to the train station, which was a 30 minute drive.  On the way, we stopped at a Chumusiah – a restaurant where the menu consists of different kinds of Chumus, which they bring to you with pita, onion, pickles and olives.  It was delicious!  Clearly, I like the food here.  I took the train from the north to Modi’in, a suburb of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, to stay with the director of Nativ and his family for Shabbat.  Shabbat was very nice and relaxing, with great food.  From Wednesday through Shabbat, I didn’t have to worry about setting anything up, going in to offices, or signing papers.  I had 4 whole days to myself to enjoy being back in Israel!  It was so nice to not have to worry about anything and to just be able to relax.  On Saturday night, I had to take a bus back to Kibbutz Sa’ad from Tel Aviv.  The next morning, I was going to have to get up early – it was my first day of work!

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Every Journey Starts Somewhere…

I guess my journey to becoming an Israeli started when I decided to make Aliyah.  The initial plan became started to materialize once I opened my Tik Aliyah, my Aliyah file, with the Israel Aliyah Center in Los Angeles, and I finally saw it as a reality when I booked my one-way ticket on El-AL (which was paid for by the State of Israel!).  The day I booked my flight was when it fully sank in that I was really, truly, making Aliyah.  My journey continued through the packing process and saying goodbye to friends and family.  The beginning stages of my journey came to a close at LAX, when I said goodbye to my family and boarded my flight.


The next part of my journey could only be accomplished once I got to Israel: the process of settling in and taking care of setting myself up.  All the things that I have written about so far, the things I have been taking care of or at the very least trying to get done up until now, are part of this process.  When I wrote about getting my Teudat Zehut, my Israeli identification card, I said that I had become an Israeli.  Technically, that was the moment that I officially became an Israeli.  But I don’t feel Israeli.  That was a big step in my journey, but I feel that in order to really be Israeli, there is a lot more to it than just an identification card.  There are so many things that I will experience, conversations that I will have, and people that I will meet, that all together, I believe, will make me an Israeli.


On Monday, October 15th, exactly one week after I landed, I had one of those experiences.  I did something that every Israeli does at least once in their lifetime.  I partook in a common experience that all Israelis share; I went to the IDF draft office, the Lishkat Giyus.  I woke up early and went to Be’er Sheva.  I had an address for the office, so I asked around for directions.  Apparently everyone knows where it is, so I had no trouble getting directions.  I found the building and was ready to go.


Before the door, there was a soldier standing for security.  He asked me for my Teudat Zehut, which I proudly pulled out of my pocket and handed to him.  Then he asked me for my “zimoon”, my summons.  In order to get into the draft office, you have to show your draft summons that the army sends to you in the mail, informing you of the day and time you need to appear to begin your draft process with initial tests.  Since I just got here a week ago, I did not have this paper.  I told the soldier that I was an oleh chadash, a new immigrant, and that I was coming because I want to get drafted.  He didn’t quite know what to do with me, so he pointed me to the direction of the front desk.  I was happy I made it in through the door!


I went up to the soldier at the desk and told her that I was an Oleh Chadash and that I wanted to be drafted.  She asked me for my Teudat Zehut, which I showed her, and then told me to go upstairs to a specific room.  I went upstairs, knocked on the door, and said that I was told to come upstairs, I’m an Oleh Chadash and I want to be drafted.  They took my Teudat Zehut and told me to wait in the hallway.  Knowing that the army is extremely slow in getting things done – prime example of Israeli bureaucracy – I came to the Lishkat Giyus expecting them to take my contact information and tell me that they would send me a summons in the mail.  I was wrong.  Ten minutes after waiting in the hallway, the soldier came out of the office with my Teudat Zehut, which he handed back to me, and a file, MY file!  He told me that today I would have my Tzav Rishon, literally meaning first summons, which would include all the preliminary tests.  I was so happy and relieved that I wouldn’t have to wait and come back another time.


He showed me downstairs to the first station.  I had to wait outside in the hallway for them to call me in.  After waiting for about half an hour, a soldier came outside and called me in.  Inside the room there were lots of little cubicles.  I was told to go into an adjoining room, where there were more cubicles.  I sat down and the soldier sitting at the computer smiled and introduced herself.  She said that she was going to ask me a series of questions about my family, my background, and myself.  I answered questions from what I did last year, to where I went to school in 6th grade, to what is my mother’s maiden name.  Everything was in Hebrew.  She asked me lots and lots of questions and continued to repeat the information back to me and ask me the same question multiple times.  But she was very sweet.  At one point, she stopped asking me the questions from the computer and just asked me questions about myself, but for her own curiosity – why I made Aliyah, how it is that I speak Hebrew so well, etc.  After all the questions, she asked me to explain some Hebrew words, using other words.  This wasn’t too difficult.  Then she asked me to read a few sentences and explain them.  I didn’t understand more than 4 words in each sentence!  It was very hard Hebrew, that I doubt most Israelis would understand.  But non the less, she asked me to do my best explaining them, so I did.  She said that I did very well and told me that I would have to go upstairs for the next part.  That was the end of the first station.


I went upstairs for the second station, the medical station.  I gave a urine sample, they checked my vision and then an army doctor did a quick check up.  I passed with a 97, the highest physical profile you can get.  After that, I had an “interview”, which I think was a psychological interview.  The soldier asked me lots of questions, but more about me as a person – how many friends do I have, how often do I see them, what was I like in school, what was a challenge you faced and how did you get through it, questions like that.  It felt like a college essay, except instead of writing it all in an essay, I said it in an interview.


After the interview, I was sent downstairs again for the final step: the computer test.  I went in and took two logic tests on a computer.  I had the option of taking this test in English.  I figured that since it was a timed test, I didn’t want language to possibly get in the way, so I tested in English.  I finished the day around 5pm.  Everyone had already left when I got out from the test.  I went back to the bus station and took a bus back to Sa’ad.


I thought I knew the meaning of being tired after my long flight and jetlag.  I had no idea that the fairly simple, seemingly easy act of sitting and waiting in offices all day could drain the life from your entire being.  I was wiped out, but also very happy that I had started the draft process.  Now, I’m waiting for a form in the mail that will tell me what options I have for my army service.  I’ll keep updating on the process as it moves along.


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Navigating the Maze – The Final Steps…Except a Cell Phone

After spending good quality time with friends and having a relaxing Shabbat full of delicious home-cooked food, rest, and being with people who love me and take care of me as if I were their own child, I was ready to put my nose back to the grindstone.  Sunday morning, October 15th, I went first thing in the morning to the Misrad K’lita, the office of Absorption, in downtown Jerusalem.  One of my friends is volunteering there, so once I went upstairs, I called her up and she brought me right in, no lines for me!  It’s good to know someone on the inside; I guess I’ve always known this, but now I see it in action.  I went in and gave the advisor my bank account number so that I could get the money from my absorption basket, which will be a little over $3,000 over the course of the year.  The money will be put in directly to my account.

After the Misrad K’lita, I took a bus to the other side of town to the offices of Nefesh B’Nefesh.  I took care of some business there, and on my way out saw a cell phone store.  I now had a bank account, so I could go get a cell phone!  I went in and waited for at least an hour, only to find out that I needed to get a form signed by the bank that would allow the cell phone company to draw money directly from my bank account every month instead of billing me, before I could do anything else.  I took the form and left.  My first attempt at a cell phone was not too successful, but I was on the right track.  I found out that someone from the kibbutz was driving back from Jerusalem that night so I called him up and arranged to meet him on a certain corner close to where I was staying.  He picked me up around 11pm and we got back to Sa’ad around 12:15am.  I slept most of the drive.

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Navigating the Maze – Israel’s DMV…and Back to The Bank

The next morning, Thursday October 11th, I woke up around 7:45.  I decided that I would go to Netivot, which is the nearby town, to the Misrad HaPnim, the Office of Interior Affairs, to get my Teudat Zehut, my Israeli Identification card.  At the airport they told me that I could get my Teudat Zehut there, in Netivot.  I got a ride from kibbutz to Netivot and found my way to the office.  There was a sign on the door that said they were closed for the week.  I called the office of the Regional Counsel to find out if I could go to them, and they said that I had to go to Be’er Sheva to get my Teudat Zehut as an Oleh Chadash.  In the airport they had told me I could get my Teudat Zehut in Netivot.  Again, they lied.  I took a group shuttle to Be’er Sheva, where I found the Misrad HaPnim; it was about a 5-minute walk from the Central Bus Station.  I went in, took a number, and sat down.

Here I was, the Misrad HaPnim.  I had finally made it to get my Teudat Zehut, the key that would solve all my problems, at the bank and otherwise.  The Misrad HaPnim is the DMV of Israel.  It is set up the same way, and it is run the exact same way.  You take a number and wait your turn.  After waiting for an hour and a half, my number finally appeared on the screen, and I went to the cubicle.  I took out all the proper documentation and asked her to make copies and take the copies.  Her copy machine was out of order, so she told me to go in the next room and use their copy machine.  I went to the next room but that one was out of order as well!  I ended up having to run up to the 4th floor, make my copies, and then come back.  I finally got her all the proper papers and passport pictures that she needed.  She sent me to the last window, where I received my Teudat Zehut!  On the morning of Thursday October 11th, I received my Israeli identification card; I had become an Israeli!

Later that afternoon, I went back to Netivot (during their afternoon hours from 4-6:30) and opened up my bank account.  I don’t think I ever had to open up my own bank account before, so it was all a new experience.  The teller said a lot of things that I didn’t understand – I think even if she said them in English I wouldn’t understand because it was banking language, something I’ve never dealt with.  I would have to come back to get my ATM card and an online access code next Tuesday, but the important thing was that I now had a bank account.  The bureaucracy in Israel really is a huge confusing maze that can be hard to get through, if you don’t have patience or a little bit of direction.  After I finished at the bank, I took the bus back to Jerusalem where I was going to be with friends for Thursday night and Shabbat through Sunday night.

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Waiting – The Story of My Life

Waiting is an activity that I’m slowly learning is the key to everything here in Israel.  Every office, every organization, every document, includes an excess of waiting.  From the moment I left Israel at the end of May 2007, I was waiting, waiting to return to Israel and make Aliyah.  And from the day I arrived, waiting has been the name of the game.  And now, I’ll be waiting to get drafted – more waiting.  I have a lot of patience, but sometimes it just gets so frustrating.  I don’t want to wait anymore; I want to get started!  But there is nothing I can do to make things happen faster.  I guess by the end of this process, I’ll have a whole lot more patience that I started with.

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Navigating the Maze – Going Back to Jerusalem…and The Bank

The next morning, Wednesday October 10th, I went to Jerusalem. I needed to go to Jerusalem because I hadn’t gone since I landed, and so for myself, I desperately wanted to go. I also figured that as long as I was going to a big city, I could take care of some business as well. I got a ride from someone who was going to Jerusalem from the kibbutz. The first thing I did was go to the post office, where I registered for national health insurance. From the post office, I had a cup of coffee at the Central Bus Station, and then I started walking to Beit Nativ, the Agron Youth Hostel where I lived last year for the first semester of Nativ. On the way, a young woman asked me for directions, which I had no problem giving. I was happy that I still remembered how to get from place to place. I walked through the Shuk of Machaneh Yehuda to reacquaint myself with the sights, the sounds and smells that I had missed these last few months. I got to Beit Nativ, had lunch there, and then decided to do some more setting-up; I headed to the bank to try and open an account. Little did I know that this would be my first of several visits over the next few days to the bank.

At the airport, the Office of Absorption told me that I could use my Teudat Oleh, the certificate of Aliyah, to open a bank account, that I didn’t need my Teudat Zehut, Israeli identification card. I asked several times about this information and each time they said they were sure it was true. They lied. I couldn’t use my Teudat Oleh to open a bank account – I needed my Teudat Zehut. I learned this the hard way. I would have to wait to open a bank account until I got my Teudat Zehut. After my failed attempt with the bank, I decided I needed to do something for myself and not worry about taking care of business for a few hours, so I set out to go to the old city and the Kotel, the western wall.

I walked down Agron Street and through the Jaffa Gate, as I had done so many times before. Everything was so familiar; it was as if I had never left. I reached the kotel plaza and saw that there was going to be a swearing in of a new class of soldiers. They were from the Anti-missile unite which uses the American Patriot missile defense system. I sat in the back of the plaza and just looked at the people walking by and the soldiers waiting for the ceremony that was to take place that evening. A few soldiers started talking to me, and we ended up talking for a few hours. I went back to Beit Nativ, saw some friends who are on Nativ this year, and then went back to the Central Bus Station to take a bus back to Kibbutz. I was getting tired so I slept well on the bus ride back. The bus is from Jerusalem to Netivot, so I had to get off at a junction and catch a ride back to the kibbutz. I got back to my room and went strait to sleep.

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