Last week in the middle of the war in Israel I made aliyah! Why would I leave my easy life and comfortable apartment exactly on the Beverly Hills border (the next house is Beverly Hills, if there is an earthquake I would land in Beverly Hills) to come to a small expensive one bedroom apartment in the center of Tel Aviv when missiles are falling from the sky?
To live in Israel is my dream. Israel is my country, my home and my people. My name LiAmi means “My nation or people belong to me”.
The fact that I made aliyah during the war is even more special. Last Wednesday, I boarded an El Al jet with my two birds and together myself , Otto and Kahlua made aliyah. Yes it was a rare sight to see two parrots making aliyah as El Al employees gathered around the ticket counter in amazement because they were the first olim birds they ever saw. Maybe they will start a new trend?
Together we boarded a half empty flight the day the FAA banned air travel to Israel. EL Al continued to fly as the ban was on American carriers only. The 15 hour flight was a mostly contemplative quiet experience for me, even the birds were quiet. During the flight, a beautiful Ethiopian Israeli flight attendant bent down by my seat to tell me she was so touched by my aliyah. She told me “Kol Hakavod”-(all the respect to me) and that this was such a beautiful thing to do during the war. I told her “this is nothing that the aliyah of her people was very special” when thousands of Ethiopians came at once.
My arrival at Ben Gurion Airport was an emotional experience. After three hours in the office of Misrad Klita –( Ministry of Absorption) at the airport staffed by Russian immigrants, I was given my Teudat Zahut (identity card) some Israeli money and sent on my way. I was met by my best friend Ory who waited for three hours for me there and we took a cab to my apartment.
Now most of my life in Los Angeles was spent being very active in the Israeli and Jewish Community, from being the Director of Media at the Israeli Consulate, to my radio show, to my blog in the Jewish Journal and of course Sababa Parties, which I produced for years. I have always been known for being a "tell it like it is guy", whether in print, facebook or on the radio, I have pissed off a big “macher” or two or three- publically calling them out for their BS and hypocracy to the delight of the common person in the community and paying a personal price with those said "machers" in the process. But my mouth has also been known for getting the impossible done. Well guess what, my mouth also made aliyah with me and it’s a good thing because it is needed in Israel.
Now things work, or don’t work -differently in Israel. Customer service in Israel is bad, worse or non-existent- take your pick. If you are contemplating aliyah, a valium, vicoden or xanax is a mandatory must have. You will need it dealing with Israelis. Promise you. From fighting with cell phone companies (two companies and three phone numbers in three days) to cable and internet companies two visits to my home and still no internet, your blood pressure will soar.
I asked my landlord for a key to the mailbox. Now my apartment door in a building with 20 apartments, says apartment #3. My lease says apartment #3. The landlord walks over to the mailbox and gives me the key to #5 and tells me that from now on I reside in apartment #5 and that is really my apartment number. Huh? He explains that the apartments in the building are owned by different people and each person made their own apartment number with no rhyme or reason. Thus the floor above me has apartment numbers 7, 8, 240 and 250. Ain li moosahg- (I have no clue).
Now living in Tel Aviv in the middle of the war with missiles flying overhead, I do have to thank and give props to Hamas because I have met some very nice neighbors during the sirens in the middle of the night, when we all gather half-naked in the stairwell. It is however, kind of surreal to hear air raid sirens in a modern city in the year 2014.
I have amazing friends here. The friendships are deep and Israelis will do anything for a friend. Two of my friends Ziva and Danny guaranteed my apartment in case I fail to pay the rent. Ziva made sure the apartment was painted and cleaned and that the birds had new cages waiting for them upon their arrival. Other friends made a welcome party in my apartment the night I arrived to celebrate my aliyah.
My first week over all has been amazing. The unity in this country, which is known for Israelis fighting amongst themselves, is like nowhere else in the world. Our 64 boys who have been killed in the war fighting for our security look like angelic heroes in their photos. Over 30,000 Israelis went to the funeral of lone soldier Max Steinberg of Los Angeles, so he wouldn’t be alone.
This week has been one of many emotions, leaving my family, home, friends and community for the unknown. I am happy I did it. A close friend wrote me on facebook asking me when I am coming home, I told him “I am home-this is my home”.