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Don't forget! Nine things to remember before you fly

Even with the best-laid plans, there are some important things that can fall through the cracks.  Here are 9 of the most important reminders – things you’ll want to take care of before you pull on that spiffy new Nefesh b’Nefesh ballcap and hop on the plane to Israel:

1.  Medical Check-In

Sure, health care in Israel is free.  But you’ll be sitting in front of a doctor who doesn’t know you, doesn’t have your records, and perhaps doesn’t speak English.  (Medical clinic receptionists will insist that “all the doctors speak English,” which means they know the names of medical conditions, but many still can’t carry on a conversation.) 
There’s also a different cultural approach and you may not have the confidence as a dripping-wet oleh to be pushy enough with Israeli doctors to make your concerns known.
If you have any medical worries, even little niggling things that you’re concerned might get bigger before your Hebrew gets better, get them taken care of ahead of time.

2.  Prescriptions

This could have been part of #1, except it’s so important I’m giving it its own bullet point.  Get a copy of all prescriptions, and a six-month supply of any medications you take on a regular basis. 
Keep these prescriptions in your carry-on baggage along with a few days’ supply, at least.  Checked baggage does get lost, and stuff gets lost inside checked baggage (especially if you’re bringing a dozen or more huge suitcases!). 
You don’t want to deal with a medical crisis immediately on landing.

3.  Dentist

Read everything I just said about doctors and multiply it by ten.  Then take out the part about it being free – you will have to pay for dental care in Israel, after you’ve figured out how to find it and how much it’ll be. 

On Rosh Hashanah, it’s BYOM (bring your own machzor)


Rosh Hashanah’s coming, so it’s time for a public service announcement. 

Things here in Israel are NOT the same as they are wherever you come from.  That includes shul on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

You probably won’t need tickets, and I don’t know of any shul in Israel that will kick you out if you haven’t signed up ahead of time, but depending on the shul, they might not have a lot of space for you. 

Also, check around your neighbourhood carefully – the davening (prayer services) is very different in different types of shuls.  And I’m not just talking about Ashkenazi and Sefardi (Mizrachi) shuls. 

Yeshivas, for example, may have a longer, more drawn-out davening that’s enjoyable if you like something more spiritual, while “stam” Israeli shuls may have more of a “get in, get out, get home” type of approach.  Most shuls start at 8 am on yom tov, but the ending time really varies, from 10:30ish across the street from me to as late as 1 or 2 in some places.

(So if you’re expected somewhere for either of the lunch meals, it’s extra important to co-ordinate with your hosts so you get there when they want to start.)

If you’re new to your area, ask around to find out which shul is more likely to offer you the best experience.  That depends, of course, on what your criteria are.  Such as whether you like singing or prefer to avoid it at all costs, like at the shul across the street from me, where any necessary musical touches are grudging at best.

Also, if you’re a woman, ask other women – your experience might be very different from what a man would encounter in the same shul.

One thing you won’t get here that you may or may not be used to – calling out page numbers.  Most Orthodox shuls outside of Israel don’t do this either, but our shul in Toronto did because it had a kiruv (outreach) bent. 

How to survive the most brutal 6 months of your life


Here’s the truth that nobody is going to tell you:  you may just be in for the worst 6 months (or so) of your life.

That’s the side of aliyah that you don’t see in the ads, or the videos, or the posters or the shots of smiling, happy families at the airport.

My family’s not in those shots.

You won’t see my son, lying kicking and wailing on the floor of the airport.

You won’t see my daughter, weeping because she misses our family in Canada.

You won’t see me in our apartment at the merkaz klitah, screaming and crying in the middle of the night because my husband cannot make the cruddy Israeli beach karaoke – literally the loudest music I’d ever heard, and I’ve been to more than a few concerts – go away at 3 a.m. on Shabbos morning until I finally fell asleep with a pillow over my head.

Or the kids lying in bed calling out, “Juke! Juke!” (cockroach, cockroach)

I don’t know if I’d call it the worst six months, but it was definitely a difficult period.  A very difficult period.

Friends of ours spent 6 months in Israel a year or so before we came.  They'd just had a baby, so he had parental leave, and they’d always wanted to spend time here.  Everything went wrong - absolutely everything.