Thursday, June 30, 2016

Year-End Wrap-Up

Ilana's last-day-of-school selfie
We adults finished ulpan yesterday.  I plan to return in September and, hopefully, one more year of the intense level should be enough to get me to a reasonable level of Hebrew.  I'll miss my class (although many of us plan to continue together in the Fall): we're an extremely varied group, from two young women in their late teens up to Moshe, who just turned 84 and is in a wheelchair yet rarely misses class.  I have such admiration for the retirees who make aliyah, especially those who are in my level class because it's not easy to get along with this level of Hebrew.  This semester, my class has two older couples who immigrated in the past few months, and both are in class together (I, at least, have the benefit of a spouse who speaks Hebrew far better than me!).

We had a great last day of class: our teacher had each of us describe our "immigration day" and it was so interesting to hear everyone's story.  Even the stories I thought I knew had a depth to them that I hadn't anticipated.  Like hearing my friend M. talk about leaving her home in NJ, the home she had lived in for 60 years, first as a child and then as an adult raising her own family.  That first evening, while their kids (most of whom live in Israel) made a welcome party for her and her husband, she looked into the yard and saw a child there.  Her first thought was, "that looks like my granddaughter who I Skype with."  Then she realized that it *was* her granddaughter:  And then, she said,  "I realized that I had left my house, but I had arrived home".

Our teacher brought a tray of chocolates and we each had to give a blessing to the class and then choose someone to give a chocolate to.  I gave mine to E., who is from Russia and arrived five years ago *in April* as a single mom with her 11 year old daughter.  No Hebrew (at all.  The Russians in my class arrived not even knowing the aleph bet), no job, no family here.  I can't really imagine how bad life in Russia must have been to make her take all that on (and what was that like for the 11 year-old to start school in April in another language?!), but here she is, five years later, making it work.  I said, "we are all brave to be immigrants, but E, you are very, very brave....."

We also had a visit from the leaders of one of the local youth movements.  She explained that their group was so inspired that we would all give up our former lives and make aliyah that they made cards for each of us with variations of "thank you for making aliyah.  You are amazing.  We are so glad you are living in Israel".  It was very sweet ;).  And also hard to not make mental comparisons with people coming to other countries where the welcome is not so warm....

It's hard to believe that my kids are finishing an entire year of school in Hebrew.  I am so impressed with them, and love seeing how their Hebrew skills have improved so much this year.  Penina finished last week (she started a week earlier, though) and Ilana has her last day today.  Which is good because Uncle Jeff, Aunt Marissa and cousin Salome are visiting and there is no time for anything but fun, fun, fun!  Penina is finishing up two days of touring with them and we are all going to Jerusalem for Shabbos so that we can see them on Saturday (fun fact: hotels here have a post-Shabbos checkout, so, even though we won't be leaving until 9:30 Saturday night, we will only be charged for one day!).

Yay!  The cousins are together!

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