Christmas in Israel

It takes more than a month for a container to ship from the United States to Israel. When we finally decided on a shipping company, we had a choice to make – Be without our “stuff” on the back end or the front end. Meaning, the sooner we could part with our toys, books, kitchenware, clothes, tools, and all the other items we deem necessary for day-to-day living, the sooner we’d have them once we arrived in Israel.

Our shippers came to pack up about three weeks before the day of our flight with the intention that we’d receive our container only 4-5 days after we landed in Israel. Since our plan was to live with Avi’s parents in Kfar Hittim for a few days while we handled bureaucratic issues, we knew we could hang on for a few more days before receiving our shipment to Hannaton.

Four to five days, however, turned into 19 days.

The day the boat carrying our container arrived in the port of Haifa, the port workers went on a five-day strike.

Followed by a nice long Shabbat weekend.

Followed by a few days while they caught up unloading the “more important” shipments.

Followed by a nice long Shabbat weekend.

Followed by a few days of missing paperwork and phone calls between our shipping company and Misrad HaPnim to “make sure we are new immigrants” and entitled to tax breaks at customs.

Followed by days of waiting until they could reserve a truck big enough to carry the container up North. Followed by days of worrying that all this was code for “we lost your shipment at sea.”

Finally, my otherwise kind and sensitive husband had enough. Remember what Bruce Banner used to say before he turned into the Incredible Hulk? “You won’t like to see me when I’m angry.” Avi switched from his new-American-immigrant-speaking-Hebrew accent to his down home rip-you-a-new-one like a native Israeli twang. It wasn’t long before he was in touch with Moti, the manager, who got things rolling a little bit faster. (By the way, all the Israelis we’ve told this to asked us why we didn’t ask to speak to a manager sooner – apparently, it’s the only way you get things going.)

We received a phone call at 4 o’clock in the afternoon a few days ago from Moti who said, “I have some good news, you’ll have your things in 2-3 hours. The truck is on its way.”

In the dark of night (okay, it was only 7 pm, but it was very dark), four guys loaded our boxes and furniture in through one of the bedroom windows. “This is Israel,” the one who could speak English said. Loading through the window was easier than navigating the ten stairs down to our front door.

They finished at 10 pm, too late for us to do anything but breathe a sigh of relief that we finally had our possessions in our possession.

Since then we’ve been chipping away at it bit by bit. And, as you can imagine, opening the boxes and unwrapping the packaging is like tearing into your gifts at Christmas.  But it’s Christmas for the grownups only; our kids don’t really seem to care.

Being without their Legos or their dolls when we were stuck inside in New Jersey was a bit challenging. But since we’ve arrived in Israel, and more specifically since they started school, they’ve been spending most of their spare daylight time playing with the outdoor cats, kicking the ball around with neighborhood kids, or swinging on the hammock swing. And when we finally opened up the boxes filled with their toys yesterday so their playthings would be waiting for them when they got home from school, they looked at the room, said an obligatory, “Wow,” and went in the backyard to play with the cardboard boxes all afternoon.

Their parents, on the other hand, are much more appreciative each time they open a new box. In the past when we moved, I’ve always packed our things and labeled our boxes meticulously so that when we arrived at our destination and we needed, let’s say a pot or a pan or a container of wipes, we could access it quickly.

Our shippers, on the other hand, didn’t do such a great job labeling the contents. For the most part, the cartons were labeled “kitchen,” “basement,” “clothes,” or “CDs.” (Yes, we brought our CD collection to Israel. Ask my I-phone owning husband, “why,” because I don’t know the answer.)

I didn’t pack our boxes because I was under the impression the shippers needed to take a careful inventory for customers. Although, to be fair, perhaps their strategy is “keep it simple” and customs will leave you alone.

Simple.

I’d be lying if I said we kept it simple when packing for this new phase of our life. After years of Israeli friends and family asking us to bring them or send them “special items” from the States – white albacore tuna, Old Navy clothes, M and Ms – we packed almost as if we were moving to a remote island in the Pacific.

There is great irony in this, I know, considering one of the main reasons we moved to a kibbutz in Israel was to embrace a lower key, less materialistic life.
And, yet, when we finally found the box with my toiletries: my stock of Whole Foods 365 brand shampoo and Tom’s baking soda toothpaste, I cheered. As did Avi when he found his wireless router, which we had almost checked off as left behind.

Christmas. Not presents, per say, but little care packages from home to help make the transition a teeny bit easier.

I am confident that as we dig ourselves out of move mode, we’ll find little gifts in the most unexpected places. We already have. A helping hand from a neighbor; a Shabbat invitation; a new friend. Gifts that cost very little, but make a huge difference in our lives. And can only be found here in Israel.

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