Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Moving Right Along

A-Minus: 8 Months 2 Weeks 2 Days

The Sochnut, Hebrew for “Jewish Agency,” began in Israel’s pre-state days facilitating Jewish Immigration to Palestine and representing the Jewish People when negotiating with the United Nations and national governments. When Israel declared independence in 1948, most of the duties of the Sochnut were taken over by the Israeli government. Today the Sochnut acts as a semi-autonomous arm of the government, responsible for immigration, Zionist education, and Israel’s relations with Jews around the world. The Sochnut sends shlichim (messengers) to cities with a significant Jewish population in order to encourage and facilitate aliyah.

A few hours ago I made the first phone call to the Sochnut at the Israeli Consulate in San Francisco to open my Tik Aliyah (immigration file.) After repeated phone calls I finally got a hold of my shaliach, whose name is Shiri and seems quite friendly. She briefly interviewed me and we discussed my plans, which met with her approval. I already have all of my personal paperwork together (new passport and proof of Jewishness,) and she mailed me some additional paperwork to fill out. Once I have crossed all my t’s and dotted my i’s, I’ll have to make a trip out to San Francisco to meet with her for a face to face interview and to check my paperwork.

Meanwhile, my Hebrew has been suffering over the last few months. I’ve been so busy at work that it has been difficult to find time to study. Also, I took a 4th of July vacation down to Southern California to visit friends when my briefcase with all of my study materials and palm pilot was either lost, misplaced, or stolen by gnomes. I had an Israeli friend at Chabad who was correcting my grammar exercises, but then he stopped coming so there’s nobody to help with my written exercises. Also, my good next-door neighbors who were helping me learn and feeding me every night have moved away to Toronto, so now I don’t have anybody to eat or read with.

Helping my neighbors pack all of their junk and garbage for the move to Toronto made me realize how much junk and garbage I also own, and it made me wonder how I’m going to get it all to Israel. One of the Zchuyot Oleh, the special rights granted to new immigrants, is the right to bring over a container full of possessions without paying Israel’s draconian import taxes. Once I started looking into it, however, I discovered that a container will cost at least $6,000 after everything is said and done. I don’t think that all of my possessions combined are worth that much, not to mention that I’ll have nowhere to put them once I arrive, so I think it’s better just to sell everything I can, especially the large stuff. I have already photographed almost everything I own and am working on a website to launch an internet garage sale, probably after I finish the PE exam in April.

I do have some small stuff that I don’t want to just have to throw away, so I’ve begun transferring it to store with my family up north. I just took a good week and a half vacation up there, and managed to transfer about 100 lbs worth of valuable but unnecessary items. I will keep bringing my possessions north incrementally until my final departure. Then, once I live in Israel, I will incrementally bring stuff over with me in my luggage as I shuttle back and forth for visits. This process is a bit tedious, but if it saves me $6,000, it will have been worth it.

As I mentioned, I got to visit my family up north. It really is great to see my family, and makes me realize I don’t see them nearly enough. Pictures are attached.

I also got to visit the King County Cogeneration Plant in Seattle, which was the first project I ever worked on as an engineer, starting way back in October 2002. I designed everything in that building from the 6 MegaWatt Gas Generators to the mop sink and hose spigots, so it’s very exciting to see the project nearing completion. Pictures of me in my macho hard hat are attached.

It was refreshing to take time off to focus on things other than money, career, and aliyah. It reminds me how much I’m looking forward to being finished with this part of my life.