Thursday, December 20, 2007

ALIYAH - First Steps

A long time ago, before the advent of modern forecasting methods, there was a wizened old Indian who lived at the edge of town. The years had drawn maps on his brown leathery skin and his black hair had turned gray. Now, instead of chopping wood, others supplied the work to make his wood pile grow while he sat on his porch, talking to the younger men and boys, dealing out bits of wisdom. Each year during Fall time he would be asked what the winter was going to be like. Each year he would answer, “This winter will be long, cold, and dark.” Some people had thought he held the weather forecasting secrets of the ancients. Hoping to learn his secret, a particularly bright young man came to him one day. “Grandfather,” he said. “You have predicted that the winter would be long, cold, and dark, and it was. Your predictions have been correct every year since I have memory. What is the secret? How do you know what the winter is going to be like?” The dark brown eyes of the old man crinkled in a smile as he regarded his questioner. “Grandson,” said the old man, “winter is always long, cold, and dark.”

This past Fall I made a prediction about our winter. My prediction is turning out to be totally correct; it is turning into a long, cold, and dark winter! My prophetic powers amaze me. This morning the temperature outside in the dark Alaska winter is -8F / -22C. It will get light about 10:15 AM and in five and a half hours the sun will sink below the horizon as we descend into darkness once again. Before winter is over we will have experienced some bouts of at least -25F / -32C or colder. When it gets that cold I have to put on so many clothes just to take the dog for a walk I feel like the Marshmallow Man. For a few years I lived in Western Alaska on the Bering Sea coast. Three to four days a week the wind blows a steady 50-60 MPH / 80-96 KMPH. I used to tease the school children and tell them snow was made in China and they blew it over with big fans. Out there, snow doesn’t fall from the sky, it blows sideways.

Half a world a way, in Jerusalem, the temperature today is 57 F / 14C, sunrise is 6:34 AM and the sun doesn’t set for over ten hours. Wow!! That’s shirtsleeve weather and, to me, very exciting! When telling people in Israel I wanted to live in the Jerusalem area because I liked the weather, they would always say, “You don’t want to live there, it gets cold in the winter.” To that I say, “Define cold.”

So, here I am, in the icebox of the world, thinking of blue skies, warm breezes, and fresh bananas. A folder on my desk has ALIYAH written on it. My Shlichat Aliyah, from the Jewish Agency for Israel, has emailed me all the forms for making Aliyah. Questionnaires, declarations, visa applications, medical statements, waivers of confidentiality, entry/exit forms, and checklists of a zillion others pieces of information and documentation I need to supply, all waiting for my attention over the next few days. Actually, it is not as difficult as I had imagined. The Shichat makes it easy and quickly answers any questions I may have. I think the idea is to be as helpful as possible, to make it a good experience, and not something that most people will give up in the middle due to frustration and red tape. However, I will be able to speak more about that in the months to come.

No comments: