The Hebrew translation for new immigrant is "oleh chadash." It's the label that nearly all fresh-off-the-plane arrivals are stuck with.


But, it's not just a governmental classification. It's a mindset. If you're an oleh chadash, you're given the opportunity to stumble over your Hebrew. You can allow yourself to be homesick. You can be blissfully unaware of the rapid manner in which your life is changing every second. And it's OK.


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I've been in Israel now for 20 months. And I still introduce myself as an oleh chadash. It has me wondering: when does the "chadash" go away?


Is it when my tax benefits run out? Is it when I'm present for my first war, G-d forbid, and the hardest reality of living here finally sinks in? How about when I feel the embarassment of learning Hebrew from my daughter, rather than me teaching it to her?


Being an oleh chadash is a safe haven. It means that things are happening for the first time, and it's alright if you don't quite understand it, as long as you're enjoying the ride.


But, to be a plain-old oleh means that - as my wife-to-be said when I checked out of the absorption center - summer camp is over. It's taking responsibility for being an Israeli and tossing aside the excuses that "I didn't realize," or "I couldn't read the sign," and saying that it's up to me to find a way to figure it out.


After making Aliyh at the age of 35, I don't know if I'll ever be Israeli in the truest sense. I don't have the cultural IQ of people who grew up here. I'll likely never serve in the army. My Hebrew probably won't ever be more than sufficient. 


But, I know I'm not new anymore. Twenty months is enough. I'm just an oleh now. 


Except at the government offices, of course. Let's keep those benefits coming!

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