Aliyah: The Lift

So, you’re making aliyah, and you’ve decided to send a lift. You pick a 20ft container or a 40ft container, and then you try to figure out how to fill it up. If you’re already paying for a whole container, fill it to the brim, no point leaving empty space.
I took an informal poll (read I posted in a number of Facebook groups for Olim) to find out what people from North America wished they had brought more of on their lift, and what items they wish they hadn’t bothered with.
Things got heated, as they do on Facebook. It’s a very personal thing. Once the threads deteriorated into bashing people who bring a lifetime’s supply of white tuna and toilet paper, I simply took the information that was relevant to me, and started writing this post.

I’m not going to discuss furniture. I think that’s a very individual thing. We brought some furniture because if we had sold it in the US, as we would never have made enough money to purchase anything of quality in Israel. We brought some antique chairs that we plan to sell (if you’re in Israel, and interested in genuine antique Syrian chairs, with mother-of-pearl and ivory inlay, please contact me. We have 4 and will sell in pairs).

I’m only going to briefly mention large appliances:
Unless you know for sure that a US sized washer/dryer/fridge/oven will fit in your Israeli home, and you are certain that you will be able to pay the running costs for these appliances, I wouldn’t bother. From the research that I did, I found that the majority of large appliances available as 220V to ship from the US, are not energy efficient, meaning they use a lot of electricity. Electricity is expensive in Israel, keep that in mind.
In addition, a US washer may require to be hooked up to a hot water faucet – most laundry rooms in Israel do not have that option, plus, most people do not have constant hot water here. So if you use your washer with hot water, you won’t have enough hot water to shower, or, if you choose to leave your dud (boiler) on all the time, you’ll run up a massive electric bill.
Also, these non-energy efficient washers are also not frugal with water usage, whereas the European models available here are – I can wash a single shirt in my 8kg European style washer, and it will fill with just the right amount of water for that shirt.
Similarly, most Israelis do not use a dryer regularly. Clothes will dry outside pretty fast. Our landlord has a dryer that we can use, but we only use it for about 20 minutes to fluff up towels, or on really wet days. It’s really expensive to run.
As for refrigerators, space is again an issue – you can get really nice sized fridges here, and you get the warranty to go along with it (this applies to laundry machines too obviously). If you bring a fridge from the US with a built in ice maker and water dispenser, there may not be a way to hook it up in your Israeli kitchen. A lot of the newer fridges on the market here have a semi-automatic ice maker. You fill the trays with water, and when they freeze twist a lever to pour the ice into the ice bucket in the freezer – so you can have constant ice.
I don’t want to discuss ovens at all, because I miss my Frigidaire Professional oven terribly, and really dislike the built in teeny tiny oven that is in our apartment. Sniff.

On to tachlas. The little things. How to fill up that container with the stuff that really matters.
The most common things people wish they had brought more of:
Ziploc bags (available in Israel in Ikea in various sizes, but not everyone has easy access to Ikea)

Trash bags (Very hard to find here that don’t fall apart. Kirkland brand are now available at Osher Ad, but very expensive, so why not ship a few boxes to get you started?)

Plastic containers in all sizes – from food storage size up to clothing storage size (larger bins are easier to find, but are expensive. Purchase in the US and use them to ship clothing and toys instead of boxes. Smaller containers, for food, are crazy expensive here, and not so easy to find in the sizes for kids’ lunches. Had I know, I’d have shipped a case of Gladware containers in various sizes!)

Paper Towels – seriously, Israeli paper towels are not at all absorbant. (Kirkland brand paper towels are available in Osher Ad, again expensive, plus you may not have one near you, so ship as many packages as you can on your lift)

Trash cans (!!) – Kitchen garbage cans are not cheap in the US, in Israel they are exorbitant. Small trash cans, for the bedrooms/bathrooms etc. that you can find for $5 at Target or Walmart, you won’t find for less than $15 in Israel.

Kitchen items – EVERYTHING! Pots, pans, silverware, dishes, sink mats, drainers, baking trays (not too big, or they won’t fit in the oven), Tupperware, EVERYTHING!!!
8×8 Aluminum pans! You can get aluminum pans in Israel, and they’re not expensive, but you cannot get this size. They simply don’t exist here. Ship a case! I wish I had.

Paper products: Plates, bowls, silverware, cups, napkins. It is seriously hard to find good quality paper goods here, and until you find the one store in your area that stocks them, it could take years. I did manage to find our local store in time for Succot (the only time other than Pesach I use paper goods) but I wish I had sent a Costco sized package of plates etc.

Cosmetics – makeup, shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, soap, toothpaste, mouthwash, toothbrushes, razors, shaving gel, wax strips, cleansers, hair products, contact lens solution (and contact lenses)

Medication – anything you take regularly for pain or allergies

Small Appliances: I shipped my Cuisinart and my KitchenAid (and my Pesach Cuisinart). I purchased a heavy duty step-up step down transformer, and they work fine. From what I could find out, better quality small appliances that are not used for long periods of time, will work on the correct transformer for many years. Smaller, cheaper appliances that work harder when they are running, will blow quickly, and are probably not worth bringing. Not recommended: Vacuum Cleaner, steam mop, toaster oven, plata, shabbat urn, hair dryer, immersion blender, hand mixer, coffee maker, iron. If you want to take the chance, go ahead, but in most cases, you should just sell that stuff in the US, and replace each thing one at a time in Israel for a lot more money…
(Irons are so expensive here, that I ordered one from Amazon UK and had my aunt bring it from England for me! Although I believe Amazon UK ships to Israel).

I think I’m going to discuss food items that people send on their lift in a separate post.

Other things mentioned: Clothing and shoes, especially sneakers for kids. (If you’re lucky enough to have kids whose feet fit easily into shoes, go ahead and purchase the next few sizes up in shoes and sneakers. Sadly for me, my kids have super narrow feet and it’s really hard to find shoes in general, I can’t buy ahead). The younger your kids are, the easier it is to buy clothes in bigger sizes. As your kids are older, it’s harder because they want to do their own shopping… Someone suggested school supplies, such as crayons, markers, pencils – but not binders, folders or lined paper, as they sizes are wrong for here.
If your family has sensitive skin, and you use fragrance free detergent – bring as much as you can! It’s impossible to find fragrance free anything here!
If you plan on getting a dryer anyway, ship dryer sheets. They are available here, but they’re expensive.

Obviously, you cannot ship a lifetime worth of anything, but as many of the commentators said on Facebook, if you can make the early stage of life in Israel easier, why not? If it means you don’t have to schlep around trying to figure out where to buy plastic containers for your kids’ school lunch, go for it! Little by little, we all find our way around, and the longer you live here, the shorter the shopping list gets when you visit the U.S. But there is no harm in a little bit of home comforts.

Pack that container til it’s ready to burst!

Bed of Roses

A favorite Bon Jovi song, frequently sung by Jon at concerts on a special stage, that extends way out into the front rows of seats, and leaves you (me) swooning and light headed.

Click here for the video of Bed of Roses

And yet, as much as I love it, I often wondered about the thorns on the roses. He must mean a bed of rose petals, but that means the roses are cut and already dead, with no way to grow more.

Recently I’ve spoken to a fair few people who want to make aliyah in the next twelve months. They are mostly people who I don’t know at all, or know very minimally, most certainly not close friends. They come to me, because a)I just made aliyah with my family from the US and b)Someone told them I’ll be brutally honest with them.
Most of them, when they initially contact me, are gushing with excitement about aliyah, pumped full of Zionism, longing for a return to the land of our forefathers. This is awesome. All Jews should be this enthusiastic about moving to Israel. All Jews should be talking about making aliyah. We all belong here. It’s our home.

I try not to be be too harsh when I talk to prospective olim. I would never want to deter anyone from making aliyah, but I feel that it is so important to be honest, and open about every aspect of living in Israel. Yes, it is wonderful to live in a Jewish state, where Jewish holidays are the official days off, and where kosher is standard, and synagogues are plentiful, and “have a good weekend” is replaced with “shabbat shalom”. It’s special to see the streets shut down on Yom Kippur, and to have jelly doughnuts in the shops from after Succot until Chanukah time. It’s nice to have people wish you “Happy New Year” at Rosh Hashannah, and for December 25th to be a regular working day.

But there are challenges, and there are things that are difficult, even if you speak Hebrew, are familiar with the culture and have moved to a place where there are a lot of Anglos. I don’t think it is fair to share only the positive aspects of aliyah with people. It will be hard. No matter how prepared you are, no matter how realistic you are, there will be days that you say “what have I done? I want to go home!” But you are home in Israel, like you’ve never been home before.

It’s just that the bed of roses has the odd thorn here and there. Once in a while, you’ll get pricked, and it hurts. Little by little, you learn where the thorns are, and you avoid them, while tending to the roses. You water them, you prune them, you take pride in the beautiful flowers. From time to time you’ll still get stuck by a thorn, but soon, you’ll ignore the little stings and just enjoy the fragrance and the beauty that surrounds you.

If you live in Israel, and you are speaking to prospective Olim, be honest with them, give them the thorns with the roses.
If you want to live in Israel, talk to me, I will tell it like it is, I won’t put you off!

Living here is fantastic, frustrating, amazing and annoying. It is wonderful, worrying, terrific and tense. I don’t miss the US, or the UK, or Ireland. I miss certain things about each of these places, but I wouldn’t live anywhere else.

Lay me down on that bed of roses, I’ll moan about the thorns with my Olim friends.

“Acharei haChagim” – the return to “normal”

Around the time of the High Holy Days (“the Chagim”) – Rosh Hashanah all the way through til the end of Succot – things sort of grind to a halt. It’s busy season. Stores are full, traffic is crazy, it’s high season for tourists, and nothing much gets done outside of holiday prep. So, even though school began September 1st, we have known that only “acharei haChagim” would the kids start getting the extra Hebrew help they are entitled to as Olim. We knew that job hunting would be slow, because no one hires before or during the Chagim. There’s not a lot of point trying to accomplish very much at all.  Unless you purchase things for your kitchen or home – those are on sale before the Chagim, but never again afterwards.

So now it’s finally “Acharei haChaim” and things should start to get back to normal. The question however, is, what the heck is considered “normal” here?

The Holidays were wonderful. Our new shul was a great place to daven (pray) on Rosh haShanah and Yom Kippur. My parents joined us in Israel for Succot, which was fabulous, and a large number of our friends from Boca were also in Israel over Succot, and we did get to spend time with most of them. We rented a car for the few days of Chol HaMoed, and were able to go to Gush Etzion, Jerusalem, Netanya – for a Boca bat mitzvah – and to an archaeological dig at Beit Guvrin. Not having school allowed the kids to relax and just enjoy life here. We built a large succah in our yard, and it was a lovely change to not need fans! What a difference to Boca – Succot in Israel is actually pleasant. I wasn’t yearning for the much coveted air conditioned succah of my cousin in Boca. In fact, we really dwelled in our succah this year. We didn’t sleep outside, but we ate our meals, sat reading, davened and simply hung out in the succah.

And then, after Shabbat, “chozrim laShigra”, as they say (return to schedule). The kids went back to school on Sunday. No, that wasn’t pleasant – I will always lament the loss of Sundays. It’s time for me to start my work, running a mobile manicure business. I now have full weeks to work, and hopefully the kids having full weeks at school (just not full days – the younger ones are home by 2 most days!) will allow me to at least get started. I also purchased a washing machine finally. After all the days of chag, and the excess laundry produced (plus excess sheets and towels from having guests), my neighbor’s generous loan of the little washing machine that leaks just had to come to an end.

I ordered the washer from the same store I purchased my fridge. They might not be the easiest to bargain with (they seem to stick to their prices and maybe knock off delivery at best) but they seem like decent people, and I’ve been told by others that they stick by their products. When we bought the fridge, it was next day delivery, and the delivery guy unpacked it and plugged it in. I did have to call a technician to come and validate the warranty. Yup – the guy from Samsung had to come to my apartment, look at the fridge and explain to me how it works. So I was prepared to be told that a similar system was in place for the washer. Correct.

So, the washer was available for next delivery. I was given a 7 hour window. Luckily it arrived within the first 2 hours. The delivery guys brought it up and then announced they wouldn’t be able to fit it through the door to the laundry room without unpacking it, and they are not allowed to unpack it. Only the technician can do that. So they dumped it in the middle of the living room. And left. But not without demanding a tip. Even though we paid for delivery and they did nothing but roll it into the elevator and then into our apartment. I could have done that myself. (They used a dolly – give me a dolly, I can move anything). So now, here is my  lovely new washing machine:

IMG_3920

See how the white contrasts so beautifully with the wood on the china cabinet? And clashes with the shiny tile floor? There it will sit for two days, because the earliest I could get a technician to come out is on Wednesday afternoon. He will hopefully not get annoyed that he has to move it into the laundry room. And then he will plug it in, hook it up and explain to me how to use it. I’m sure it’s more complicated than a fridge. I wonder how much more laundry we can drum up between now and Wednesday night…

So yeah, what is normal again?

May we all be inscribed – Aliya Part VI

Rosh Hashana in Israel. Jewish holidays in Israel in general. To experience this, not as a tourist (which I only ever did once when I was 10 years old, and spent Succot in Israel with my family & grandparents), is extremely special.

Yes the shops are packed, and there are crowds everywhere. Yes you may have to wait hours at the bakery for sweet round challah. Yes, the kids will have barely any school for the next few weeks. But YES, this is because it is the Jewish new year! It’s not some holiday for some other religion, that has little to no affect on us, other than to be inconvenient because the supermarket is closed when I need to go. It’s for my holiday! The buses say “Shana Tova” (Happy New Year) on them. You call the electric/water/gas company to pay a bill and they wish you “Shana Tova” before getting off the phone. This is our country, this is our homeland, and this is our faith, practiced in the land given to our forefathers by God.

We have been in Israel for 6 weeks now. Our lift finally arrived, Baruch Hashem, a week ago. What felt like an empty vacation apartment has suddenly turned into our home, with our furniture, our dishes, our photographs, our books, my nail polish… The dog has her patio table to sit under again. The kids have their clothing, their toys, their special things. I have proper coffee mugs. We are truly at home now. Having the lift arrive so close to Rosh Hashana was in many ways a blessing, as it motivated us to get unpacked as quickly as possible. While we do still have some closed boxes (that don’t contain Pesach stuff), we are mostly unpacked, we have found everything we need (except that brand new box of kitchen glasses from Bed, Bath & Beyond – they’ll show up when we move again), and I have been cooking and (attempting to) baking for Yom Tov.

As the Day of Judgement approaches, and we each have our own demons to face, I’d like to say publicly that I have faced mine. The biggest demon in my life was my reluctance to return to Israel. It was something that followed me for 16 years. Like a voice whispering in my ear, every time the prayer for Israel was said in shul, every time a friend made aliya, every time a friend went on vacation to Israel, every time Israel was in the news, the voice saying “you know you want to be there.” And my own voice always over powering that voice and saying “No I do not. I’m right where I want to be.” It took many years for my voice to become the whisper, and for the other voice to become louder. And while I can’t explain what exactly changed, or why I suddenly felt “ready”, it certainly feels like a demon has been conquered.

Making aliya is not easy. Making aliya with a family is even more difficult. As positive as my posts have been since we arrived in Israel, I admit that it’s not easy. There are challenges that you can’t imagine before you arrive, even if you think you know about them. I just listened to the community panel from the Boca Raton Synagogue from last Saturday night, about aliya , and it resonated with me. Even if you do speak good Hebrew (I do), you won’t understand how things work. Even if you have lived here before (I have), don’t expect to jump right in where you left off. Even if your kids are excited to be here (they were not), don’t expect them to immediately be happy at school. Even if the school is helping your kids with Hebrew (they are), don’t expect the kids to suddenly start speaking it (they don’t/won’t).

But don’t let these things be the reason to NOT make aliya. If aliya is in your heart, just do it. If you feel that Israel is your homeland, just come. Don’t tell me “it’s not that easy” – I know! Do your homework, move somewhere that has a network of people who can help you. If you need to, move to a city where there are lots of Anglos. If you want to move somewhere more Israeli, find out ahead of time whether there is any kind of Anglo community there, and if they are set up to help new Olim. Speak to as many people as you can, from Boca, from elsewhere, who have made aliya to those exact places that you are looking into. Even if they made aliya 5 years ago, they are still Olim. They can still remember what it was like in the beginning. They will give you the best advice about schools, shuls, supermarkets, apartments, cars, jobs – everything. Don’t be afraid to ask “stupid” questions. Understand that you WILL need those English speakers, even if you are fluent in Hebrew. It’s nothing to be embarrassed by. As great as Nefesh b’Nefesh is at coordinating the paperwork, and managing flights and ceremonies, once you arrive, you need to be in a place where, daily, you have people who can help you. Go on a pilot trip – even if you spend every summer in Israel and think you know where you want to be – you may end up finding a completely different place. We moved to Rehovot, having only spent a brief 30 hours here last December over Shabbat! And what a great decision it was.

Wishing everyone, in Israel, and in the Galut, a Shana Tov, and may we all confront our personal demons, and take them out in 5775.

אם תרצו, אין זו אגדה – If you want it, it’s not a dream (Theodore Herzl ז”ל)

Part V: Why they say you need $100K in the bank

One of the things people say to you when you tell them you want to make aliya is “I hope you can afford it, you need at least $100K in the bank”. The answer of course, should always be “Hashem will provide”… right?

So here’s the thing, you can budget up the wazoo, and you’re still going to spend more money than you ever thought possible when it comes to making aliya.

You can spend months working on budget spreadsheets, calculating the cost of your lift, rent, cars, groceries, utilities, incidentals and more. And it will all go to pot once you arrive.

First: The lift. So you pick a 40ft container, you go with the company in your departure country that you feel happy with and you get a price. Everyone tells you don’t worry, you’ll get screwed somewhere. Believe them. You will. Thankfully, the moving company that we worked with were fine to deal with on the US side, and there haven’t really been too many issues on the Israel side, other than that extra two weeks added to the original shipping time… Our lift arrived in the port of Ashdod on Monday, was released from meches (customs) this morning, and God Willing, will be delivered to our apartment Sunday. Thank you God. By that time it will have been almost 5 weeks since we landed. I don’t actually remember what my dishes look like, or how many bottles of nail polish I boxed up (crikey, where on earth am I putting those?!). I don’t remember what it’s like to sleep on a bed, or to have a hamper for dirty laundry. I know I own more clothes than the ones I’ve been wearing for the last 7 weeks, but it will be like going on a big shopping spree when I unpack the wardrobe boxes.
Whatever they tell you that you’ll pay for the lift, you will pay more. There will be the charges on one side, and regardless, there will be charges on the Israel side, and they will be higher than you’re initially told. Deal with it and budget for it.

Second: Rent – presumably, like us, you have a budget for renting and you include utilities. Remember that in Israel you also pay Arnona (municipal taxes) and, if you’re in an apartment building, va’ad bayit (building maintenance). The price of these vary on city and location within the city. Olim Chadashim are entitled to an Arnona discount for one out of the first two years of making aliya – important to know, and must be taken care of at the Municipality of the city in which you live.

Third: Groceries. It’s not that groceries are more expensive in Israel, although some things are. It’s that you will be completely overwhelmed by the grocery stores, and will not know what to buy. You will be so overwhelmed trying to figure out what you are looking for and where to find it, that you are unlikely to remember to price check until you  get to the register and your bill is exorbitant. And allow yourselves at least 2 hours each time you shop at first, because it will take that long to find what you are looking for. Ask locals where they shop for what, and understand that it might be worth it to shop at multiple stores to get better prices.

Fourth: Schools. Yes there is public religious school in Israel. No, you do not pay tuition. However, you have to buy all the text books in addition to school supplies. Text books are expensive. Keep in mind that you can buy used, and it will save some money. By the way, shopping for school supplies was also completely overwhelming. I highly recommend going with a friend who speaks Hebrew, and/or finding a store where you can just hand them the list and ask them to put it all together for you.

Fifth: Transportation – there are many cities in Israel that make it easy to live without a car. Public transport here is fairly decent, and taxis are not outrageously expensive. However, keep in mind, that from time to time, you will need a car. Sometimes it just is not practical to get places without one. So far, we do not have a car, although we do plan to get one. We rely mostly on the local buses, and from time to time taxis. We rented a car for a week to enable us to get a little further and shop for some larger items, and we also rented a small car for a day when we needed to do them same thing a few weeks later. Most grocery stores will deliver – you can shop there, and tell them you want a “mishloach” and then you box it up and they deliver it to your home a few hours later for about the same cost as taking a taxi home, or you can shop online and have it delivered without ever setting foot in the store. The problem with that, is that until you are familiar with what you’re shopping for, it can be tricky to figure out in Hebrew.

I’ve outlined just a few things to consider financially, there are many, many more. If you are looking into purchasing appliances in Israel, do some research ahead of time, keep in mind that they use European sizing here for things such as fridges (measured in liters, not cubic feet), washers & dryers (measured based on weight they hold rather than volume). Also remember that delivery is rarely included in the price, and that Israeli law requires that appliances are installed by a certified technician or the warranty is invalidated. You have to schedule the technician to come out separately to the delivery. So, for example, if you purchase a washing machine and the store can deliver it the next day, keep in mind that the technician may not be able to come the same day, and you won’t be able to use your washer for another couple of days.

So, back to the first line. is $100K enough? There is no answer truthfully. if you have enough money to purchase things outright, good for you. If you don’t, and you need to purchase things in installments (very common in Israel, for everything from groceries to cars), remember that initially the bank will not want to give you a real credit card, and can take up to 3 months before they will issue it. The same goes for checks. They will not give you checks right away. In addition, some appliance stores will not accept foreign credit cards. So, just some more things to keep in mind.

Shabbat shalom from my still spacious apartment, that next week will feel a lot smaller!

Part IV: Why Rehovot: Because this!

When Keith & I returned from our pilot trip in December 2013, the obvious question was “so nu, where are you moving to?”

We were at friends’ for lunch our first Shabbat back, and we both said that we had narrowed it down to two possibilities. Those of you who know Keith & I well, are aware that we rarely agree on much if anything. So you will not be surprised when we each had a different first possibility that we had narrowed it down to. But, the second city out of our mouths was “Rehovot”. So we looked at each other, gave that one sided Israeli shrug, and said “Guess we are making aliya to Rehovot then”. And that was how we decided. From that moment on, people asked “Why Rehovot?” usually followed closely by “are there any Americans there?” – to which Keith liked to answer “None! That’s why we’re going there!” But that’s really not the case.

So, why Rehovot? There were a number of things that attracted us.

First and foremost: Schools. All the other cities we visited, when it came to talking to locals about schools, there were many opinions. We were advised against sending our kids to the public schools in some places, because they’re just not so great, or told that we could send to public schools, but then to expect to shell out a lot of money for tutors. In Rehovot, almost everyone sends their kids to the public elementary school. In fact, many of the people at our shul, are graduates of the religious elementary school in Rehovot themselves! For Middle/High School for girls there were a number of options, all of which sounded great, and we were happy for our 12 year old to have a choice of where to go. So far she is very happy with her decision.

Second: It’s an Israeli city. Meaning, when you walk around Rehovot you don’t hear English. You hear a lot of Russian, but you hear mostly Hebrew. This was extremely important to us – for us, and for our kids. We didn’t want to live in a location that had a lot of English speakers, we wanted to be somewhere that would force us to learn Hebrew, to speak Hebrew, and to integrate as much as possible, which brings me to:

Third: And this really, is parallel in importance to schools – community. A lot of Anglos who make aliya move to Anglo areas in order to have that sense of community that exists outside of Israel. Which makes sense – because complete integration into Israeli society is near impossible if you didn’t grow up here, go to the army and/or marry an Israeli. (Truthfully, the same can be said about integrating into most societies around the world – it’s difficult to do if you’re an immigrant.) In many synagogues around Israel, it is simply the place you go to pray. You show up for minyan, you daven, you leave. When we  visited Rehovot for a Shabbat, we experienced a shul that was like most synagogues outside of Israel. The Berman Shul. There is a kiddush weekly after services where people socialize and children play. Many of the members of the synagogue are English speaking. For us this was ideal. Living in a very Israeli city, but knowing that on Shabbat and holidays we have a shul to go to where we can easily communicate and socialize.

In the almost four weeks that we’ve been living here, this community aspect of the Berman Shul, has proven to be a most excellent choice. From the moment we landed we have been taken care of. Our empty apartment was filed with mattresses, sheets, towels, basic kitchen utensils and food. We’re still waiting for our lift to arrive (Please God, this week!), and in that time, we have been invited out every single Shabbat for meals. In addition, we are without a car, and I get daily calls from friends who are going grocery shopping to find out if I need to come with. We have had help in getting what we needed for the kids to start school.

All this help is coming from members of our new shul, our new community. Not a single Shabbat has passed without people coming up to us in Shul and introducing themselves. This is especially impressive, as we’re not the only newcomers to Rehovot over the summer. In fact, while many people still ask “How come Rehovot?” it turns out, it’s actually the “in place” now. In the space of just a few weeks, the shul welcomed 5 new families, and over the last few months even more families arrived.

The really beautiful thing about this community is the inter-generational connection. Something that struck us about Rehovot when we visited was the number of people our age who had grown up here, gone to the army and college, gotten married and then moved back to Rehovot. There are generations of families living here. It’s a place where you make your home. Last night, I was privileged to be invited to a friend’s house after Shabbat. There were about 40 women there, many old-timers in Rehovot, many as new as me. The age range was from 20s to 50s. For a long time, my friends have all been similar ages to me. You tend to gravitate towards people at a similar life stage. Then you can kvetch about the stuff you are going through, and try and convince each other it is normal. But having friends at different life stages is also beneficial. Like the people we ate lunch at yesterday, who made aliya nearly 20 years ago, with children the ages mine are now. Those people can look at us, hear what we say about some of the more difficult aspects of making aliya, and tell us, for real, that it will all be fine.

You should never underestimate the importance of having a community, and to have a community where everyone works together to help each other, without asking for anything in return, is what creates a warm, welcoming environment, and makes new members want to stay, to integrate, and to eventually become part of the welcoming committee themselves.

Thank you members of Berman Shul Rehovot, for making our landing soft, and for showing us that we made the right decision!

 

Part III: School is back in session

It goes kind of like this for my kids: 4 years, 4 schools (including home school). For my 7 year old, she’s been in 5 schools in 6 years – not bad!

My eldest started school last Thursday. She applied and was accepted to two (private) schools near Rehovot, and we gave her the choice to make alone. She chose a school that is only girls, and is for middle-high school, so begins in 7th grade, and ends at 12th grade. In many ways the decision was smart, because all the 7th graders are new, not just her. Of course, many of the girls already knew other kids from their elementary schools, or from youth groups. My daughter had met one other girl before school started, another English speaker (though native Israeli), so she wasn’t completely alone. Her school is a 20 minute bus ride from Rehovot, and there is a “hasa’ah” (bus) that picks the girls up in the morning and drops them back in the afternoon. So far, she seems happy. She is slowly making friends with girls who are not English speakers, and she has met the teacher who will be helping her weekly with Hebrew, and homework.

Today, September 1st, the other two started school. Their school is the local public religious school, and it’s a mere 12 minute walk from our apartment. Within the next week (or few days if this heat doesn’t subside a little) they will be walking to and from school together.  This morning was a little overwhelming, with hundreds of kids and parents walking onto the campus all at the same time! The gate was decorated with a balloon arch, and the teachers and administrators were standing at the entrance to welcome the kids with baskets of candy.

We escorted the kids to their respective class rooms, where they found a seat and sat down. My 2nd grader was a bit wobbly initially, but she didn’t cry. She knows 2 other kids in her class, both of whom are English speakers. I spoke to her teacher and made sure that she knew we are very new to the country, and that her Hebrew is not so great. She immediately went over to my daughter and let her know that she speaks English. At that point it was time for us to leave, and there were no tears or tantrums. My 5th grader (can’t believe this boy is almost 11!) was perfectly happy, having met up with a buddy from synagogue as soon as he went into his classroom, and was found wandering the halls as the bell went off… let’s hope he spends most of his time doing what he’s told.

School was only for a few short hours today, and when we arrived to meet the kids we were greeted with smiles. They each had a good day, met new friends (the 2nd grader seems to have bonded with another girl in her class who speaks no English, but who managed to help her understand what was going on nonetheless). And she came home calling me “Ima” instead of Mommy…

This week is all short days, which, while hard for parents to get anything done, is definitely a bonus for my kids. Gives them a chance to get comfortable, meet other kids, and start getting the hang of Hebrew. Very soon they should be getting pulled out of class a few times a week to be taught Hebrew, and to get extra help with homework and stuff.

Definitely a huge hurdle to have passed, and I’m happy day one is out of the way for everyone. I anticipate some difficulties eventually, as it wouldn’t be normal for it to be all smooth all the time, but one day at a time, and I’ll take what I can get!

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