Why Would You Do This?

It’s that time of year again. The time when people start to make plans for the summer and for the chagim. Oh, not people in Israel – way too early for that here! But in recent weeks a few people have contacted me to say they may be  coming in the summer to Israel, or for the chagim.It’s also that time where people considering making aliya start to make their plans. The number of people who email me because they read my blog always surprises me. Random strangers who Googled and came across my musings. It’s cool, but a little scary just how much faith they put in me and my thoughts.

I’m very blunt and very honest. I tell it like it is. I don’t colour things pretty and I don’t pretend aliya is a bed or roses, nor that it’s a smooth ride.

To save some people the trouble of emailing me, only to be disappointed, here’s my thoughts for today on making aliya.

  • Don’t expect anything. The higher your expectations, the more likely you are to be miserable.
  • Remember you’re moving to Israel, which means you no longer live in the country you currently live in. This may sound obvious, but so many olim constantly compare Israel to their country of origin.
    • Everything is different here.
    • If you want to make this move, you have to be willing to make the move.
    • Everything works differently here.
    • Many things cost more here.
    • You’ll likely have a smaller living space here.
    • You’ll  probably have a smaller (but more expensive) car here.
    • You’ll probably make less money here (unless you’re commuting for work, in which case you may bring home more money at the end of the year, but you won’t be spending much time actually living here).
    • The school system is different here.
    • Everything is different here.
  • Decide why you want to make aliya.
    • If it’s because Israel is the Jewish homeland and therefore we should all move here, come on over, we’ll help you get settled
    • If it’s because you want lower tuition, stay where you are and put your kids in public school, hire a Judaics teacher (or teach them yourselves), but don’t make aliya.
  • Make sure everyone is on board – at least your spouse. If you are coming with kids under the age of 10, just get them excited about it. If your kids are older than 10 you have a lot of work to do before you arrive, and you will have even more to do once you get here.
    • If possible, hire an Israeli to speak Hebrew with your kids (and with you) a few times a week. Having conversational Hebrew when they arrive will be a massive help.
    • Hire a tutor to get them advanced on their reading & writing skills in Hebrew. Even if they are currently in a day school, they will not be even remotely close to where they need to be for text books in Hebrew.
    • Have them watch Israeli kids’ TV on YouTube.
  • Research research research! Don’t move to a place because you know people there, but you have no idea about the type of community it is. Move to a place that is within your comfort zone financially, religiously and socially. Even if you know no one. Keep in mind however, that it’s not advisable to move somewhere with no Anglos – it’s not necessarily the best way to integrate.

If you have a job that you can bring with you, DO IT. If you have any way at all to get a position before you move here, take it. Even if it’s not perfect, it’s an opening, and once you arrive, finding something else will be easier. If you need to take 5 months to do ulpan, make sure that you can afford that 5 months of no income, and remember that there may not be ulpan in your city, you may have to travel to get there – another question for your list of things to ask when visiting places on a pilot trip.

I am always happy to get emails from people who have read my blog. I try my best to answer questions honestly. I think everyone Jewish should make aliya, but I also understand that living in Israel is not for everyone.

Human Touch

It can be hard to live here. An awful lot happens in Israel that can be upsetting, that can be frustrating, aggravating, annoying. Introduce me to a single Oleh who has never had a day where they’ve thought “I must be mad for living here” and I’ll call him a liar! We’re all a little bit mad. It’s part of the territory.

It can be beautiful to live here. Today, within a period of just 30 minutes, I witnessed two  beautiful moments, that once again reaffirmed my love of living here.

I was running some errands in “town”. The traffic lights were out at a major intersection, so there were a lot of confused drivers, and a lot of risk-taking pedestrians. I was of the latter. Around 20 people began crossing the street together, and an older gentleman tripped on the wheel of a shopping cart belonging to an older woman. He face planted onto the middle of the street, and his belongings scattered all around him. Every single person crossing that street, no matter the direction in which they were headed, stopped and either helped the man up, or helped pick up his possessions and money that had flown from his pockets as he fell. The lady whose cart he had caught his foot on was distraught, and couldn’t stop apologizing to him. He accepted no apology, told her it was his own fault, his wife always tells him to watch where he was going. Not one car honked that the road was blocked, not one person walked around the scene without stopping to help in one way or another.

15 minutes later I was getting felafel from the 4 flavor felafel guy on Herzl (giving him a shout out because his felafel is delicious, and because he is a mensch). While he was stuffing a pita for me, a man who had I had seen begging for money earlier, came to the side window of the felafel shop.  He stood there looking through the glass at the food. Without missing a beat, Mr. Four-Flavors grabbed a paper bag, filled it with fresh felafel and chips and handed it to the man, telling him “bete-avon.”

Two relatively minor incidents that reminded me that we are all one people. Our little country surrounded by hostility, but we have each other most of the time.

What is normal anyway?

We’ve been here almost a year and a half. Honestly, our klita (absorption) has been fantastic. We are very lucky. Not everyone is blessed to move to the place that they want to make their permanent home in Israel – olim frequently find that the town or city that seemed so perfect on their pilot trip is actually not the best fit for their family. And then they start all over again some place else. For us, Rehovot is still the best place. We love it here. I know I keep reiterating that every time I blog, but it has to be said. This city is freaking awesome, our shul is amazing, our community is fantastic.

As we’ve finished dealing with all the bureaucracy involved in the early days of aliya, I found myself wondering what can I possibly write about. Not for my readers, but for myself – I need to write, you see. This is how I get it all out, it’s why I’m so active on Facebook – I have to put my thoughts into writing as part of my functioning – it’s why I kept a journal for 13 years.

I realized this week that while life in Israel is the new normal for us, there will always be things that don’t seem normal. I started compiling a list in my head, and I’d love to hear from other olim if they have things to add.
I’ll start here:

  1. Sundays – ’nuff said
  2. Buying fresh kosher meat from the supermarket
  3. Ditto for kosher cheese
  4. The Post Office
  5. Shopping in general – everyone lives in debt but the malls are always full
  6. School – from the (lack of) hours to the balagan (chaos) of parent teacher meetings, and kids calling their teachers by their first name starting in 1st grade!
  7. Disposable cups, for both hot and cold drinks – the ones for hot drinks are so thin that you have to wear oven gloves while holding them, and the ones for cold drinks are so flimsy that, well, let’s just say I wish I’d put a case of Solo Cups on my lift.
  8. “Aruchat Eser” – literally “a meal at 10am” – not the “elevenses” I grew up with…
  9. Opening my purse before walking into any store for a security check
  10. The amount of paper wasted every time I go to the bank

Please comment with your own not-normal-norms in Israel!

Fam’ly

If you’re as avid a viewer of the BBC “soap” Eastenders as I am (fan since day one in 1985, and still watch every episode), you know the importance of “fam’ly”.  You probably also know this if you’re a big fan of The Godfather, like my husband, but then it’s more about the famiglia.

Anyway, I just got home to Israel from a week in London visiting my family. My little sister had a beautiful baby girl a couple of weeks ago, and for the first time since any of my 8 nephews & nieces were born, I am finally close enough to go meet her as newborn.

Unfortunately I contracted a virus for the last two days of my trip, but until then, I had 5 days of amazing family time. I stayed at my sister’s & brother in law’s, so I got lots of newborn squishy baby cuddles, plus I got to witness firsthand that she does the whole brand-new-baby-in-the-house a lot better than I ever did. I watched my nephews and niece learn how to hold and burp their new sister, and I got to enjoy just being with them when they weren’t at school. I managed to see my “big” (not older) brother for dinner before he rushed off to Manchester for work, and we didn’t even have an argument. I spent an afternoon with his four boys, and I was able to hang out with my sister in law for a few hours where she wasn’t working like mad as a doctor. My baby brother met me at the airport and dropped me off again when I was leaving. He also took me out for dinner one night, and I got to see him over Shabbat. I saw my parents every day.

And then I came home. And it’s wonderful to be home with my husband and my kids and my dog, and in Israel. But I miss my family.

Every time we are all together, the siblings, our significant others, my parents, the kids – and it happens far too rarely, and almost never with everyone – I realise how lucky I am. My family is far from perfect – show me a family that is – but we are a fantastic family.

We are four siblings who love each other in spite of our differences. We are all so different, and yet we get along. Put me in a room with my brothers, my sister, my parents, my husband, my brother in law and my sister in law, and I can tell you this:
What we will argue about, who will pick on whom, who will blame whom for what, who will be blamed for a lot, and who for nothing at all. I can tell you that it won’t matter, because we all laugh at ourselves and at each other, and there is so much love there, that it can’t be quantified. Each of us has traits that annoy one another, but each of us has qualities that everyone loves.

I’ve lived away from my family for 24 years, and while I’m used to it, I hate it now more than ever. Thank God for our family Whatsapp group – it’s the only group that I don’t dread hearing the notification for. We’re all on it, and sometimes what happens in that group is so ridiculous we could star in our own sitcom. It’s easy to feel like we’re all together this way, even though they’re all “there” and I’m over here.

I hear friends talk about their own families and the discord between them and siblings, and I feel blessed. So this soppy blog post is for you: Mum, Dad, Barry, Lyann, Laura, Jon & Jeff, L, A, D, Y, A, M, E & Y.

I wish Mashiach would hurry up and ride in on his donkey so we could all live nearby like fam’ly should.

 

Why my French flag won’t fly

I’m having a really hard time expressing my feelings today. I began writing a whole long blog post, but nothing was coming out right. Then I commented on the Facebook status of someone more or less accusing those who hadn’t changed a profile photo to the French flag of resisting solidarity with the French victims. And somehow in the comment I was able to get across exactly what I wanted to say. So I’ve scrapped the rest of the blog post, and I’m just putting this here:

What happened in Paris is terrible. So is what happened in Beirut. What happened in Sydney. What happened in Mumbai. What happens daily in Israel, Syria, Iraq, Iran etc. etc. etc. I don’t feel the need to change my profile picture to the flag of another country in order to express my anger/sadness at yet another act of Islamic terror that has come upon the “civilized” world. Of course I am sad for the families of the innocents who were barbarically murdered in cold blood. But how on earth does putting a French flag on my Facebook feed make any difference to the blindness being shown, even in the wake of another brutal act of terrorism? We need a lot more than flags and “je suis Paris” to rid the world of this filth.

I want to get something straight – not changing my profile picture to the French flag has absolutely nothing to do with the French track record on Israel or Jews. It has nothing to do with much of the world turning a blind eye to the Israelis being targeted by terrorists daily for the last couple of months. It is unrelated to the rising number of anti semitic attacks around the world – New York, Milan, Manchester, wherever.
Any normal person is upset at terror attacks anywhere in the world, and regardless of who carried them out. Oklahoma City. Atlanta Olympics. 9/11. Sydney. Mumbai. Boko Haram in Nigeria. 7/7 London. 13/11 Paris. Beirut. Kenya. Argentina. Somalia. Belfast. Derry. Enniskillen. Sweden. Norway. Russia.
Those really not showing solidarity are those celebrating in the streets, handing out candy, letting off fireworks, dancing – because of the murder of innocents. And I don’t have to tell you where that is happening.

What’s it really like?

Perhaps the question people ask most often is “what’s it really like, living in Israel, when all these attacks are going on?” And you can’t really explain it, because how can you explain it, without sounding either freaking out crazy (OMG,  you cannot imagine how scary it is to leave the house, when any second someone might stab you!!!) or nonchalant (Well, it’s terrible what’s happening, but we can’t let it get in the way of living our lives).

Watch the video. All of it. And then tell me what you think it’s like, to live here, right now.

In the video we saw an attack from today.A security guard (note, not a soldier, or a policeman, just a civilian security guard) was stabbed by a Muslim woman. He managed to shoot her after he was stabbed. In general, I don’t watch the graphic videos from terror attacks. I don’t need those images imprinted on my brain. But this footage was different. It so perfectly captures the insanity of these latest attacks on Jews in Israel. Why? Because you see just how calm this woman was, as she walked along the street, like she was going about her business, right before she attacked a man with a knife. The security guard asks her for her ID, which she hands over to him. While he is checking her ID, she reaches into her purse, and pulls out a knife and simply goes at him. This was clearly a carefully calculated attack. You would imagine that a woman about to attempt to murder a man would have difficulty walking at a steady pace. That she may hesitate briefly before carrying out her mission. And yet, she simply appears to be behaving “normally” right up until that moment, and then she just attacks.

How can we possibly not be suspicious of every Muslim we see in the street, after watching footage like this? Regardless of where you stand politically, how can anyone say “It’s not all Muslims/Arabs/Palestinians”? There is no way of knowing. This is what it’s really like.

I am in the camp that firmly believes we cannot let the crazies make us change how we are living our lives. I do what I have to do, I try not to limit my children’s freedom too much. But we are all more aware, we are more jumpy, we are more careful and perhaps a little less carefree.

Fear

15 Oct 2015 Leave a comment

“I see you looking over your shoulder
Tell me who do you think is out there 
……

I’d rather die than fade away
I read the rules
And yeah I know them
Still you ain’t ever gonna
Make me play the game of
Fear “
 Fear, Bon Jovi – from Keep The Faith, 1992

No one can argue that the current situation here is not  frightening. People going about their daily business getting stabbed is hardly normal.

Back in the 1990s, when I lived in Jerusalem, the preferred modus operandi of terrorists was to detonate themselves on buses. I won’t go into too much detail, because thinking about it triggers a certain amount of post traumatic stress disorder in my brain, and produces photographic memories that I will never be able to erase. Suffice to say, that back in those days, when I relied on public transportation to get everywhere, getting on a bus was easier said than done. Twice “my” bus was blown up. Twice, thank God, I wasn’t on it. Other buses that I frequently took were also blown up. On multiple occasions I chose to get off a crowded bus and walk to my destination, even if it was still a couple of miles away. It felt safer to walk, than to risk being on a crowded bus, and making myself a potential terror statistic.

Until Tuesday, taking the bus felt safer than walking, with this current rise in attacks. And then a terrorist got on a bus in Jerusalem and started stabbing passengers, Last night it happened again in Jersusalem – thankfully this time, only one passenger was stabbed.

This morning my husband dropped me off at the health clinic to get a flu shot. In the center of town. After my shot, I walked to the mall and bought a pair of shoes. Then I remembered a book I needed to pick up, so I walked from the mall  back through the center of town to get the book. From there, I waited at a crowded bus stop, on a busy street in the center of the city, to take a bus home.

It was only as I walked the 7 minutes from the bus stop to my apartment that I realized something. I hadn’t felt scared all morning. I went about my daily life as normal. I am always alert when I walk around – I was in the US too, where I was far more fearful of being held up at a bank, or a gas station. I rarely use my phone when I’m walking in the street, and today I left it in my purse the entire time I was out. Contrary to what you may have read on Facebook, I did not have my big golf umbrella with me  – it’s a lovely sunny day here. I did have my new shoes in their box, which I could have swung at anyone trying to carry out an attack.

I realized, when I got home, that while I’m scared by the situation in general – the attacks are in random places all over the country – I am not scared to live my life here. I’m worried about my kids – they normally have so much independence, but right now we are not allowing them nearly as much freedom. I’m nervous that this will continue for months, and that the number of casualties will continue to rise.  I still feel safer than I did in America. I don’t worry about walking into the bank, or getting gas, or about school shootings.

Stop the madness. Stop the hatred. Stop the incitement. Stop the violence. But I won’t play the game of fear.

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