Lessons from our first full summer

After a long, hot (very, very hot!) summer, school is back in session since September first.

My 8th grader was excited to return to school – in spite of the few difficulties she has last year, she really likes her school and has lots of friends. I’ve never met a group of teenage girls so happy to be back in school, as those girls who are in Pelech. Even getting up by 6:30am to get her bus is effortless! Long may that last.

The younger two kids refused my offer of walking them into their classrooms on the first day. In fact, when I offered, they asked if I meant that I would drive them to school. When I replied that my intention was to walk with them, they said no thank you, we will walk on our own…

Sadly, as second year olim, my kids are no longer entitled to the six hours of help that they received during school hours last year. Apparently this year they will get 2 hours of pull-out help, plus help in the classroom from the sherut leumi (national service) girls. I sincerely hope this will be enough, especially for my son in Kita Vav (6th grade) who will be starting Middle/High School next year. Time will tell.

Both my elementary aged kids have the same teachers as last year, which is very helpful. My son’s teacher placed him next to the new oleh from this summer, a boy from Denver, CO, who we have had the pleasure of getting to know in the weeks since he arrived. At first I wasn’t sure that this would be a good idea, but it turns our his teacher is a genius. She’s been doing this job so long that she taught most of the parents of the kids who are now in her class (rumour has it she was cajoled out of retirement again to stay with these kids until they graduate at the end of this school year). By having my son sit next to a kid who really can’t speak Hebrew, she is forcing him to listen to her, and to then convey information to his new friend. Turns out he understands a lot more Hebrew than any of us realised…

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As for me, what have I learned, my first year back in Israel?

  1. Israelis are loud. They yell. A lot. But this doesn’t mean that they are angry or upset with you. Indeed, often they are yelling at you because they want to help you, but you may not realise that, because all you can hear is yelling, and therefore you can’t hear the words…
  2. The driving license bureau is a scam. What should be a relatively simple procedure to change a valid driving license from your country of origin to an Israeli license is made really complicated by the number of steps necessary. In addition, no one will take responsibility if there’s a mess up along the way – as discovered by a close friend who now has to claim back money from the licensing bureau, due to a mistake made by the post office, but that neither they nor the licensing bureau will accept responsibility for. So, good luck with that…
  3. Summer vacation is very long, and most camps only last for 3 weeks, and only run from 8am–1pm. Which leaves every afternoon in July, and all of August (prone to major heatwaves) to fill in somehow.
  4. Joining a pool is a necessity, not a luxury (see 3 above).
  5. Shopping for school books and supplies in July is smart. No Israeli shops for school supplies before the 3rd week in August. The down side is that some of the books won’t be available until August, but those can really wait until school has begun – they don’t do much until “after the holidays” anyway.
  6. During the last two week of August it is perfectly normal to see little kids at work with their parents, regardless of the line of work. There are no camps or daycare at all for those two weeks. It’s not uncommon to see 3 and 4 year olds “helping” out parents who work in retail stores, medical offices, hi-tech companies – anywhere really. It’s almost a given that you can bring your kid to work.
  7. Due to the lack of daycare etc. (see 6 above), it is very difficult to a) get appointments with various doctors, therapists etc. in those last 2 weeks of August, as everyone is on vacation, and b)due to a), very difficult to find hotels to stay in around the country if you would like to go on vacation within Israel during those last two weeks.
  8.  Due to 6 and 7, if you want to take vacation during the last two weeks of August, even if just for a couple of days, book your time off with work as early as possible, and make any hotel reservations as early as possible! Alternatively, you can do what we did, and find awesome friends who invite you to stay with them for a couple of nights so that you can have a fun mini vacation without the hotel stay!

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One week from tonight will be our second Rosh Hashanah in Rehovot. Allow me to take this opportunity to wish all of you Shana Tova, ketiva vechatima tova, and leshanah habaah beMedinat Yisrael – don’t be afraid to take that step and make aliya! You never know what it may bring – Bon Jovi is coming to Israel in October for the first time ever. If someone had told me that all it would take for them to come here was for me to make aliya (again), I’d have come back years ago!

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