2 years on: Through the eyes of the Teen

A year ago I asked my daughter  to guest blog about her first year in Israel. This year, I asked my son, who is going into middle/high school this year, but he declined. So I asked the 14 year old if she was willing to do it again and she said “of course Mom, anything you say, Mom”. Well, not exactly, but she did agree to write, and without any bribery, so we’re in a good place.

Personally, I cannot believe that our second “aliyaversary” is already here. It’s been a fantastic couple of years, and if life continues to improve each year as it has the last two years, we will always be very happy here. And now I hand you over to Noffiya.

<<Hi Mom’s stalkers, it’s me again but now it’s been two years in this country! Throughout this year I’ve been mentioned quite a lot (I’m guessing, I don’t really want to read this boring blog, I don’t know why you guys do) but now I’m going to write again!

In this past year, many new changes have occurred to me. My group of friends is now mostly Israelis and I speak Hebrew 90% of the day. My English is slowly getting worse, but my Hebrew, Arabic, and Spanish (Arabic I learn in school, Spanish at home for fun) are getting better. Shopping in Israel is still fun especially when I go to malls in different cities with my friends. A few weeks ago my friends and I took the train to Ashdod and spent the day at a mall there. Yesterday, I went with some other friends to the Ben & Jerry’s factory in Yavne and we got ice cream. In the beginning of the summer, me and my friends from school decided to go on vacation without our families, and so we went to Netanya for a couple of days. Can you imagine going alone to a different city, an hour away, with 7 friends, in America?! Recently, I went on the summer camp with Tzofim (scouts but I hate calling it that) which is 5 days in a forest in the middle of nowhere with no tents, no air conditioning, no showers, bathrooms, outlets, etc. etc. Why did I do it? Honestly, I have no idea how I let my friends convince me to go on this trip although I hate to admit it, I had fun and am looking forward to going next year even though it will be 10 days! My mom asked if I wanted to write “I guess I’m becoming Israeli after all” but that’s not true.

The past school year as a whole was a lot easier for me because of the language. I understood 85% of what the teacher was saying during the classes. Most people tell me that I sound like an Israeli and you wouldn’t know that I had made Aliyah 2 years ago. But that’s a lie. I know that my Hebrew isn’t as good as they say it is. Although the fact that there’s no new Olim (new immigrants) in Rehovot and at my school who are my age really bothers me.

I’ve made plans with a friend to go to London in two summers and we’re serious about that. We really want to go out of Israel (neither of us have left since making Aliyah) and we think that if we can save enough our parents will finally let us. On the subject of leaving Israel, last year I said I wasn’t sure… this year I’m quite sure that I’m going to stay.>>


The British Are Coming

*The title has nothing to do with Brexit, as clearly, the British are leaving today… *

It’s 1947, the British Mandate is still in “Palestine”. Hundreds of thousands of Jewish survivors from the Holocaust are in displaced persons camps in Europe. Jewish immigration to the Land of Israel is illegal. Read about the “Aliya Bet” here.

On Wednesday night our son Elnadav had his “graduation” ceremony from elementary school, which goes until 6th grade. It was less of a formal graduation, and more of a celebration of the kids, and I have to say that I enjoyed it far more than any graduation I have attended in the past. There were few long winded speeches, and it was not about glorifying the school, but simply about the kids. They performed some amazing dances, and an incredible sports show. The only pomp and circumstance was the handing over of the school flag to the incoming 6th graders. You can watch that here. Elnadav is one of the boys holding the flag.

The following night (last night) was their end of year trip – an event that our school has been taking part in for about 30 years. When I first heard about it, I decided immediately to volunteer. The Zionist in me just had to be part of it.

Why? Well they take the kids to Nitzanim Field school, in between Ashdod and Ashkelon, in the dark of night. There they are separated into 3 groups: The British, The Haganah (Jewish underground at the time of the British Mandate) and The Ma’apilim (The name given to the illegal Jewish immigrants). Time rewinds to 1947, the ship Shabtai Luzinsky breaks through the British blockade and lands off the coast at Nitzanim. We (I was part of the Haganah) spent 2 and a half hours trekking through sand dunes evading the British patrols, listening carefully to the radio transmissions coming from the Haganah HQ in Tel Aviv, until we eventually got to the landing area. The 800+ passengers disembarked (okay not last night), and most evaded the British. We ran to greet our Ma’apilim group and distributed ID cards, and mingled with them, and told them to answer only “Ani Yehudi M’Eretz Yisrael” (I am a Jew from the Land of Israel) to any question they are asked. When the British group arrived a moment later and started to ask questions, this was the resounding answer heard.

From there we trekked another couple of kilometers back to where a large bonfire had been lit, and we learned more about the history of the Ma’apilim.


“A Jew from the Land of Israel” written in fire

This is the only photo that I have from the entire experience, because we were not allowed to use anything during the activity that wasn’t available in 1947. We had only water and a flashlight each, and even the flashlights we were not allowed to use most of the time, for fear of being caught by the British patrols.

For all the kids this was a fun, educational experience. For my kid, and a couple of other kids who were not born in Israel, it was a lesson that making Aliya was not always about hopping on a plane with Nefesh b’Nefesh and being welcomed to Israel as a Jew under the Law of Return. My son’s teacher told me that her parents arrived in Israel on a boat from Italy after the Holocaust. For her this is a very personal excursion.

The whole experience was fun, educational and enlightening. We were out in the wild (spiders, sand creatures, and even Hyenas!), in the beautiful moonlit night, no cellphones, nothing but the radio of our commander to be in touch with anyone. The sirens we heard were so realistic that a couple of the kids asked at first if it was a rocket attack. (To be clear, the sirens were very obviously from “police cars”, and sounded nothing like red alert sirens, but some girls like to be overly dramatic… and darkness apparently lends to an exaggerated imagination).

I would love to see the US day schools who bring their 8th graders to Israel add this activity to their schedule. What better way to encourage Aliyah than by showing today’s children just how easy it is for us now?

Shabbat Shalom.


Highway to Hell

Not an AC/DC fan really, but no other song title quite matched this week’s experience with our beloved </sarcasm> car.

There was no sand involved this time, just a bad transmission and a man who didn’t listen to his wife. The kids are witnesses to that.

Our car was not new when we bought it and we have had a few problems with it. We knew that the transmission would need to be replaced, but we were told it wasn’t critical to replace it immediately, so we waited. Yesterday while out with my newly 14 year old I heard some new noises (the “old” noises we already got used to…) and I mentioned it to my husband.

We had plans to meet my aunt and uncle in Herzliya for dinner at the marina (Bistro 56, delicious, yummy food, definitely recommend it). We left Rehovot around 5pm and before we even got on the highway the noises began to get louder, and the car wasn’t shifting gears properly. I suggested to my husband that we pull over and turn around to go home, call the restaurant and leave a message for my aunt and uncle that we couldn’t make it. But he continued on, and accused me of being pessimistic when I said I didn’t want to end up stranded on the Ayalon on the way home later, in the dark, with the kids in the back. I insisted I was being realistic – I had no idea that I was actually being a prophetess.

Sure enough, on the way back from dinner, just before HaHalacha exit, on the Ayalon Southbound, the car began to slow – it’s very scary doing 35km/hour on a road where most cars are doing a minimum of 90. We managed to get over to the shoulder and stopped. Called the tow company – thankfully this kind of towing is covered by insurance, as opposed to getting towed for being stuck in a field due to following Waze. They said they could send someone out to tow the  car to the mechanic in Rehovot, but they only have room for one person in the tow truck, the other 4 of us are on our own. I asked the woman on the telephone if she had any idea how the kids and I could safely get off the Ayalon, and the answer was “I’m not a rescue company, people just figure this out on their own” Ok, thank you very  much.

Keith called four Tel Aviv cab companies, none of whom were willing to send a cab to get us. So meanwhile I used Whatsapp to contact our friends. We have a couple of group chats, so I sent a message to one saying  “Guys, in the never ending story of this f*%#ing car we are currently stuck on the shoulder of the Ayalon Darom just before Halacha. waiting for shagrir (tow company) and can’t get a cab to get us. Help. Shagrir can only take one person and we are all of us. What the F do we do??????”

10 seconds later two friends responded that they could come get us. Within 10 minutes one was on his way – thanks to Waze we could send him our exact location. Within 40 minutes he pulled into the shoulder in front of us and we got the kids and me safely into his car. At that point more of our friends saw the message and started texting to make sure we were good, and to see if we still needed help. The tow truck was only a few minutes behind, but Keith, alone in the car, put his time to good use and broadcast live on Facebook… (whatever keeps you happy man). Keith managed to convince the tow truck guy to give him a ride all the way to Rehovot (the woman on the phone said they would only drop off at the nearest public transportation place and you were on your own from there! WTF?!), and another friend picked him up from the mechanic’s place and dropped him home.

Meantime, I got home with the kids, put two of them to bed and then took the dog out. Got back from walking the dog to find the newly 14 year old making school lunches for all the kids. Which almost made me cry, because she’s a teenager, and she’s grumpy and scary a lot of the time, and yet she totally figured out what she needed to do! To the kids’ credit they were amazing the whole time, not freaking out at all (although that might have changed if their devices ran out of battery…)

Now we wait to hear how long it will take for the car to be fixed (hopefully we will have it back by the end of the week….)

But once again I am just blown away by this wonderful, amazing community that we live in. This is the definition of making friends your family. No hesitation, no thinking “oh that’s terrible, sucks to be you guys”, just “send me your location on Waze and I’ll get there as soon as I can”. Thanks JW for rescuing me and the kids – and you are my witness that all 3 of them said explicitly “This is so Daddy’s fault, he should have listened to Mummy”

Thanks SP for offering to come get us, AS for picking Keith up from the mechanic, to EW for dropping him back off there this morning, and to all our other fantastic friends who made sure we were all safe and sound.

Car-ma is a Beach…

Karma bit me yesterday, not quite in the backside, more like in the front wheels of my car. But it has given me an “only in Israel” story to share.

We live in a desert. A beautiful, fertile desert, but still a desert.

Back story: Last week my beloved husband was on his way home from a meeting, and like every good Israeli he took the advice of Waze to find the fastest route home. He initially said he would be home around 2pm, but then called around 2:10pm to let me know he’d be a little later, as Waze had taken him on a diversion, and he was on some kind of dirt road. I suggested that he turn around and go back to a real road.

One and a half hours later he had not yet arrived home, and being a wife, I called him to make sure everything was alright. He muttered something about a tow truck, and when I asked him to repeat what he said he told me that the dirt road had ended, and he tried to turn around only to get the car stuck in a sandbank. Oh, I said, and you can’t get it out? Where are you exactly? Somewhere in the middle of  field in Nes Ziona, he replied. Not too far from home, but not actually near anything other than the train tracks… He said he had called the towing company because it was the only way out.

My initial reaction was to yell and call him stupid, but as my brain processed what had happened – a Man, who would never ask anyone for directions, had followed directions from a non-human application, and ended up stranded in the middle of a field–  all I could do was start laughing. And I couldn’t stop. In fact, when he finally walked in the door a couple of hours later (it took a long time for the tow truck to find the exact spot in the field that he was stuck in), his children and I were still laughing – as was the entire family who had been notified via Whatsapp about the incident. And most of our friends by now also knew, because Facebook. No damage done, no one got hurt, it’s good to laugh, right? I showed him the setting on Waze that allows you to turn off “Dirt Roads” so that this doesn’t happen again – PSA: There is a setting in Waze that allows you to turn Dirt Roads on and off, I recommend checking that you have it set to off.


Our poor car stuck in the sand

Yesterday I went to Ashdod with my brother to the beach. Do not go to Ashdod on Wednesdays. It’s market day, and so the large parking lot with direct beach access is taken over by the market, and we were forced to park across the street in a make shift lot that was a little sandy. As in, it was hardened sand, not the soft sand of the beach. I parked carefully, mindful of the dangers of sand, and of the large white van that was parked nearby partially blocking the way out.

A couple of hours on the beach and a nice lunch at an Indian restaurant later, we returned to the car only to find that the white van was still there, and now a car was parked directly behind it, therefore completely blocking the way out. My only choice was to drive forward to go around the car and van. Forward I drove and then suddenly the car would not move. I looked at my brother and said “this cannot be happening” (OK, I may have actually cursed too). We got out of the car to assess the situation, and found that sure enough, we had driven into the one small area of the lot with mounds of sand, and yes, my car was well and truly stuck.

Thankfully, we were very visible from the road. Two young yeshiva boys (probably around 16 years old) at a bus stop saw what had happened, and immediately came running over to try and push me out. Honestly, I knew there was no way that they were strong enough to move the car at all, but I give them a lot of credit because they really tried – including putting cardboard under the wheels and all sorts of other ways to try and help. After 10 minutes I called my husband (only because someone had to pick my kid up from school, and clearly I was not going to make it).

The conversation went something like this: “Hi it’s me. You won’t believe what I’m about to tell you, but the car is stuck. In sand.”

Him: Very funny, what’s up?

Me: I promise I’m not joking, I’m really stuck in sand in a parking lot in Ashdod and I need you to go pick up the kid from school.

Him: (Ok, I give him SO much credit right now for not just laughing and hanging up on me)

He stayed on the phone trying to come up with ideas, and meanwhile, in typical “only in Israel” style, various people tried to help. The yeshiva boys were still valiantly trying to find help. Some bloke in a Mercedes SUV pulled over and said if we had a rope he would happily pull me out. We had no rope – but I have put it on the shopping list. An older gentleman with obvious military experience came over and started doing things with the front wheel, but he wasn’t enough to actually get it out (and I was terrified he would have a heart attack while trying).

And then a bus pulled into the bus stop.

Another older man got off the bus – he was probably in his 70s. He immediately spotted the situation, glanced around and saw half a dozen men nearby including a couple of bulky construction workers. He shouted at the top of his voice “Nu?! What’s wrong with all of you? Can’t you see this lady needs our help?! Let’s go! It’ll just take a bit of manpower”. Suddenly 7 or 8 guys (and my brother) between the ages of 25-75 were at the front of the car, telling me get into reverse. Bus man shouted “1, 2, 3, YALLAH KADIMA” and they all pushed while I stepped on the accelerator. That’s all it took, and I was home free. And they all disappeared as quickly as they showed up, I didn’t even have time to thank them other than a thumbs up and big smile.

Needless to say, when I walked into my apartment 40 minutes later I was greeted with howls of laughter from my husband.

And Boy George has been in my head ever since!

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!

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