People often ask me, “So how is Aliyah?” And I answer, “Good.” Not very descriptive but how do you describe the experience of Aliyah in a sentence, a paragraph or a blog post?
Four years on, I feel very grateful. I made Aliyah without any expectations. I leaped into it with a feeling and faith that we will make this work. That worked for us. However there are things I wish I had known, and I’m sharing them here:
1. Language is Everything
You need to know Hebrew. Yes you can get by without it, but if you don’t want to be a stranger in a strange land forever, it’s worth breaking every tooth in your mouth to learn it. Language builds bridges. I value my relationships with Israelis, and I believe it wouldn’t be the same if I didn’t speak Hebrew to them. Furthermore, correcting my grammatically incorrect Hebrew is definitely a humorous icebreaker for new friendships.
2. Research, Research, Research, and Research
You can’t do enough research on where you want to live, schools, job opportunities, and communities. You need to speak to anybody and everybody to gather as much information as you can to make informed decisions. Of course, you don’t want to become paralyzed in research, but you do want to arrive prepared. One thing about moving countries is that everything is always new, so there’s a lot to learn. So once on the ground keep speaking and learning from everybody. Don’t be shy – if you have a question – ask! People are more than happy to help.
3. Prepare Your Children
Moving countries is not simple with children. Yes, some people have dream Aliyahs where their children settle and become Sabras overnight. Most don’t, and that’s a fact. It takes a long, long time. Four years on and my children are still settling, especially the older ones. They still feel very South African, and their parents are forever immigrants. So I think it’s important to get children on board as much as possible before making Aliyah. Of course they don’t have a choice, it’s a family decision, and in that case, it’s important to make a games plan on the other side to help them emotionally and academically. So yes a big, therapy, tutoring budget is a good idea.
4. Do What You Love
It’s easy to forget why we leave our families, move countries and turn our lives upside down in the day to day challenges of Israeli life. It’s easy to forget yourself in the process of settling a family in a new country. So take care of yourself. I found it important to ground myself in the activities I love. It’s important for every family member to do this. In the process, I’ve met like-minded yogis, chocolate lovers, biblical academics and poets, who’ve enriched my Aliyah tremendously.
I knew making Aliyah wouldn’t be easy. Nothing valuable and long lasting comes without consistent effort. We don’t know the future, no matter how much research we do, as we leap into new choices, decisions, and countries. It takes faith to make things work. That faith motors my days into the unknown, which suits living in a country that was built on prayers.
To finish off, it’s no accident that the photos I’ve posted in this blog post are of lovely cups of coffee and chocolate. When you appreciate the small, simple pleasures of life, be it a walk around the block or a cup of coffee, you can get through anything.