When NJJN managing editor Abby Meth Kanter suggested I write a column about my move from Oakhurst to Israel, my first instinct was to respond “No, thanks.”
The first couple of months are the toughest after making aliya, and I wouldn’t want an account of my family’s challenges to affect anyone considering the same move.
But the truth is, the allure of Israel and its people outweighs the exasperation of the bureaucratic balagan* that most new immigrants endure.
I made the move in July with my husband, Pinni, and our 11-year-old daughter, Eden. We moved for more reasons than this column can describe, but partly because my sabra husband missed his family and homeland, and Eden and I longed for a meaningful Jewish adventure.
Ironically, it is my husband who is having the hardest time out of the three of us as he readjusts to the mentality he had left behind after his IDF service. Chief among his complaints are the careless drivers, pushing in lines, and road signage that’s scarce and confusing.
With each passing day, our daughter becomes more and more Israeli in her speech and mannerisms. She speaks and argues in Hebrew around the clock with her cousins. Her American accent is fading in a way mine probably never will. Amazingly, she is undaunted by the prospect of enrolling in a new school where she knows no one, and where subjects like math, science, and history will be taught entirely in Hebrew.
We find Israeli life full of contradictions. Most Israelis work (and argue) with an intensity that borders on ferocious. But they have an equally voracious passion for pleasure, particularly of the unplanned, drop-everything-and-go variety. Hibachi grills and picnic blankets pepper each patch of green throughout the country. Water holes and watering holes are filled to capacity. The beaches swarm with Israelis swimming in their skivvies because they were on their way somewhere else when the urge to swim struck.
All it took was a mere mention of the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee), and within moments we were on the road with several carloads of friends, family, food, and kayaks. A phone call from the road landed us a cruise on a friend’s commercial fishing boat and the opportunity to dive into the deepest part of the sea, where the water is the coolest.
While the typical Israeli lifestyle is fast-paced, momentum screeches to a halt on the important stuff — like registering as a citizen, getting a driver’s license, enrolling our daughter in school, buying a car, or choosing a cell phone carrier.
“L’at, l’at,” we are advised repeatedly. This translates loosely to ‘Hold your horses; these things require time and patience.”
Israelis offer more opinions than one can digest in a lifetime.
The discussion on the pros and cons of installing central air conditioning or split units in our new house dragged on for more than a month, ultimately postponing our move-in date. L’at, l’at.
The furniture can’t be delivered until the air conditioners are installed. L’at, l’at. The flowers and fruit trees in the garden are in full bloom, but the kitchen counters, stove, and cabinets are not in yet. L’at, l’at. School starts soon, and we can’t register our daughter or tour the school until the secretary gets back from vacation. L’at, l’at.
Overall, we are captivated by life here, invigorated by each Shabbat spent in the Holy Land, and the prospect of our first High Holy Days with our large extended family. We love reuniting with New Jersey friends visiting Israel, and those who have also moved here, such as the Tanzmans from Long Branch, the Rosenzweigs from Oakhurst, and the Mandlebaums from Highland Park.
Soon we will move to our new home on a farm once owned by my husband’s grandparents. It’s in a dusty town called Moshav Petahiya that few Israelis have even heard of and where no Americans have lived before. Fortunately, the moshav is a short drive from the thriving metropolises of Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Modi’in.
Adjoining our property is a vineyard and fruit export company run by our uncle Zemach Ishay, who once served as Israel’s water commissioner. Now in his 80s, Zemach hasn’t lost the gift of making desert soil bloom. The daily yield of just one of his fig trees can feed the entire village.
Moshav Petahiya is a perfect haven for writing, and I look forward to staying connected to Monmouth County’s Jewish community by covering its missions and Birthright trips to Israel for NJJN. I often re-read all the congratulatory notes sent to me by friends from various Monmouth Jewish agencies when they heard we were moving to Israel.
“Very smart move,” one note read. “Wish we had done it long ago.”
* The first word learned by most new immigrants to Israel, meaning bedlam, chaos, fiasco.