ben ezra family 298.88.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
It didn't take long for Riva and Jack Ben-Ezra to learn how one less-than-alert Israeli clerk can mess up even the simplest of tasks.
"The baby has been getting every Israeli virus under the sun," says Riva, during one of our bi-monthly update sessions. "Right now she has an ear infection."
Riva says that the first time she took the eight-month-old to the doctor since making aliya two months ago, the medical staff noticed that the name on her identity card was incorrect.
Now a misspelling of the older Ben-Ezra daughter, Renatya, might be justified. But writing "Chaya" instead of "Chava" is plain ridiculous.
"The doctor was very confused," laughs Riva. "Here we were calling her Chava and on the medical card it said Chaya."
A visit to the Interior Ministry is not the only aliya-related errand that the Ben-Ezras now have to contend with.
When we first interviewed the former New Jersey family six weeks ago, Riva told The Jerusalem Post that the next task on her list was to apply for the couple's driving licenses.
"We are not allowed to drive the kibbutz car on a foreign license," she'd said, adding ambitiously that she hoped to complete one aliya task a week.
In the second installment of this column, Riva reported that the couple had been to the nearest Driving License Registration office in Haifa. Now we find that the paperwork is in and both are on the road to becoming Israeli drivers.
"We each had a lesson and it was really not very pleasant," she recalls. "The instructor talked on his cell phone the whole time and yelled 'smola' [left] and 'yamina' [right]."
"Apparently after 20 years of driving, the instructor felt I still had not mastered how to drive properly - he wants us both to come back for another lesson," joins in Jack. "This process has been our biggest introduction to Israeli bureaucracy."
Making aliya to a kibbutz had spared them visiting the Interior Ministry to date; the kibbutz has been able to handle most of the ministry's demands on their behalf. "I have never tried making aliya any other way," Jack says dryly. "But here we get so much support and assistance working through the various aliya issues."
But living on a remote kibbutz, far away from the usual residential centers popular with English-speaking immigrants, can take its toll.
Riva says that while the baby and Renatya, 4, have settled in pretty quickly - "her favorite word at the moment is 'iksa'" - seven-year-old Tzahi is finding school and making friends in an entirely Hebrew-speaking environment more difficult.
"Children at that age are much more discriminatory, they have less tolerance for mistakes," she observes. "He has still not really found friends at school and feels more comfortable on the kibbutz."
She adds: "The Education Ministry is supposed to provide him with a Hebrew tutor but so far that has not happened."
"We are very concerned about this," continues Riva. "We want him to be happy; we moved here in order to give him a better life."
Still, overall, Jack remains optimistic. "Our standard of living has not gone down," he says, even though the family moved from a three-bedroom town house to a three-room kibbutz house. "It has simply changed.
"Here the kids can go out and play at their leisure. There are big fields all around for us to go biking. It is not really a loss but a trade up. At the end of the day, it all balances out. We haven't really lost anything."