Does making aliyah make one age? Some fun advice…

One hears a range of stories about people adjusting to their new world, some fitting in within weeks, others taking years to get used to their new environment.

September 12, 2019 10:16
3 minute read.
Does making aliyah make one age? Some fun advice…

A mother takes a selfie with her first-grade daughter on the first day of school. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

We’ve been very blessed during our two and a half years as olim hadashim (new immigrants) to have been to many different simchas – bar mitzvahs, bat mitzvahs and weddings. As clichéd as it sounds, one is often reminded what a small world it is, and how within the Jewish community across the globe we all know people in common, including relatives, friends, colleagues and even neighbors.

It is always heartwarming when one attends a special celebration to reconnect with people one might not have seen in years, or even decades. This was the case at a recent simcha, when we bumped into a former South African we hadn’t seen since we were children.
Our conversation quickly turned to our youthful memories of growing up in the beautiful coastal childhood city of Durban, as we reminisced about years gone by. That led to a discussion about our own children’s experiences growing up now in Israel – whether in Ra’anana, Ramat Beit Shemesh, Rehovot or Ramat Gan – and how exciting and unpredictable the future always is. One of the people in this conversation is an expert in the psychiatric world. He was asked about the secret to longevity. His answer made us all smile: “Don’t smoke, and make sure you have lots of good friends.”

So does making aliyah make one age?

There are many families making aliyah in the coming weeks and months – just socially, we’ve heard of people from the UK, the United States, South Africa, France, Romania and Venezuela who have either just arrived or are considering the move. There is no doubt that uprooting oneself and one’s family to a whole new life, new country, new culture, and new experience comes with massive challenges.

One hears a range of stories about people adjusting to their new world, some fitting in within weeks, others taking years to get used to their new environment. It often depends on the age of one’s children, the reasons one has made the move, and the expectations of each member of the family.

Generally, younger children adapt much quicker than older teenagers do, but again, that can vary from person to person depending on circumstances, attitude, and willingness to just try and speak a new language, regardless of how awkward one might feel in the beginning.

Speaking with many of the new families that have arrived in Israel ahead of the new school year in September, it’s always fascinating to hear how different children respond to the big move. Often, the child one least expects to adapt quickly does, and the one who was more confident and outgoing before can take a while to find their feet in a new social situation.

But what about the parents? A woman who moved here in recent months joked that she didn’t realize how often she would need to be “washing the gray out of her hair,” adding that the price of any beauty treatments was enough to make her hair change to an even darker shade of gray! She asked if one ages quickly after making aliyah. I’m not sure there are any official statistics to help with an answer here. I can only pass on these informal tips, after a relatively short time in this new country:
• Make the most of the outdoors – the beach, the walks, the fact that you can take a stroll in the park or along the promenade late at night.
• Eat the humus – the food here is one of the most exciting aspects of our new lives. Delicious, healthy and always copious amounts of food, wherever you go.
• Surround yourself with good friends. Yes, as the former South African we bumped into recently advised…surround yourself with good people. So many families here are in the exact same boat as you. They understand exactly what you are going through; they are genuine, kind, and ready to help if they can. Embrace it.
• Adopt an attitude of gratitude and a dose of humor. As with anything in life, anywhere in the world, one’s attitude helps one cope with everything. An open mind during the aliyah process helps keep one happy…and feeling as youthful as possible! And of course, a healthy dose of humor reminds one not to take anything too seriously. Let’s see what tomorrow brings.

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