Israel’s Olim who took the plunge

The ‘Post’ speaks with several immigrants, new and old, who made aliyah around the time of Independence Day, and what it meant for them at such an auspicious time.

May 7, 2019 11:45
Chedvah Ittah Cohen, 2018

Chedvah Ittah Cohen, 2018. (photo credit: Courtesy)

Chedvah Ittah Cohen, 2018

I made aliyah during the week of Independence Day in 2018.

I specifically chose this day – a significant day – making a purposeful intervention in my future; a day now forever stamped with both my personal, as well as my country’s national and historical independence.

I wanted to be part of something greater than just making aliyah or simply moving to the country of Israel. I wanted to make my ancient nation’s history come to life. I wanted to “own the day.”

It had been the soft and phenomenal influence of my rabbis: Rabbi Jeremy Kurnedz and Rabbi David Milston at Midreshet HaRova, who had granted me the great gift of loving my identity, my people and our history.

My dream when I made aliyah was to help other people to gain their personal independence, to help people heal themselves, to learn to love themselves and to find health and balance within their lives in the most all-embracing country in the world.
How am I striving to achieve that? Well, I’m currently studying at a private college called Shelem in Jerusalem. I am studying aromatherapy, holistic and Western nutrition, massage, reflexology, and to be a doula. I want to continue my studies with naturopathy and fitness.

You ask me if I experienced challenges whilst making aliyah, yes, I face challenges every day – just like everybody else.
But I make a point of challenging myself to be the best version of myself that I can be. I hope to encourage many others to challenge themselves to take a stance and “to consciously live for you,” – to walk toward yourself to gain that independence.

Judy Kahan, 2019

I’m making aliyah from London via Melbourne.

What does it mean to me to make aliyah close to Independence Day? It feels like my personal celebration is elevated to national proportions.

I don’t have any plans for my first Independence Day. I’m going to embrace my inner Israeli and go with the flow. Last year, I spent Independence Day in Tel Aviv, so I think I’ll try Jerusalem this year.

I decided to make aliyah at 14 when I was living on Kibbutz Lavi and was inspired by my sister who had moved four years prior. Various life events and circumstances delayed my move, including a valuable trip of self-discovery in Asia and Australia. I have been living in Melbourne for the past year and a half, but when I came back to Israel last year to visit family for Passover, something just clicked and I knew now was the right time to come home, and I’ve been counting down the days since.

For now, I’ll be in Jerusalem, spending time with family and friends after a long time apart, and just enjoying finally being in Israel. I’m hoping to move to Tel Aviv and to find a way to combine my love of Israeli cinema and my interest in the world of hi-tech. There’s no better place for both than right here. We’ll see how things unfold.

I’m looking forward to finding my place within Israel, religiously, socially and geographically. And I hope to contribute in some way to society along the way.

Judy Kahan, 2019  (Credit: Courtesy)

Reuven Zarashinski, 1999

I immigrated to Israel on Independence Day 1999. I was just about to turn 12. I recall the flight crew serving champagne while we were in the air.

It didn’t really help when I protested my not getting any of the bubbly when I said, “But my grandfather lets me have some whenever I want!” I resorted to celebrating with a Coke instead.

I’ll be celebrating 20 years in Israel this year.

At first I didn’t really know that “making aliyah” meant immigrating to Israel, and I’m embarrassed to say that had you asked me then to locate Israel on the map, I wouldn’t have known where to look.

Before coming here, to me, Israel was biblical, and the only maps I had seen of it were the colored pages at the back of my Chumash depicting the Exodus from Egypt, the crossing of the Red Sea, and Joshua’s liberation of the Land of Israel.

Upon arriving, my mother, being both spiritual and Zionistic, told me that Israel is a holy place, and therefore you should kiss the ground as you arrive.

We got off the plane onto the runway where we waited for the bus to the terminal. I could have kissed the ground, but told myself, “That’s tarmac. There’s nothing ‘holy’ about tarmac.”

So I continued to walk toward the exit for the “right” spot to bow down and kiss the ground.

Having not found anything suitable (I’m a bit of a perfectionist on some things) I settled on the entrance of the terminal, before hopping in the taxi.

At the beginning of my life in Israel, I was challenged by the significant cultural differences at school, and though I left school a long time ago, the shock remains fresh in my memory.

I live in Ramat Bet Shemesh, where I work as an automotive consultant, and will soon open a multinational business that creates unique framed artistic “conversation pieces.” Wish me luck!

If you recently immigrated to Israel, or are about to, my first tip to you would be: speak Hebrew, and try to speak it like an Israeli. Have Israeli friends, watch Israeli movies, listen to their music, and have a dictionary with you.

My second tip is: Watch a YouTube video called “Why Israelis don’t understand internationals who move to Israel.” I recently saw it, and even after two decades of being here, it helped me understand Israelis even more.

The “model Israeli” doesn’t even exist yet. The model Israeli is a mixture of native chutzpah and pushiness, added to a mix of tactful, polite, well-mannered immigrants.

It’s slowly occurring, and we need you here to make it happen.

We’re awesome, we’re one of the best countries in the world, and that’s because we are one tight-knit dysfunctional family. We almost landed on the moon last month, and next time we’ll try it, but with a bit more “protekzia.”

Reuven Zarashinski, 1999 (Credit: Courtesy)

Floortje Kleinman-Moffie, 2016

I made aliyah from the Netherlands.

Actually I didn’t think of it as making aliyah close to Independence Day. I just wanted to make aliyah and the time I did was the right time, so I came.

This will be my second time here on Yom Ha’atzma’ut, but I hope to go to a nice prayer service in the evening and enjoy the day with a BBQ with friends and family.

What inspired me to make aliyah? Fifteen years of being involved with Bnei Akiva and a year of learning through Bnei Akiva at Midreshet HaRova. So far it’s going pretty well.

A highlight for sure was getting married on a hill next to Jerusalem. Also, the feeling of knowing that whenever I leave Israel for a trip, I know I will come back.

The challenges are, for sure, the bureaucracy and it’s even more difficult to navigate that in a different language. I also really had to learn to have a bit of chutzpah to get where I want to be.

This is even more difficult, because as olim we know fewer people here and therefore have less protekzia.

I live in Givat Shmuel together with my husband, and I work in ALYN Hospital in Jerusalem.

For now, I don’t really have any aspirations for the future besides to enjoy living in Israel.

Meir and Maya Perez, 2013

My husband, Meir, and I made aliyah from Johannesburg, South Africa, in May 2013, with two children. We actually arrived the day before Jerusalem Day and stayed in Jerusalem for the first three weeks before moving to Modi’in. The period between Passover and Yom Ha’atzma’ut is a very energy-filled time of year. You can feel the Israeli pride in the air, with Israeli flags lining the streets and in every shop window. Buildings are adorned with flags and blue and white decorations.

Making aliyah at this time of year was incredibly significant for us. We both spent our teenage and young adult years in Bnei Akiva where our Zionist ideology was formed. For many years we dreamed of making aliyah, so making aliyah near Independence Day seemed naturally appropriate.

We are going on six years of being here. Our family has grown by two little Israelis, and we are settled and happy in Modi’in. We are fortunate to be part of a very supportive community. Meir works at Wix in the hi-tech industry, and I am an English teacher.

We are amazed at what our children learn at school. The fact that Hebrew is the spoken language here means that learning Torah is much easier and quicker. We miss elements of the South African lifestyle, such as having a maid and lazy Sundays. We also miss family and the support system we left behind. However, we are blessed that we have siblings, and my father-in-law, who have followed us to Modi’in.

Of course we have tough days, but the positive completely outweighs the negative. Our hope for the future is that we should continue to appreciate the blessing of our life here, and that we should have peace and unity in our land.

Floortje Kleinman-Moffie, 2016 (Credit: Courtesy)

Chaya and Raziel Baruch, 2018

We made aliyah from Durban, South Africa, 36 hours before Independence Day.

It was the culmination of dream, which started in 2008 when we visited Israel for the 60th Independence Day celebrations. At the time we said we wished we could be in Israel in 2018 for the 70th. At that time, immigrating wasn’t even on the radar. The timing of our aliyah worked out perfectly. It was incredible to arrive in Israel with flags everywhere, and 36 hours later celebrate the birthday of “our” new homeland. Singing “Hatikvah” for the first time as Israeli citizens was very emotional.

How did we spend our first Independence Day? We attended a ceremony in Neve Daniel, went through to Jerusalem to watch the midnight fireworks in Gan Ha’atzma’ut, attended a festive morning prayer service and had a traditional barbecue with new friends and their family.

We were inspired to make aliyah for both Zionistic and religious reasons – a desire to live in the Jewish homeland and live a more authentic Jewish life.

While there are challenges, of course, we are enjoying so many aspects of life in Israel. We’ve had the opportunity to do a little traveling around the country, we’re enjoying the food, and slowly finding our feet.

Highlights: Yom Ha’atzma’ut, of course. Yom Yerushalayim was amazing. Walking with thousands of people into the Old City was an incredible experience, planting olive trees in Samaria on Tu Bishvat and voting in the local and national elections.  

Challenges: Learning a new language in our 50s is not easy, but on the whole, we have found that people are very willing to help. It’s been challenging adapting to living in a much smaller home than we did in South Africa.

Today, we live in Neve Daniel in Gush Etzion.

Raziel has his own home maintenance business, and I work part-time from home for the Jewish Women’s Renaissance Project as personal assistant to the founding director.

In the future, we hope to become part of a community, to build a comfortable life and to be able to share our wonderful country with new and old friends.

Chaya and Raziel Baruch, 2018 Credit: Courtesy)

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