An Aliyah success story: The Kami Klan

The lower your expectations are, the better. You need to celebrate the little wins.

By ALAN ROSENBAUM
August 29, 2019 09:10
An Aliyah success story: The Kami Klan

THE KAMIONSKI children at the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo.. (photo credit: COURTESY ELI AND DINA KAMIONSKI)

Like many Nefesh B’Nefesh immigrants, Dina and Eli Kamionski are successful, bright professionals in their mid-30s, parents of four adorable children, who left their lives in the United States and embarked on a new life in Israel.

Unlike most new olim, they documented their aliyah journey over the past year in a series of video episodes (also known as vlogs) – titled The Kami Klan – that has attracted tens of thousands of viewers around the world. The Kami Klan documents the Kamionskis’ immigration odyssey in an entertaining series of short videos – approximately 50 thus far – that encompass both their pre-aliyah preparations in Los Angeles, and their experiences throughout their first year of living in Israel. In addition to documenting their personal journey, the Home in the Homeland series, in which they visit various communities in Israel, is very helpful for prospective immigrants who are considering different cities and towns. Home in the Homeland has visited Beit Shemesh, Hashmonaim, Ra’anana and other cities with a sizable amount of English-speaking olim. After living in Israel for a year and broadcasting their experiences on Facebook and YouTube, the Kamionskis paused to evaluate their first year in Israel and analyze what they’ve learned.

“One of the main reasons that we wanted to live in Israel was for our children,” says Eli. “They’ve acclimated and made friends. Everything that we expected for them was above and beyond what we could have imagined. The joy that they have is amazing.”
Kamionski says their children speak Hebrew fluently, and attributes their linguistic proficiency to the fact that their Jerusalem neighborhood had few English-speakers, which helped them learn the language sooner than had they been living in a heavily American neighborhood. Eli and Dina report that they took many family hikes and trips during their first year, and Eli maintains that they spend more time with the children in Israel than they spent in the United States.

ELI AND Dina Kamionski. (Credit: COURTESY ELI AND DINA KAMIONSKI)

Culturally, Elie and Dina have found life in Israel to be challenging. “People try to prepare you for adjustment when moving from one culture to another, but when you are in it, it’s a lot harder,” says Eli. “You have to swallow this pill that you’re very much American – we’ve been in America for our entire lives, and we just have to accept that.” Dina reports that for her, learning a new language has been the biggest barrier. “When I started my job, I couldn’t say everything I wanted. I wanted to explain myself because I just didn’t have the language skills.”

She has also had some difficulty with the volume. “The way people communicate is by yelling, and it is completely normal. I was trying to explain to a patient’s family what my role is as a speech therapist, and they weren’t getting it and were being stubborn. I had the nurse come over and explain it and they were yelling at each other. In America, you would never yell at a patient’s family. Here, it’s just a way of life and you have to get used to it.”

Apart from cultural differences, Eli and Dina have enjoyed living and experiencing Israel. “We hike a lot, and we go on date night once a week, and we go to some other part of town. We find different spots in Israel and we try to explore them. Jerusalem is our favorite city – it’s awesome and so much fun. There are tons of things to do and cultural events are always happening. We go out and we do different things.” Comparing it to their LA lives, Eli says, “In America, we’d go to the same restaurant. Here, it’s always something new and exciting.”

THE KAMIONSKI family hiking at Ein Gedi. (Credit: COURTESY ELI AND DINA KAMIONSKI)

During their first year in Israel, Dina worked as a speech therapist in an adult rehabilitation facility, and also did tele-therapy with children in California. Eli, who has a background in finance and accounting, decided to take most of the year off, in order to acclimate himself and get the lay of the land. After six months he got bored and dabbled in various projects. This fall, he plans to go back to work full-time, saying, “I’m going to hit the ground running.”

In one of the vlogs that they produced before their move, Eli and Dina expressed their concerns about missing family in the United States. Since moving to Israel, they have weekly FaceTime video chats with their relatives, but Dina confesses, “It’s not the same as spending time with them, and the time difference is hard. When my kids go to bed, they wake up. It’s hard to catch it at the right time.” Nevertheless, says Eli, their family in the US has accepted the move. “I just visited Dina’s grandmother who is a big pole in the tent, and she told me it’s hard, but she’s happy for us.”

Apart from family, Dina laughs and says that she misses Sundays, and the pool in their house in Los Angeles. Eli says, “I have a weird thing going on where I don’t miss it too much.” But when it comes to their children, Eli smiles and says, “Our kids are totally adjusted. Their Hebrew is excellent. Our daughter Miri actually thinks in Hebrew, and when she plays by herself, she is playing fictional games in Hebrew.”

Eli says the videos they make are designed to provide practical help and advice for potential olim. “The two biggest issues when you want to live in Israel are where to live and where to work. In our Home in the Homeland series on different communities, we give our review of the neighborhood – what it looks like on the ground – and we interview families there.”

After completing their first year living in Israel, Eli and Dina recommend that prospective olim try to talk to as many people as possible before coming, and ask specific questions, in order to get the information that they need. “Social networking on Facebook groups is immensely important for aliyah,” says Dina. The couple add that attitude plays an important role, both in handling failure and success in the aliyah process. “You need a thick skin to live and survive, and succeed,” says Dina. “Otherwise, if everything gets to you, then it’s just going to be awful.”

In terms of success, Eli adds “The lower your expectations are, the better. You need to celebrate the little wins.”
“Nefesh B’Nefesh does a great job from the start until you get there,” say Eli and Dina. “They show you the door and guide you through the path.” Adds Eli, “We’re very open to helping people in the aliyah process, and they can message us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/KamiKlan/.” The Kami Klan plans on returning for another informative year of aliyah information. Stay tuned.

This article was written in cooperation with Nefesh B’Nefesh.


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