"We never openly discussed aliya while my father was alive," says Linda Renkoff, who arrived in Israel with her husband Allan in April, 2004.
"The funny thing is, my father is the one who was responsible for us all coming in the first place. He insisted on sending our oldest son for a summer while he was in college, even though our son wasn't especially interested. Once he arrived, he loved it. He made aliya in 1990, and then our younger son made aliya in 1997."
"What was I going to do?" says Allan. "My grandchildren are all in Israel. I'm going to retire, and move to Florida? Of course not!"
"But we love it here. We made many trips, we wanted to come," adds Linda.
Both Allan and Lynda were born of American-born parents, and raised in Union, New Jersey. Linda's father passed away in 1994, and her mother and brother are also deceased. Allan still has family in the States.
"They think this is a phase we're going through," he says. "Boy, are they wrong."
Although the Renkoffs finally arrived to stay just 16 months ago, they officially made aliya in 2000, when Allan passed his Israeli dental exams.
"It took a while to close out our lives in the US," Allan says.
"The dental exams were extremely difficult, mostly because I'd been out of school for 35 years. I studied a whole year, took several different trips over here, spent about $4,000 on textbooks. I had a regular routine: The test was given in segments, so I'd come, take the first part, find out what it covered, go home, study, then come back and take it again.
"Then I'd come for the second part, take it, go back and study, and then come back to take it again. I did that for all four segments. The test was given on a Sunday, so I'd leave New Jersey on Thursday, arrive before Shabbat. I'd rest on Shabbat, take the test on Sunday, and then fly back on Monday."
But just as they were preparing to make aliya, Linda received disturbing news.
"We were packing, getting ready to go. Our home was sold," she says. "We decided to go to Florida for two weeks to say goodbye, and when we got home, there was a message from my doctor about a mammogram I'd had just before we left. He said I had to come into the office at once."
She did. After more tests and consultations, Linda learned she needed a mastectomy.
"I asked my doctor how long after the surgery I could fly, and he said three weeks. That was it: Our house was sold, so we moved into a hotel. I had the surgery. It was difficult, I'll say that. But what could we do? The new owners were ready to move in, shippers were coming to pick up our things. We were so anxious to get here. There was no way we were going to wait while I went through chemotherapy and radiation in the States.
"My oncologist wrote a long letter to a doctor here - we looked for the name of a doctor that sounded like someone who would speak English - and told him what treatment he would follow, if I were there. That was it. We got on the plane and came. I had chemotherapy and radiation here, and it was fine."
"We hired a taxi from the airport," Allan says. "I paid, because I'd used my free ride back in 2000. Of course, the cab driver got lost, but we settled into the Midbar Hotel for six weeks while we looked around for someplace to rent. The hotel was very nice. They're used to long-term guests, and our cat Vipress stayed with us, too."
"I started in with medical appointments right away," Linda says.
"Fortunately, our son was between jobs right then, so he was free to take us to all the places we needed to go. That really helped."
The Renkoffs found a large apartment on the 19th floor of Beersheba's second-tallest building. They had to find a really big place, they say, because they brought so much stuff
Allan is a ham radio operator, and the elevation is good for that, too.
"I reach people all over the world. We see fireworks at eye-level, airplanes landing, and we have a gale of fresh air blowing through the apartment whenever we want it. The best part is, we're within walking distance of our two sons, all kinds of shops, and our shul. We'll move eventually, but right now, this is perfect," he says.
"Lots of stuff still isn't unpacked," Linda says. "Last summer, I didn't feel well, and I didn't really care if it was unpacked or not. But this summer is much better, and I'm getting some of our art up on the walls, making it a real home again."
Although Allan has his Israeli dentist's license, he may never practice here. He had shoulder surgery for arthritis about five months before they left, and has yet to recover full strength in his right arm. Still, he plans on working.
"I can do just about anything, and I'm looking for something new and interesting," he says.
Linda, a former legal secretary, says, "I'm done" with professional work. "Now I want to be with my grandchildren whenever I can. That's why we're here."
Linda gets up at 7:30, Allan at 8:30 or 9. One or the other transports grandkids to or from various places several times during the morning and afternoon.
"That's not a complaint," Linda says. "This is what we want. To be able to take them to school, to judo classes, to Burger Ranch, to do the things they like. In a few weeks, our daughter-in-law has two weeks of vacation, so that's our vacation, too. Maybe we'll travel a little, to see Israel. We haven't done that yet."
"We have our sons here, and we're close to our daughter-in-law's parents,"Linda says.
Allan adds, "There was a Frenchman in my ulpan class, we've gotten to be friends. He speaks several languages but not English. I don't speak French, so we're communicating in Hebrew, which is good."
"I made a good friend in chemotherapy," Linda says. "There was a lady in the chair next to me, and she saw me reading an English book. We started to talk, and we've become good friends. Now we even daven (pray) at the same beit knesset (synagogue). People have been very nice."
"I still slip sometimes, and refer to the US as 'home,'" says Linda.
"Not me," says Allan. "I'm an Israeli. Period. We're very happy here. This is home."
Allan started ulpan as soon as they arrived.
"I was ready to start, too," Linda says, "but the first day of ulpan was the day I had my first reaction to chemotherapy, so I just couldn't do it. Just recently I started again, in a pensioners' class. I have the same teacher Allan had, and she's wonderful. There are about 15 Russians, two Argentineans, and me. I had to start at the very beginning - I didn't even know the aleph-bet. It's hard to learn when you're older."
"We're settling in," Allan says. "Someone told me there are three magic steps to adjustment: progress, get used to it, and manage. So that's what we'll do - but you know what? It hasn't been hard. I don't really understand what all the talk is about 'adjustment.' What's there to adjust to?
"When you think about it, our only real adjustment problem is that we don't know the language as well as we'd like. In the scheme of things, that's not a major problem. We get along just fine."
"Look at that down there," Allan says, gesturing toward the panoramic view 19 floors below. "Everything is out there. What more could anyone possibly want?"
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