Starting Over in Israel

At 61, Deborah Fineblum, mother of three and grandmother of eight, decided that now was the time to make Aliyah.

Starting Over in Israel 758 (photo credit: NEFESH B'NEFESH)
Starting Over in Israel 758
(photo credit: NEFESH B'NEFESH)
she packed her bags and left Sharon, Massachusetts for Israel. Several months later, she had created a community for herself and met the man she would marry. This is her Aliyah story. 
What led you to make Aliyah recently?
Deborah Fineblum: Each Shabbat as we read the Torah portion for that particular week I kept seeing a neon green flashing arrow over its letters and hearing a thundering bass intoning: “See this land I gave your forebearers, the place on Earth you were destined to dwell in, inherit and pass to your children? This is where you belong. So, nu, what are you doing still hanging out in Sharon, Massachusetts?”
In addition to that arrow and that voice, I had recently slogged through a divorce and was at a place where the prospect of starting life anew in the holiest of lands made so much sense and just felt right. I had always loved being here whether it was for professional or personal reasons, and I had always felt somehow whole here. I began noticing that winter that just the thought of being in Israel (flashbacks of shopping in the shuk or standing on the shore of the Kinneret or browsing through the candle factory in Tzvat) would cause me to break into a goofy grin. 
Where did you choose to live in Israel? What helped you make that decision?
DF: I chose to move to Raanana (or it chose me) after Rabbi Ronen Neuwirth spoke at our shul. Afterwards I told him I was hoping to make Aliyah and had a list of possible towns. He smiled and said, ”Take them all off the list and put Raanana on it.” Which is just what I did. It worked out beautifully, as the community was amazingly friendly and warm to me... In fact, I realized that during my 10 months there, there was precisely one Shabbos that I didn’t have an invite for a meal.
Or on rarer occasions, that I wasn’t hosting one myself. It’s just that kind of town. I have friends from there that I hope to keep for life. Note: I have been staying with friends in Jerusalem this summer which has been wonderful in very different ways than Raanana and am planning to move to Maale Adumim in the next few weeks.
What did you do professionally before moving to Israel? Will you be working in israel?
DF: I’m a writer, editor, journalist, book author and ghost-blogger, which is a pretty portable profession, for the most part. And being in Jerusalem gives me easy access to personal profiles. I’m a stringer for the Jewish News Service in the States and also a frequent contributor to Hadassah Magazine for many a year. In addition, I just wrapped up ghostwriting a full-length memoir of a 91-year-old Holocaust survivor. Hired by her family to record her life, I interviewed her fourteen times for four hours at a time, and managed to gain the trust I needed to both elicit and tell her story, a profound privilege. I’ve won awards for my articles but nothing comes close to bearing witness for a survivor and giving her and her powerful story a voice. 
What were the challenges you faced before moving to Israel? How did you overcome some of those challenges?
DF: Of course speaking Hebrew is a huge plus for a new Olah. And not speaking it is ... a challenge. But Ulpan (the State of Israel is invested in our making ourselves at home here so the year of free Ulpan is the gift that integrates) is both a powerful immersion and a wonderful way to sense your own small role in the miracle that is modern-day Israel. Through it you also meet other new Olim from a multitude of backgrounds. 
Mazal tov on your upcoming marriage! How did you meet your fiancé?
DF: I met Richard through the J-Wed site. Out of the maybe 30 men in Israel in my age range, there was something about that face that I liked. When it turned out that he knows my son-in-law Gershon from Baltimore and Gershon (a tough judge of character) was suitably impressed, it seemed to bode well for us. 
Describe a regular day for you in Israel.
DF: When you are a freelance writer, there is nothing remotely akin to a ’regular day.’ It may mean interviewing people in the Old City for a story about fasting or students at a seminary or yeshiva about their experiences for a Jerusalem not-for-profit client, then hunkering down to write up these interviews, which is (don’t tell my editors or clients) actually a lot of fun in its own right. Evenings often find us walking around the neighborhoods, admiring the old buildings and breathing in the extraordinary Jerusalem night air.
What’s the best part of living in Israel?
DF: Hands down, it’s living every day in the land G-d promised our forefathers, working together toward the goal of being the people we swore we would be and just having a bit of the way to go till we get there....If you are wanting to be where Jewish history is being written and be a part of that writing, to throw your life and the life of your family into that exciting and dramatic destiny, this is the place. 
Thinking about retiring in Israel? Speak to an NBN Aliyah Advisor to get your questions answered. Contact