Rivkie Berman is not intimidated by the hurdles associated with making aliyah. Learning Hebrew? She’s enrolling in an ulpan. Filling out the paperwork? She has it handled. Finding work? She’s in the beginning stages of opening her dietitian practice.
The one aspect of her new life in Israel that seems so far from her former home in Fair Lawn, New Jersey? The Israeli supermarkets.
The different nutrition labels, organization, and protocols have thrown her for a loop – and don’t even get her started on how one must put a five-shekel deposit to use a shopping cart.
“Everyone else talks about how the transition is so hard, but I haven’t had that,” she said from her new home in Ramat Beit Shemesh. “The hardest thing to go through thus far was food shopping! But really, everything else is manageable.”
The Bermans made aliyah with 214 other North Americans last month when they arrived on the 64th annual Nefesh B’Nefesh charter aliyah flight, in cooperation with the Aliyah and Integration Ministry, The Jewish Agency for Israel, Kayemeth LeIsrael, and Jewish National Fund-USA. “It was a crazy experience,” she said of the flight, which consisted of 22 families with 75 children. Typically, seeing so many children run around and cause a ruckus on an airplane could be a nuisance, but on the NBN flight it was a celebratory sign of the next generation of aliyah in action.
“Traveling with kids is always hectic, but it was such a relief that we weren’t bothering anyone,” she said. She also marveled at how NBN even further expedited the aliyah process this year by allowing them to fill out their immigration paperwork on board – effectively making them official citizens even before landing at Ben-Gurion Airport.
“I was so bewildered by everything, but a NBN official literally took me by the hand and guided me through the whole process,” she said.
FELLOW immigrant Louise Suede, who also made aliyah with the charter flight, sympathizes, as she too was impressed by how smooth her aliyah experience has been thus far but is also confounded by Israeli supermarkets.
Suede, who made aliyah with her husband, three children, and is eight months pregnant, admitted that her family is learning something new every day, but going to the supermarket is a bit of a “struggle,” she chuckled, adding that Google Translate has become a very welcome shopping companion as she navigates the aisles.
Yet, still, the two new immigrants are not only powering through, but they’re thriving in adjusting to their new lives – eager to see what Israel has in store for them as the new year approaches.
“I’m hoping my kids are happy, that they learn Hebrew easily, and flourish here. I can’t wait to see them grow up to be Israelis and all the freedoms that come with that,” she said.
Suede, who made aliyah from Brooklyn, New York, has already been warmly embraced by her community in Ra’anana, who have invited her family to the holiday meals. Berman, too, is looking forward to creating new traditions in a new home.
“My brother and sister live in Tel Aviv, and they’ll stay with us. I’m so excited!’ she gushed. “It feels like a fresh start. We just got our lift, our kids started school, and diving right into Rosh Hashanah seems very appropriate. It’s such a beautiful match to what we’re feeling. This is the beginning of the rest of our lives. There’s so much joy in this newness.”
A veteran oleh's perspective
MEANWHILE, ZEV WEISINGER, a catering and events manager at Hatch, a pub in Jerusalem’s Mahaneh Yehuda, has lived in Israel for eight years but has learned that the growing pains associated with aliyah only means one is gradually becoming more acclimated to the country. “The best piece of advice I heard was from my boss and fellow oleh [immigrant], Ephraim Greenblatt. ‘Do what makes you uncomfortable, but embrace it. What makes you unique is what you learn from these uncomfortable situations. There’s a lot of growth in doing what isn’t safe.”
Nefesh B’Nefesh has brought some 75,000 North American immigrants to Israel since its founding in 2002, but the organization’s work doesn’t stop the moment the new immigrants get off that plane.
Weisinger witnessed this fact as he participated in Shuk Olim, an event timed before Rosh Hashanah to celebrate Anglo community accomplishments in the small business world in Israel and to show newer immigrants invited to attend that this kind of success is possible.
The event – which featured hot food from Weisinger’s Hatch, packaged food from a variety of vendors, and items from artisans and craftspeople – highlighted the creativity and entrepreneurial spirit found in the Anglo community.
The new beginning spirit permeated the event. Like Suede, Weisinger is looking forward but acknowledges that some hurdles associated with aliyah might never really go away.
“My daughter started third grade, and my son began first. But figuring out which school supplies to buy is still a bit confusing,” he laughed. “But I see it as an opportunity to be more involved in Israeli life and help my kids be more connected to Israel. And I’m working on it – I’m never afraid to speak Hebrew. I really try, and Israelis appreciate it. I find that once you try to accommodate them and put yourself out there, then they try to accommodate you.” ❖