NEW BEGINNINGS: It's the stove or the lights, not both

Elderly kibbutz wiring proves the latest challenge to the Ben-Ezra family's smooth absorption.

ben ezra family 88 (photo credit: )
ben ezra family 88
(photo credit: )
After finally passing their driving tests, Riva and Jack Ben-Ezra thought that the next big aliya challenge would be their visit to the Interior Ministry office to correct the misspelling of their daughter's name on her teudat zehut (ID card). They were wrong. The trip to the Interior Ministry did not prove to be fruitful: Jack took every document you could possibly imagine to office but neglected to bring along his wife - a requirement if a child's name is to be officially changed. But Riva says it is the 1970s electrical wiring of their tiny kibbutz apartment that has left the family most frustrated. "When we use the stove, we have to turn off all the lights," complains the 36-year-old former New Jerseyite. "We've blown out most of our transformers from the States and have not been able to give the dog a shave." She goes on: "We were also without access to the Internet for two weeks, which was very difficult because that is what we use to stay in touch with family and friends from back home." Riva says that the kibbutz electricians have been trying to fix the problem, which also affects the next-door neighbors, but until her humble abode comes up for renovations with the kibbutz committee, there is not much anyone can really do about the problem. "It is really a guessing game," she says. "I have to figure out what needs to be unplugged in order for the stove to work." Apart from the electrical issues, Riva says the family, on the whole, is settling in. "The baby [Chava] just finished her first ear infection," lists Riva methodically. "Rinatya, four, is doing well in school and has made lots of friends. She has no desire to go back to the States, though she says she misses her babysitter and her aunt." Riva says it is her seven-year-old son, Tzachi, who is still finding fitting into Israeli kid culture the biggest challenge of the family's absorption. She reluctantly recalls an incident of bullying by an older kid on the kibbutz. "He's had better days but he is learning," she says, the pain clear in her voice. Part of the problem is in getting used to different parenting skills here in Israel. "We did not go to the parents of the other child," she says, adding "We just started to teach him [Tzachi] how to defend himself. "We want to be pro-active," continues Riva, "My husband's first instinct was to beat the other kid up but we cannot stand over Tzachi all the time." As for Riva and Jack's own social lives, she says they are starting to get to know many of their fellow kibbutz members. "We are finding our way," says Riva. "Have we found our absolute best friends yet? No, but we have had some people over." With the move from the urban metropolis that is New Jersey to the rural setting of Kibbutz Sde Eliahu, the family still needs some time to get used to their new life, she says. "We have not yet done anything social since we moved here," she explains. "We do not have a lot of money for that and I heard that the movie theater in Afula closed down anyway." In any case, with the issue of the ID card still to be solved and Riva and Jack's 11th wedding anniversary approaching, the couple have decided to head to Afula on Sunday to combine the errand and the celebration. "We'll deal with Israeli bureaucracy and then hopefully celebrate our achievements!" says Riva.