Arrivals: From Melbourne to Beit Shemesh

'We call this our aliya bet‚" said Eve, "as we came for six years in 1989. For family reasons we had to return to Melbourne, but we always knew we'd be back."

finkelsteins 88 298 (photo credit: Dvora Waysman)
finkelsteins 88 298
(photo credit: Dvora Waysman)
'We call this our aliya bet‚" said Eve, "as we came for six years in 1989. For family reasons we had to return to Melbourne, but we always knew we'd be back." Their second, and permanent aliya‚ was in 2001, the catalyst being their eldest son, who told them: "If we're really going back, we should do it now!" BEFORE ARRIVING Both Eve and Sol are physicians - in Melbourne, Sol was a psychiatrist and Eve was a dermatologist with a private practice. They enjoyed an easy lifestyle and a comfortable home with a vegetable garden that Eve still misses, but felt that every Diaspora community has an uneasy future, and for the sake of their children, they should live in Israel. FAMILY HISTORY Sol's parents came from Poland, and both survived Auschwitz - his father as the camp breadmaker and his mother as a skilled seamstress. They met after the war and moved to Israel in 1950, where they lived in a tent in Lod until one of Sol's aunts who had gone to Australia sponsored them under the family reunification plan. Eve's parents were born in Australia, but all four of her grandparents originally came from Israel. Her mother's father escaped from Palestine and joined the British Forces in Egypt in the first World War, and after the war was given free passage to Australia. Both he and his brother were in love with the same woman - Eve's grandmother - but when she chose him and went to Australia, the two brothers never spoke again. Eve's grandfather on her father's side was raised in the Diskin Orphanage in Jerusalem, and due to harsh conditions fled Palestine with his wife. Both Eve and Sol were then born in Australia. UPON ARRIVAL After a year of living in a rented house in the warm Sheinfeld suburb of Beit Shemesh, they picked up and moved again when the owners of their home made aliya. This time, they bought and renovated a cottage in the Nofei Aviv area of Beit Shemesh. For the kids, this move was almost as difficult as coming from Australia, because in that first year they had made friends in the area, and then had to re-experience the sensation of being uprooted all over again - even though the move was only a few kilometers away. WORK Sol is a child, adolescent and adult psychiatrist at Shaare Zedek Medical Center and has a private practice in Beit Shemesh and Jerusalem. Eve works as a dermatologist in Beit Shemesh and Ramat Beit Shemesh for Meuhedet and Maccabi health clinics. It has been a big step downward financially for them both, and they admit the work is less stimulating. Sol, who headed the psychiatry unit in Melbourne, works a 5-day week and is on-call 15 days a month, which limits his social life. ROUTINE Described by her husband as a human dynamo, Eve juggles her manifold professional, mothering and household activities and rarely has time to relax, she says. She has household help one day a week, and often does her supermarket shopping online at night, but she says Sol is very supportive and helps whenever he can. Outside the home, Eve is just as active. When she was dissatisfied with her son's school in Beit Shemesh, Eve, along with other members of the community, started Yeshiva Nachshon, a boys school that now boasts 125 students. She is also involved in campaigning for the environment, improving conditions on the road to Beit Shemesh, and providing community intervention to help Ethiopians whose family structures have broken down. CIRCLE Beit Shemesh is a very Anglo community with many Americans. Most of their friends are English-speakers, although they do have Israeli friends and colleagues as well. LANGUAGE Eve came to Israel with a command of Hebrew, thanks to the Jewish Day School she attended for 12 years. Sol attended ulpan for 6 months and worked very hard before he became fully proficient. FAITH The family describes itself as Modern Orthodox, as are most of their friends, and they are members of Beit Knesset Feiginson in Beit Shemesh. IDENTIFICATION According to Eve, when they are in Israel, they feel Australian, but when they visit Australia, they feel Israeli, in that everything suddenly feels strange. "We really still identify ourselves in Israel as Anglos," Eve confessed. "We can't get used to the lack of small courtesies. We miss the simple "please" and "thank you" in Israeli speech. We like to say Beit Shemesh, with all its Anglos, is only five minutes away from Israel." REGRETS One of the most difficult things to deal with is the distance from Israel to Australia. Whereas many American and British olim are able to visit family several times a year, for Australians it is almost "mission impossible." The flight is around 26 hours, and the high air fares make it difficult to afford. Eve and Sol have only been back with their children once in the last four years, and it was very emotional and traumatic saying goodbye all over again to loved ones, knowing it would be a very long time before they saw them again. "It's not just leaving family and friends that is painful, but also places with which you identify so closely... where you went to school, where you worked, the shopping center you frequented, special coffee bars and restaurants. All these memories become a part of you and they helped form your identity, the person you are." PLANS Sol's short-term plan is to clear the fish pond in their garden; Eve's plan is to re-establish her vegetable garden. As they are now settled in Beit Shemesh and are both working in their professions, their plans now mostly revolve around their children. Their joint long-term dream is to see their four children healthy, happy, well-adjusted Israelis, contributing to society and fulfilled in their own lives.