Looking back at our first year as ’olim hadashim’

'Aliya has taught me that you really don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow.'

A man running with a wine bottle on his head during the Tiberias Marathon on January 5, 2018 (photo credit: BENITA LEVIN)
A man running with a wine bottle on his head during the Tiberias Marathon on January 5, 2018
(photo credit: BENITA LEVIN)
As I write this article, my family of four is getting set to celebrate exactly one year as olim hadashim (new immigrants) in Israel. Clichéd as it sounds, the past 12 months have flown and the experiences have far exceeded any of our expectations. The words “If I’d known then what I know now” come up often when people ask about our first year as immigrants in a new country. Here are some of my top observations, after what many said would be a difficult and tumultuous year.
If you give a child the freedom to be – they’ll grab it with both hands
Up until the time we made aliya, my then 10-year-old son and 9-year-old daughter had never walked or cycled alone anywhere. On the second day of school in a new country, they walked home together. No hesitation. I have learned that if you give a child the freedom to move around – without adults in tow – they’ll take it on, without looking back. They cycle to friends, walk in the park and make their own arrangements, day and night. It seems completely natural to them. As a South African mom, I celebrate it and often have to pinch myself when I think about the incredible independence they have at such a young age. The fact that they’ve learned to speak a new language so quickly is also a huge factor for young children, as they immerse themselves in a new social environment.
Our culture should be celebrated – and so should our differences
We were warned about the culture shock, when we arrived here. I now believe that South Africans are among the most polite people in the world. As a generalization, it seems we have no problem waiting in lines and we tend to voice our opinions diplomatically. That isn’t always the case here! People seem to be far more assertive and opinionated. During the past year, we’ve met people from around the globe – religious, secular and atheist. How exciting to smile at our differences and keep learning about a range beliefs, customs and traditions.
South Africans support each other – no matter where they find each other in the world
There is no doubt, one of the hardest things about immigration, is leaving your family and your inner circle. So, the move to Ra’anana was made that much easier, by the close-knit South African and Anglo community here. The welcome is overwhelming at first – reconnecting with people you haven’t seen in years, invitations to people you’ve never met and regular messages and visits from fellow olim. These friends soon started to feel like family…
Word of the week - Magniv – cool, as in very nice!
Smile of the week
– Watching thousands of runners at the Tiberias Marathon along the shore of the magnificent Lake Kinneret – and spotting one running with a bottle balancing on his head. (I have photographic evidence!)
Must have –  a healthy sense of humor
I truly believe that we all get to decide how we respond to certain situations – we can choose to get upset, let go of a situation or … simply laugh. There have been countless situations in the past year, in which I just shrugged, smiled or both. The time a woman ahead of me in the supermarket line had a melt-down over a grocery “issue,” the moment a shop assistant whispered that we should try a competitor because they had a “better deal” and the time a coffee shop owner told me he didn’t have any change in his cash register, so I should just come back and pay the next time I’m in the area.
An attitude of gratitude – ‘le’at le’at’ (slowly, slowly)
I have no doubt, no matter when one is in the world, an “attitude of gratitude” helps one each and every day. Every country has its pluses and minuses. There is not a day that goes by that I am not consciously grateful for the way things have turned out in a short space of time. My favourite saying continues to be “le’at le’at” – slowly, slowly. Aliya has taught me that you really don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow. I do know, we will mark our oneyear anniversary here eating a shawarma in a beautiful place with some very special people.