The good, the bad, and the meshuga

Our move from Johannesburg to Ra‘anana.

Benita Levin and her family (photo credit: GREG MULFORD PHOTOGRAPHICS)
Benita Levin and her family
If you'd told me a year ago, I’d be writing this article in Israel as an ola hadasha (new immigrant) – I’d have said you must have the wrong person. Truth is, I thought we’d always live in beautiful South Africa, the place I’ve always known as home. Our children would grow up in a magnificent country, they’d be blessed to have doting grandparents and family in all the main cities and they’d be privileged to receive a good education. We’d pass on the values and lessons taught to us by our parents, and then the world would be their oyster.
What’s not to love in South Africa? My husband and I had jobs we loved, our two children were happy to go to school each day, we were part of a vibrant, active community in Johannesburg, and in our own private way we could be involved in work that helped make a small difference in the country. Our family of four were happy. Life was good. In fact, it was close to fabulous.
It took a crime incident of less than five minutes outside our home to change our outlook. While no one was physically hurt, there is no doubt our sense of safety and security had been rocked. It saw us asking a lot of questions about our children’s future and it saw us acting very swiftly.
I can’t help but smile when I think of the range of responses to our plans – they included “Mazel tov – it’s where all Jewish people belong,” “Wish we could come too,” “We’ll be there in a few years,” “Do you know how hard life is in Israel?” and “Are you meshuga [crazy]?” I’ve worked in radio news as a reporter, anchor, manager and news editor over the space of more than 22 years – a job I love and see as a true privilege. My colleagues know how much I love South Africa, how positive I was each day in the newsroom and how much I believe the country will overcome the many challenges it faces.
They also understood that as parents, we all want our children to be safe. They were concerned about our chosen destination: “Is it safe there? What about the rockets? Are you really going to a war zone?” People in the Jewish community were equally shocked, but the response was so different. “We’re devastated to lose your family from the community, but mazel tov!” and “How lucky are you to be going home” and “You’re living the dream!”
As a life coach, I am lucky enough to help guide people to make life-changing decisions. The same “rules” applied to this personal and heart-wrenching process – once you’ve listened to your gut instincts and made a final decision, things suddenly start falling into place. A huge weight had been lifted from our shoulders as soon as we made the call. It wouldn’t be easy saying goodbye to incredible family, friends and colleagues. It would be surreal leaving the special country we’ve called home all our lives. We were taking a huge risk. But as I said many times in the lead-up to our move – “It may be a lot easier to do this when you’re 28 years old, but we’re not 88.”
We were starting from scratch with a blank canvas, and we had no idea what would lie ahead…. It’s all been about stark contrasts. How terrifying. How exciting. How right it all feels.
Benita Levin is a communication and broadcasting consultant, journalist and Martha Beck-accredited life coach;
Twitter @benitalevin,