Starting off on the right foot

Irma and the kids are Jewish; Andries is not. ‘I don’t mind being in a minority,’ he says with a smile.

Irma and Andries Van Devisch 311 (photo credit: Gloria Deutsch)
Irma and Andries Van Devisch 311
(photo credit: Gloria Deutsch)
Andries and Irma Van Devisch are happily settled in the rented Kfar Saba apartment where they live with their two children, Rubin, three, and Shoshana, one. Irma and the two children are Jewish; Andries is not.
“It’s not an issue for us,” they say and Andries adds, with his huge smile, “I don’t mind being in a minority.”
The Dutch couple made aliya in April 2007 and has found most of the way until now plain sailing. He is a qualified nurse who found a job, appropriately, in Bet Juliana, a retirement home in Herzliya for Dutch immigrants, while Irma, a medical pedicurist, is setting up her clinic in the rented apartment so she can see patients at home while Andries minds the children on his days off.
He is from Ede, a small town in Holland, and was raised a Protestant. His architect father was perfectly happy when Andries announced he was marrying a Jewish woman. He feels no need to convert. “I don’t believe in it,” he says simply.
Her family lived in Rotterdam. During the war her grandparents lived in hiding and survived, although many family members were deported and killed in the camps. Her mother was born in 1945 and the family was traditionally Jewish.
“My parents spoke Yiddish and my mother made chicken soup,” says Irma. “But it was difficult for them to talk about what happened. But I wanted to know about my roots and I asked my grandmother. She opened up to me and it was very exciting to talk with her about the past.
“She really liked Andries when she met him. The fact that he is not Jewish does not affect our family life at all. The most important thing is that we love each other.”
They both studied for their respective professions and Andries worked in a large hospital for many years. At 18, long before he met Irma, he had wanted to come here to volunteer on a kibbutz but was not allowed to by his parents as he had to complete his studies They decided to go to the absorption center in Ra’anana because they heard that the specialist medical courses he would have to take to be able to work as a nurse were better in Ra’anana than anywhere else and the facilities were suitable for a young family.
They arrived with their eight suitcases and began ulpan. At first it was very difficult, a kind of culture shock which they quickly overcame.
“We knew we had to focus 100 percent on the language, otherwise we would not succeed,” they say. As a result of their insistence on speaking Hebrew, they both now speak it at a very high level although they both speak perfect English too. They address the children in Dutch, naturally, and speak Dutch to each other. They made many friends at the absorption center and were thrilled to meet so many people from all over the world.
Andries had to take an exam in Hebrew to qualify as a nurse and managed to pass it together with students who had been studying for it for four years. He studied for it in an intensive private course, taking one day off a week to work so he could be in touch with the medical field and have the chance to ask questions about the material he was learning. He would also occasionally moonlight as an assistant to a landscape gardener to make some extra cash.
They decided that they preferred Kfar Saba over Ra’anana as it felt more like really living in Israel.
“Here you hardly ever hear English spoken on the streets,” they say.

Andries has a very responsible job in the
retirement home taking care of the many residents, some in their 80sand 90s. If there is no doctor on duty, the medical problems come tohim.
“About 70 percent of the residents are Holocaust survivors who havebeen here many years, so we speak Hebrew. When they get really old,they forget their Hebrew and revert to Dutch or sometimes Yiddish, butI understand them.”
Irma built up a small clientele when she worked at a hairdressing salon in Ra’anana and she hopes to expand it in Kfar Saba.
“The problem is that in Israel people do pedicures twice a year,whereas in Holland my clients were coming once a month for treatment,”she says. But she is confident she will be able to make a living frommedical pedicures eventually and has brought all the necessaryequipment.
They have made many friends, other young parents like themselves, andpeople they met in the absorption center. They often invite visitorsfor Friday night dinner when candles are lit and Shabbat is observed intheir way. They also love to go to synagogue, especially on festivals.
“I really wanted to serve as a nurse in the army, but I was told thatat my age and with two small children I was exempted,” says Andries.
They have no regrets about coming and the words of Andries’s father ring in their ears when they contemplate their aliya.
“You have to do what is in your heart,” he said.