Two months, six days and approximately twelve hours since we stepped off the plane that brought us home. A ten year sojourn in the UK finally at an end, some seven or eight years more than was initially planned (and proving some 99% of our family and friends wrong). Life is what happens whilst you’re busy making plans. One child became three (one at a time, I might add), a two-bedroom apartment became a three bedroom house with bunk-beds and a job became a career.
We flew straight into Yom Hazikaron and as we watched the sun set out of the windows of the plane and saw the clock tick over to 8pm, a few of us stood in silence in the galley. I watched as a stewardess shed a single tear, perhaps imagining that she could hear the haunting siren, perhaps remembering a friend, a relative, perhaps just sharing a private moment within the national grief.
I took my children outdoors the following morning to hear the siren and witness the respect shown as the world around them stopped for two minutes. There could be no more Israeli start to their Israel experience, except to follow it with a traditional mangal (BBQ for the uninitiated) on the very next day – Yom Haatzmaut.
There’s no peace for the wicked. We were quickly into Shabbat and then, come Sunday morning, they started school.
Today is the first real day of the school holidays. My children not only survived the first couple of months, but they have come away with distinction. We didn’t even have to read between the lines in their reports – it was spelled out for us. Even their teachers have been amazed at how quickly they have adapted to their new surroundings.
Our eldest, due to the differences between the UK and Israel in age placement, has just finished primary school for the second time.
The two little(r) ones have come away with lists of friends, play-date invitations and not a little amusement that their friends in England still have four more weeks of school.
More importantly, however, they’ve started to become Israeli. No more do we go to the underground car park where we hide our car from the Israeli sun. No – now we go to the chenyon.
No more do games start by counting one, two, three; now they begin shalosh, arba, ve…
We don’t have air-conditioning. We have a mazgan.
They know the unwritten rule of not using the parks between 2 and 4 so that the ancient custom of the siesta can be remembered, if not observed quite so much.
They go to the shops on their own and are unaccompanied to the park when it is allowed.
They have plenty more yet to learn. Their Hebrew will, I’m sure, improve at a rate of knots, leaving them with bad linguistic habits that I’ll hate and fight against, despite the foregone conclusion that it’s a battle I’m going to lose.
They have to learn that Israel is much more than just Jerusalem and the Kotel and speaking Hebrew.
It’s going to take time to learn to appreciate everything that Israel is, although we’re hopefully going to make a start during these holidays. One of them commented the other day, as we were driving to family for Shabbat that “Everywhere you go in Israel there’s a view!” I presumed this was not a reference to politics.
They’re going to have the opportunity to step through the history of the Jewish people, see the places they’ve heard and learned about, realise that the story of the Jewish people is much more than just their past.
It’s their present and future too.
And I, for one, am proud.