Our very assimilated American family had an opportunity which we couldn’t resist. In 1973 my husband, a pollution control expert, was offered a one year consulting position with the Israeli government. We didn’t hesitate. Rented out the house, packed up the four kids and ancient mongrel and, on March 25, 1973, arrived in Mevaseret Zion where the kids and I attended ulpan, my husband consulted, and the dog did what dogs do.
The mercaz klita was like summer camp for me. New friends from around the world. Rustic living conditions. Organized activities. Lots and lots of ants and a wonderful introduction to life in Israel. For the kids it was unforgettable and had a permanent impact on their lives.
We decided to move to Jerusalem in September so the kids could go to regular school. Our building was comprised of mostly new immigrants so making friends was easy. It was also our family’s first introduction to life with religious Jews which many of our neighbors were. I remember Purim especially. The tradition of mishloach manot was unknown to me so when the doorbell started ringing with the deliveries from our new found friends I was mortified and hopelessly unprepared. Eventually I felt like a character in an I Love Lucy episode as the kids and I started shuffling our gifts and trying to make them all new and original so we could regift to our neighbors. I’m sure they all figured it out but no one let on!
It was also Purim when I humiliated my two youngest children. Wary of the perception of being rich Americans, we costumed the kids, ages 3 and 4, as clowns. Pillow stuffed pajamas, newspaper hats and lots of rouge did the trick and when I got to the gan I realized what I had done. The Israeli kids were doctors, soldiers, police……..all in very elaborate costumes with the two pathetic Americans looking miserable in their pillowed pajamas. Now in their mid 40’s these two still remember the incident vividly.
Jerusalem in those days was the perfect city: easy to navigate, easy to park, filled with cultural opportunities, small enough to be close to everything……..certainly not the traffic packed huge city it is today. We loved it!
But, perhaps the most memorable experience was Yom Kippur, our first war. Our impotence, especially my husband’s at being a 30 something year old male who was not serving in the military, was a real demonstration of our very sheltered lives in suburban New Jersey. My husband made do with becoming a volunteer driver for soldiers and delivering messages (probably very low priority messages at that) while I discovered how ill prepared I was for the practical aspects of war. I had no idea that supermarkets might run out of staples. Everyone else seemed to know that it was imperative to get to the market or makolet quickly. I was clueless and, therefore, eggless, for the duration. But we did survive, unlike so many others. It was a sad time, needless to say.
When our time to return to New Jersey arrived we were all hopelessly torn. Very tempted to stay, some personal issues necessitated that we could not but we had fallen in love. What started out as an adventure had become a long term passionate relationship, not just for us but for our kids and their kids. It’s still going on and within the next few months we will attend the geus (induction) of our first chayal, our grandson. May God watch over him and all the chayalim of Eretz Yisrael!