5 lessons learned after leaving America and moving to Israel

Life in Israel is hard, how will you get along after making Aliyah?

Questions like these were often brought to my attention during the days leading up to my move to Tel Aviv. My friends and family would often remind me that life in Israel would be different, questioning my choice to leave home.

At the time, I realized that I was going to have a more difficult time adapting by moving outside of the United States. But I told myself, “life must always be met with a challenge. Otherwise, you aren’t actually living.”

These are 5 lessons that I have learned since leaving America and moving to Tel Aviv:

LESSON #1: Family Values

My mindset in America:

We all grow up with somewhat of an understanding of the importance of family. After all, your parents brought you into this world, you might as well spend quality time with them, right?

True, but what usually happens on a typical American weekend? For me, the answer was shopping…

Fast forward to the present day – How do I spend my weekends in Tel Aviv? Mostly, with the one’s I love – my family and friends. Living in Tel Aviv has taught me the value of love and how important it is to spend time with people who actually care about you. After working hard all week, I enjoy just coming home and skyping with my family, cooking dinner with my boyfriend and spending time outside in the park with friends.

I must admit – it does help that the majority of stores and venues are closed on Shabbat, the Jewish sabbath. This gives people even more of an incentive to spend time with their family during the weekends. Many people who live in Israel will often take weekend trips, BBQ outside, enjoy walks in the park – as long as family and friends are together during the weekend, that’s all that matters.

Life-lesson learned:

Being away from my family actually taught me to cherish them more than ever before.

Spending time with my mom and dad in Israel!
Spending time with my mom and dad in Israel!

LESSON #2: There’s more to life than consumerism

As mentioned in lesson #1, I spent most of my time shopping in the States. Growing up in Dallas, Texas taught me that being the best dressed with the biggest house and fastest car made you “super cool”. And, like any other American girl from a big city, I was surrounded by constant, 24-7 consumerism. Everyday I wanted new jeans, a new phone, a new I-pad – you name it, I probably wanted it!

Before moving to Tel Aviv, I remember staring at a giant pile of clothes in my room wondering why I had wasted so much money on “schmatas” which I didn’t even bother to wear twice. I was disgusted with the amount I had consumed and the money which I wasted over the years.

Present day – I hardly go shopping anymore. Yes, I will always love shopping, but I don’t feel the desire to do so as much now. Maybe it’s because I am not surrounded by as much consumerism, or maybe I just realized that there are more important things in life than having the coolest clothes, latest I-phone and fastest cars?

Life-lesson learned:

It’s not about what or how much you have that makes you cool or successful, it’s about your attitude on life and the type of person you present yourself as being.

LESSON #3: Healthy habits

This one should be obvious – the American diet is known for containing processed foods, frozen meals, lots of added salt, etc. Being the health-freak that I am, I enjoyed shopping at Whole Foods for fresh fruits, vegetables and smarter meal choices.

Yes, I still miss Whole Foods (the salad bar was always delicious), but the fruits, vegetables and other food choices in Israel are always super fresh and tasty. I don’t need to shop at a specialty store to buy apples that are in season anymore. Israel only sells seasonal fruits and veggies, a dream come true for the health conscious individual.

The Israeli diet is also filled with healthy meal choices. The Israeli salads consist of chopped tomatoes, cucumbers and other veggies; eggs dishes are very common (shakshuka is super tasty); quinoa can be found at almost any cafe or coffee shop – healthy meals are just a typical part of the Israeli lifestyle – a fact which I love.

Life-lesson learned:

You don’t have to try as hard to achieve a healthy diet in Israel, it’s just the norm!

Healthy and delicious shakshuka
My healthy and delicious homemade shakshuka!

LESSON #4: A country should always stand as one

America is known as the “melting pot” because there are so many people with different cultures and backgrounds living in the country. Yet, instead of each culture coming together as one, “Americans” tend to separate themselves into cultural groups. For example, American Jews usually live in Jewish neighborhoods and spend time with other Jewish people. This isn’t bad, it’s just the way of life in The United States.

In Israel though, the country stands as one. People really care for one another here, and are always willing to lend a helping hand without feeling forced to do so. For example, one day I fell off my bike coming home from the gym. I landed on my hands and knees right in the middle of Nordau Avenue. I looked up and at least 3 people were hovering over me asking if I needed help. Next thing I knew, a woman flagged down a cab, paid the fare and told the driver to take me home. Another man who witnessed the scene took my rental bike back to the station, making sure it was locked.

Example #2 – a bit more serious than falling off my bike – a “tiny” war broke out in September 2012. Each time a missile was fired toward Tel Aviv, sirens would go off and everyone would huddle together in a shelter. I will admit, I was scared shitless, even though it wasn’t such a “serious” war (as the native Israeli’s told me).

I will never forget the night the first siren sounded in Tel Aviv. I was shopping at Azrieli mall and all of a sudden it sounded like a gigantic ambulance siren was blasting through the city. Everyone in the store was forced to walk down the emergency exit stairs and go home. Of course, I was alone. And, of course, being the American that I am, I started crying, thinking that I was going to die inside of an Israeli H&M store. Fortunately for me, this wasn’t the case! A young Israeli couple saw me crying and asked where I needed to go. I explained that I was scared, American and alone. They told me not worry and offered to drive me anywhere I wanted. I quickly called my best friend and told her I was coming over…

Life-lesson learned:

Trust, kind-hearts and good intentions are the most important qualities for a country, because we all need a helping-hand sometimes.

LESSON #5: It’s worth the struggle

Overall, the main thing that I’ve learned from leaving America and moving to Tel Aviv has been that life is full of challenges. Each day, we are faced with some sort of difficultly, and the best feeling of all is overcoming these hardships.

The longer that I live in Tel Aviv, the stronger I become. I have finally started finding myself, something I believe could not have been done if I stayed in The United States. Yes, waiting in long lines sucks, not having a car can be inconvenient and being on the other side of the world from my immediate family sometimes makes me sad.

Yet, at the end of each day I remind myself why I left Dallas, Texas and why I am still in Tel Aviv, Israel. I love a good challenge, and this is why I remain here.

Life-lesson learned:

Leaving the place where you were born is tough, but it’s sometimes a must for those seeking their true-selves. Life is about struggles, challenges and battles, and you might as well see how many you can overcome and what can be gained from each.

All smiles in Tel Aviv!
All smiles in Tel Aviv!
About the Author
Rachel made Aliyah at the age of 24. She moved to Tel Aviv from Dallas, Texas by herself, after falling in love with the country on a birthright trip. Rachel currently lives in San Francisco where she works as a content marketing consultant and a blogger for The Huffington Post. Follow Rachel on Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook to stay up to date with her most recent blog posts and articles.
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