A Bittersweet Anniversary Of Our Aliyah

Beautiful Eilat sunset taken on our first aliyah anniversary (image courtesy of author)
Beautiful Eilat sunset taken on our first aliyah anniversary (image courtesy of author)

Today, November 5th, 2023, marks 4 years since my children and I made aliyah (emigrated to Israel). What a bittersweet time it is, as I reflect on the time that has passed.  

We left the land and city of our birthplace, Johannesburg, South Africa, and followed our heart to our ancestral homeland. 

My husband had paved the way for us, having arrived two months earlier. 

To say that I am proud of us as a family unit for all that we have achieved and lived through in these last 4 years is an understatement and there is so much to be grateful for. 

Our children were 14 and 12 when we arrived and after the first 4 months, the world shut down with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Zoom schooling in a foreign language was nearly impossible and affected my youngest the most. Not only did it affect her integration, but her ability to socialize and form friendships was compromised. 

The reprieve that this period of time gave me however, was a blessing. I had been feeling so overwhelmed by the magnitude of aliyah and COVID allowed me to catch my breath. It also provided me with the space to sit and study day and night for my Ministry of Health Nutrition licensing exam. This was an arduous but essential step for me to get my degree recognized. Although I was able to write it in English, a large portion of the study material was in Hebrew.  

Once I passed the exam, I could finally open a private practice and continue my work as a clinical dietician and mindset mentor. Part of me had felt lost without my work and I was so relieved to be able to pick up where I had left off in South Africa almost a year prior. 

I believe that this has been one of my greatest challenges and achievements since making aliyah. In Johannesburg, I had closed the doors and walked away from a thriving practice that I had built up over 17 years. Had this happened a year later my clients would have naturally transitioned to working over Zoom with me. However, in 2019 working online was not an option that my regular clients were used to. 

So, I found myself beginning again and for the first time in my career faced with marketing myself to get my practice off the ground. I can now look back 3 years later and appreciate that despite the challenges, I have grown more than I could ever have dreamed and I have expanded into areas that I would never have been open to had I still been living in South Africa. 

The journey of our aliyah has had its ups and downs. We find ourselves now in the midst of a war and despite that, we wouldn’t want to be living anywhere else. We have never witnessed such unity and pride for our nation and yet we mourn together with them for all the loss and terror that has been unleashed. 

Living with uncertainty was a concept that we thought we had grasped with the pandemic. But our current situation is one that I don’t believe anyone could have been prepared for. 

So how do we, as fairly new Olim, keep a sense of center when so much is upside down? 

Whenever asked how we are doing, my answer is that we are “okay” and that we are taking things day by day and in some cases, moment by moment. 

After the initial shock and fear, I realized that I had lost my sense of self. I reached out to a trauma therapist for myself and ensured my family received support too.  

Slowly and with compassion I have created a space of healing and this was essential, not only for my family, but for the many clients that I am supporting through this. 

My consultations have centered around discussions about emotions, experiences, thoughts, and food choices. 

Many of my clients have lost their appetites, and others find themselves turning to food as a comfort. 

Together we decide on the best tools that they can use to nourish their bodies during this time and how to manage stress and overwhelm more effectively. 

I have used this time to offer free webinars for my greater community on managing stress and emotional eating as well as on how to feel safe again in a time where we all feel such a threat to our existence. 

This is my way of fighting the terror, by rising up, helping others, and doing what fills me with purpose and which gives my life meaning.

I pray for peace and the safe return of the hostages and our soldiers who are on the front lines. The truth is that we are all on the front lines of this war in some way or another. Whether we have children or family in the army, or if we are the support for those who do. 

I take such strength in the unity and hope that is Am Yisrael and I look forward to celebrating many more years in this miraculous country. 

About the Author
Justine Friedman is an olah from Johannesburg, South Africa, and has run a successful private practice as a Registered Clinical Dietician and Mindset Mentor since the year 2000. Her mission is to empower women over the age of 40 to nourish themselves and to develop a positive relationship with food and their bodies. She works both in person and via Zoom and gives regular webinars on wellness topics to inspire and guide participants on how to easily implement habits that will improve the quality of their lives. To learn more about the work she does and to be in contact go to
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