Aliyah: Two Years an Israeli

Two years ago today we landed in Israel. My husband (a toshav chozer), my 17 month old, and myself, about four months pregnant with my second boy. It was an emotional flight with my little guy noticing my emotional upheaval, shoving crackers in my mouth, and giving me his little bee-do (bear) to feel better.

ElyZ on plane

My husband, who was an employee when we arrived, now has his own business doing web development (his former employer is now just one of his clients). My 17 month old is now almost 3 and a half, bilingual and verbal as hell, super grown-up (“bigger and little,” as he puts it), and about to start ‘trom trom’ in the fall. My bump (“blueberry”) is now 18 months old, climbing on everything, running into oceans, dancing like an international rock star, and learning about three new words a day.

Reli and toddlers

Me? My Hebrew is better… I wouldn’t say I’m fluent (I haven’t been able to attend ulpan for any great extent because babies), but I’m a lot better than I was. Even if I don’t know the words for things, people understand me. My grammar could be better, but I can identify my mistakes now, so that‘s an improvement.

My story? I just passed my Hebrew Proficiency Exam which allows me to obtain and start a staj (internship) in the legal field. It’ll have to be anywhere between nine and twelve months, but they pay well and I can take the rest of my exams during that time. I took this exam with only three days notice so I’m feeling a bit of pride.

So how do I feel two years an Israeli?

It was great for my kids. Both are blossoming and I am pretty certain we’re going to have to bump my older one a grade. The little one is strong and fierce, already a pushy Israeli even though he’s still pretty shiny and new. My hubby is happy being back in his land, surrounded by friends, family, and heat waves (just kidding, those aren’t his favorites).

I’m really happy, but it’s complicated.

  1. I’m tired mentally because every day, everywhere I go, almost everyone I talk to, I have to anticipate Hebrew (or Russian?). I’m much better than I used to be; it’s a lot easier than it was when I first arrived, but I still have to prepare and gird myself for another language. It’s mentally taxing. Don’t get me wrong. It’s super cool to learn a new language and to master it, and I know I’m not going to be that person who is here for ten years and doesn’t speak the language, but I’m not quite there yet so it’s a lot of energy.
  2. I’m tired physically. Because… crazy monsters (a.k.a. toddlers). I’ve got one energetic and emotional three and a half year old boy. I’ve got one energetic and physically intense 18 month old. They wear me out. My story would likely be different had I made Aliyah as a single person, but also wouldn’t get to see their adjustment, their growth, and their becoming tiny Israeli citizens in their own right which is pretty cool all by itself.
  3. I’m tired emotionally. All the adjustments, making friends, our upcoming move to Netanya (our sixth move in five years), finding a job, getting licensed, and more.
  4. Miscellaneous. We left Michigan in a bit of a rush. We made the decision and had to expedite our move for personal reasons. We just recently went back for the first time and it was very much a roller coaster. It ended up being a great trip, but triggered some feelings that had to be worked through.

All that being said, I wouldn’t change a thing. If I were in Michigan right now, I feel like we’d be stagnant. We’d both be working, not pushing ourselves to be MORE, to do MORE for ourselves and our family. It’d be status quo. Maybe on Sundays we’d go to the zoo, the aquarium, Cranbook, or some of the local museums. We’d live in an apartment and wonder how we were going to pay for our kids’ tuition in Jewish schools.

I love it here. Here in Israel I am constantly pushing myself. Working up my resume, taking exams to get licensed legally and to drive, introducing myself and finding new friends, learning about the political system, collaborating with my husband on my new photography and art website (it’ll be beautiful once it’s up), preparing for another move (ocean-bound!), building our family, getting employed. I don’t have to worry about education since it’s 90% subsidized by the government – great schooling is affordable!

We can go out for as many weekends/Shabboses in a row as we want, visiting friends all over the country! In the next three weeks, we’re going up north, to the mountains, and to Mevaseret. We’re going to see the USS George G.W. Bush docked in Haifa and check out the countless stars without light pollution up north. There’s always so.much.to do! History, touring, modern stuff, planetariums, parks, you name it!!

The first week I was here I met a lovely woman in the bank. She gave me a huge smile and great advice for living in Israel. “You need savlanut (patience) and elbows to live here.”

Before we left we spoke with Sophie, a representative of the Jewish Agency. She said that the first five years are the toughest… we’ll go through crazy moods and changing feelings/opinions (“I love it here; I hate it here; Everyone sucks here; What a great country; I miss my old home; I miss my friends; People are are so interesting; I can’t deal with the bureaucracy; I accomplished a ton today”). You’ll feel a little.. confused, bi-polar, and it’s all completely normal!

It’s all true. It’s a crazy, fun, cool, child-friendly country with endless, amazing things to do, fascinating people to meet from all over the globe, difficult and worthwhile lessons to learn…but it’s tough here. To succeed, you can’t be complacent. You can’t be reactive – you have to want to win (sometimes the country wins a battle but then you fight back). PROACTIVE is the adjective you need to be. Use those elbows! Need a day or week off? Tired? Take time to reconnect with yourself, drink an ice cold pecan ice cafe (don’t share it)… and then go out and conquer the world again. Make Israel yours. Adapt, sharpen yourself. You’ll find out you’re capable of more things that you ever thought possible. I know I have and it’s been worth every one of the 730 days we’ve been here.

Tough and easy…

עוד יום יפה בגן עדן.

Another day in paradise.

beach view

About the Author
Talya Woolf is a four-year Olah, an American-licensed attorney, handgun instructor, amateur photographer, and artist. She is politically conservative, Modern Orthodox, and ardent Zionist. She enjoys spending time with family, friends, running, photography, and reading about highly contagious diseases and WWII.
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