Brenda Stein Dzaldov

How my life has changed since my kid made aliyah

My daughter had a very traditional Toronto upbringing. She was always a great kid — nice friends, good in school, and a loving and bossy big sister to her two younger brothers. I guess you could say we were just a regular family of five.

Over the years, she was drawn to volunteer and eventually study for a year in Israel. We jumped through all kinds of hoops at the Israeli consulate in Toronto to make sure she could be there for a year and still be exempt from the army.  Being a kid with an Israeli father makes her Israeli, so she had to limit her time in Israel in order to avoid being drafted.

It was during her year at Hebrew University/Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design that she decided to make her commitment to Israel more permanent by drafting to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), but she still didn’t make it official. So, in my mind she still might have decided to come home to Toronto after the army.  In fact, my daughter lived in Israel for two years before she actually made aliyah.

In December 2016, she filled out the paperwork and stood in the line-ups, got an advisor and finally made aliyah officially. That means she had no plans to come home any time soon. I think I knew it but that was another level of knowing it.

According to Wikipedia, “Aliyah is the immigration of Jews from the diaspora to the Land of Israel”. It further notes that aliyah is “the act of going up — that is, towards Jerusalem — making aliyah [is] moving to the Land of Israel, [which] is one of the most basic tenets of Zionism” (please notice that there is no mention of the immigrant’s mom in this definition)!

It’s been a year now, and there are so many changes in the life of a mother of a kid who makes aliyah.

  • Answering questions from everybody about whether or not I’m okay with the fact that my daughter made aliyah

The answer to that is — of course I’m okay with it. I’m proud of her. That will always be my answer because I want to support her and her choices. Also, she’s 23-years-old, so it’s not really important whether or not I’m okay with it. I am.

  • Figuring out travel plans and activities in Israel 2-3 times/year

Not that I’m complaining! I love being in Israel but now, I am always looking for reasons to be there, so I can accomplish something and spend time with my kid. Just like I wouldn’t spend 24/7 with my adult child if she lived at home, I can’t do that in Israel.  So, I need to figure out a bit of a life when I’m there. I’ve been on every trip, tour and volunteer opportunity I could find. I think I’ll start an Ulpan next time so I can learn to speak Hebrew more fluently and, hopefully, embarrass her less.

  • Using WhatsApp, which is now the most important app on my phone

I’m not a genius on the iPhone, but I do know everything there is to know about “WhatsApp.” This is the most popular communication app in Israel, with all kinds of features. It’s the way she communicates with us 90% of the time, so it’s pretty important to me.

  • Texting her back seven hours from the time she actually sent me a text

I see many of her texts when I wake up in the morning. Here are a few examples:

“Hey! I’m feeling very sick today. I just left class because I was very nauseous.” By the time I texted her back, she was already having lunch with friends and couldn’t talk.

Here’s another one. “So I need advice. There’s an option to transfer to another university program. Should I?” The truth is, I know as much about Israeli law schools as I do about the Norwegian Royal Family, so I told her it was her decision.

“Hey. What’s up?  I’m at the dentist.”  I didn’t know she had a dentist in Israel or needed to go to the dentist. Also, I paid for her to visit the dentist in Toronto when she was here last year, so I guess that was a wasted $400.

There are also the texts from me to her like, “How is the wedding?” with a response from her — “Mom! The wedding doesn’t start for another 4 hours.”  Well, I tried.

  • Giving parental advice with no context for the advice

She constantly asks me for my opinion on the happenings in her life, which I appreciate. However, I am currently in a phase where my advice is quite useless. Here is a great example. My daughter bought a 1997 Honda Civic (automatic) last summer. She checked it out at the mechanic and figured out that for 3,000 shekels, she could own a car and it wouldn’t cost us anything extra because she would pay for the gas and insurance herself. It needed about 600 shekels worth of repairs. Did we think it was a good idea?  My husband and I agreed that it sounded good. Thousands of shekels later in unforeseen repairs, tickets for NOT parking on the sidewalk, flat tires, a funny sound in the engine, a hit-and-run while it was parked, and a few other issues (including the fact that we now pay for her insurance because it was going to be more than the actual cost of the car), we don’t really know if it was a good idea. I woke up to a text a few weeks ago when she told me she is now taking driving lessons to learn to drive a stick shift car, so we think maybe she doesn’t think it was such a good idea either.

  • I’ve never heard of any of the medications the Israeli doctors give my kid

Helicobactor? Zito? Karin? They sound like good antibiotics to me!  She can even take a couple of Acamol and see if she feels better in the morning. Once again, you see how my mothering has hit a new low.

  • I never say exactly what I’m thinking when we’re not together

I can’t say exactly what I’m thinking because I won’t be able to call her back or speak to her for at least another day, so I never want to leave a conversation with uncertainty or with the feeling that something is wrong. That’s just par for the course when your kid lives away, and in a different time zone.

  • I miss my kid everyday, but especially on holidays and Shabbat

Even though we text or speak almost everyday, and I feel very fortunate for that, I always know there is a missing piece in my life.  We can’t do the regular things that moms and daughters do — meet up for lunch or dinner, go to a movie, cook and bake or get our nails done together. We are now an immediate family of four on an ongoing basis, and her presence is always missed. It was never more salient than this past December, when she couldn’t come home for the break (for the first time) because Israel has different school breaks than Canada.  She even has different ways of celebrating the holidays, like staying up all night on Yom Kippur and having only one seder at Passover.

I often think about how much things have changed in the last couple of years for her and for me; those thoughts are a mix of joy and melancholy, as I continue to learn to be the mom of a kid who made aliyah.

About the Author
Brenda holds a PhD from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education/University of Toronto, where she is an instructor specializing in literacy education, special education and well-being, and educational psychology. She is an educational consultant who has published many books and articles focusing on understanding and improving teacher and student achievement. You can visit her website at Her three children all grew up in Toronto and have taken different paths as they live Jewishly in the world.
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