Unlike a lot of other, “WE LOVE IT HERE!” olim, I’ve had a love/ hate relationship with Israel since arriving 13 years ago. While I mostly do love it here, a difficult encounter or a frustrating trip to the post office on a regular Monday will wind me up so much that I go directly to a negative place and wonder why I made aliyah in the first place. It’s dramatic, I know. In my heart of hearts, I know I made the right decision moving here from the UK. I do know I am thriving here in a way that I wouldn’t be there, and I know that I belong here. But very often,there are challenges in Israel that my friends in other places don’t face, and there’s a tangible need to be reminded of the things you really do love about Israel.
I started my podcast The Only Way is Up at a time when I was looking inwards, questioning whether I could continue to live in Israel, and I wanted – needed – something positive to focus on. I wanted to be inspired! Much of my Israel journey had been bouncing between different industries until six years ago, when I decided that I wanted to become a personal trainer. Studying in a challenging course in Hebrew, then starting out on my own…it has been a hard six years working as a freelance trainer and many, many times I’ve wanted to call it a day. But something has kept me going, wanting to pursue this path: helping women to reach their goals.
As an avid fan of podcasts that focus on interviews and success stories, I was always searching for inspiration and ways to improve myself. But while life coaches and US-based celebs are great, I wanted to hear stories that were related to my life and those of my contemporaries, stories of people who had moved to an entirely different country and culture,started a life there from scratch, and found a new level of personal success. So I lasered in – the focus of the podcast would be about women. Women who had made Aliyah or moved to Israel as adults, and had started a business or non-profit, or had changed career paths. I went for it: made a list of names, asked others for their lists, and cold-called a few wonderful women who jumped in and took a chance on this total newbie and my idea for a female-focused Aliyah podcast.
When interviewing my guests about why they moved here, one of the crucial questions is: what do you LOVE about living in Israel? Each guest has a unique answer, of course, but one thing that consistently pops up is the warmth of the Israeli people. At that early stage of the podcast, I really wasn’t feeling it. I was living here, in Israel, where so many hope to be one day, but I was just calling it in – and I really, desperately wanted to change that feeling. But as I recorded more and more episodes, I felt that beginning to change. I started to look forward to hearing each woman’s answers – both with excitement at getting to share them with my listeners, but also for personal inspiration, for a breath of fresh air, to see how I could incorporate them into my changing attitude towards Israel and my own Aliyah journey.
After doing over 50 interviews (!), I’m happy to share that it worked! My selfless-but-selfish reason for starting this podcast has, as hoped, transformed my perspective on living in Israel. How could it not?! While interviewing women like Jamie Geller, Deborah French and Gila Levitan, as they shared their funniest, most awkward, most heart-warming experiences that only fellow olim can truly relate to, I have realized that I am at peace with my choice to stay. Where I previously may have felt sidelined as a single olah with my family living elsewhere, I now see and feel the warmth of the Israeli people, especially during this challenging time we are currently living through. I love the community I have found through The Only Way Is Up, and the fact that even in these hard, stressful times, people here are still looking for ways to help each other.
Each of my guests struggled at the beginning to build something they are now so proud of. And I realized that I am now also in that category. In a lot of ways, this also sums up the history of our country as well. From struggle to success. It took me sitting down and speaking to strangers, seeing Israel through their eyes, for me to learn to love my life in Israel again. And I do.
Happy Independence Day – may we see better and easier days in our little country again soon.