So you’ve been planning on coming to Israel for months, possibly years, taking weeks and weeks and weeks to plan, to pack, to say goodbye to friends and family, doing the ‘last’ this and the ‘last’ that. Maybe every so often even wondering whether you’re doing the right thing. Then speaking to family and friends in Israel, remembering how beautiful it is, how much you want to begin a life here, surrounded and enriched by your heritage, your culture, your traditions, new and beautiful traditions. You speak many times with your shaliach, begin to research jobs, can’t believe it’s happening, but it is, it is!
And then suddenly this ******* virus. It hits the world indiscriminately and absolutely; you find out you can get on that plane to build your new, wonderful life, but when you get off it you will need to stay within the periphery of where you live. You will not be able to follow the aliyah instructions of how to begin absorption in your new country. No offices will be open. Only zoom meetings and Facebook will welcome you. This charity. Posts and WhatsApps and Facetime.
You will not be able to go to Ulpan. Your children will not be able to go to school or gan.
Will you even be able to shop for food?
It sounds so bleak. What will you do? What can we do?
I was luckier. I came here a month ago. The misradim were all still open. It took me more days than I had hoped to get my teudat zehut, open my bank account, go to the absorption office, apply for Ulpan, apply for my toddler’s gan, but mostly we did it. And more. We did so much so quickly because of the brilliant support of my Israeli boyfriend. We did it just in time. Just in time to sit at home and wait for this to pass.
I thought it was bleak. But I’m learning every day this bleakness, this blackness comes from inside me. What would I be doing if I was still in England? Soon I would be trapped in my cold house in my street, no longer able to teach and with my son being unable to go to nursery. And still wanting to be in Israel.
Here? First, it is beautiful weather. This might seem a very insignificant thing, but it is not. Warm enough for picnics (with your family only, of course), warm enough to go outside and spot a tiny chameleon actually crossing the road on its beautiful tiny green legs outside your home. Warm enough to smell the roses and admire the white grapefruit blossom and the pink trees.
The lockdown here is helping to contain the virus. It seems in other countries leaders and communities are not being so wise. Communities here are helping each other. There is social media support, not panic.
What else can we do, as new Olim? As single new Olim, Olim with children, families, who were planning to start our lives and now have them frozen – unable to join in and start a new life here, and unable to support our friends and families back ‘home’, which isn’t home anymore.
Step by step. Take each day as it comes. Plan lovely little things each day. Bake cakes. Go for walks. Run, if you can. Ride a bike, if you can. Go to a beautiful place and enjoy the warmth of the sun sitting on a picnic blanket in the Israeli hills (in a place with no other people – there is plenty of countryside). Spend time singing, reading books, and watching films. Try not to think ‘I can’t start my new life here’ but instead think ‘I am lucky to be here.’
It is not easy. This time is not easy for anyone. Sometimes I think it is hardest for new olim. But actually, it is hardest for those who are sick and those who are losing loved ones. We are gaining a whole beautiful country and it is only a matter of time until we will be able to make the most of it and start absorbing ourselves in everything here. In the meantime, let’s just be grateful for everything we DO have.
If you need any help, or just want to chat about anything I’ve written, please message me on Facebook: Shoshana Lavan. I’ll also be happy to chat on the phone once you’ve made contact.