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Dec 9 2014

My Family is Thinking About Moving to Israel–But It’s Hard Not to Be Afraid

By at 11:06 am

contemplating moving to israel

When I was a senior in high school, my family and I made our first trip to Israel for my little brother’s bar mitzvah. It was then that I decided that I wanted to marry an Israeli. All of my years at Solomon Schechter Day School learning Hebrew would be put to good use, I would get to visit a country I loved on a regular basis, and our kids would be bilingual and cute. All the kids I knew who had one Israeli parent were bilingual and cute. So, how could I go wrong?

I did marry my Israeli, as it turned out. A mutual friend set us up on a blind date and the rest–as they say–is history. We have kids who are cute, though not yet bilingual. They, too, are at Jewish day school, and they are using more Hebrew with each passing day.

Since that first trip 23 years ago, I have developed a strong connection to Israel. And so, on our last trip a year ago, I turned to my husband and said, “What if we moved here for a year or two? Wouldn’t that be amazing for our kids and for us?” Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 24 2014

Why These Jerusalem Mothers are Fighting for Higher Security in Preschools

By at 9:56 am
mothers in jerusalem for safety in preschools

Credit: Office of MK Erel Margalit.

 

I tend to put things out of my head that create anxiety. Often I feel that if I don’t, paralyzing fear would take hold of me all of the time. Anxiety comes with the territory of being parents. There is a moment–during pregnancy or soon after birth–when we realize that now we have something to lose that we absolutely could not bear. Lately I’ve been trying out an alternative to evading worry, at least with regard to the safety of my children: action.

I have lived in Israel for 21 years, having made aliyah with my family at age 14 from Cleveland. In high school, I lived through that awful spate of bus bombings, including my local neighborhood buses, the 14 and the 18. When I was a student at Hebrew University, the Second Intifada exploded and my parents were sick with fear at my traveling by public transportation every day. I was scared, of course, but nothing like the visceral fear that I feel now as a mother.

Snatching my babies out of bed with every siren this past summer and schlepping them half-asleep down the stairs of our building–that was something new for me. If I had been on my own, I would have probably taken the time to find shoes and put on a nice robe before stepping out into the common stairwell. Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 19 2014

I Am a Mother in Jerusalem & I Am Scared

By at 3:54 pm

scared in jerusalem

Last night, hours after the terror attack on a synagogue that killed five men, maimed many others, and left prayer shawls, prayer books, and teffilin to soak in pools of blood, I sat on the couch with my husband and expressed my increasingly intolerable fear.

He asked me a very important question: “What were you thinking when you came here?”

I came to Israel in 2006 right after college without a real plan. I followed an old romantic interest of mine; I was ready for adventure and I was a Jew who was anxious to figure out precisely what that meant. I didn’t know if I’d stay forever, and when people asked me things like, “Are you prepared to send your future children to the army?” I couldn’t relate. I was barely 21 years old, children were an abstract concept, and I still had that good old American feeling of invincibility. I knew that violence came here in waves but the truth is—I wasn’t thinking much. I was yearning for something that I suspected I’d find in Israel. Read the rest of this entry →

What the Gruesome Images from the Jerusalem Terror Attack Taught Me About Hope

By at 11:18 am

tefillin

The images are gruesome. Heartwrenching. So much blood. I don’t want to see. And for a while I don’t. Not really. I scroll quickly from one post to the next. Four killed in terror attack. Har Nof. Rabbis. Synagogue. Even as my heart is rushing and the tears are falling, my fingers slow down. To read. And to see. To really see.

A blood-soaked tallit (prayer shawl) crouches in crumpled horror. The red-splattered bookshelves stand feebly by. They are a quiet, ueseless protection to the forever stained siddurim (prayer books) they hold. Kehillat Bnei Torah Synagogue is a bloodbath.

“No. No. Nonononono,” I whisper, now unable to stop the onslaught of image after horrific image. Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 5 2014

How Moving to Israel Taught Me to Actually Listen to My Kids

By at 1:39 pm

How Moving to Israel Taught Me to Listen to My Kids

I don’t know about you, but most of the time when my kids are talking to me, I am not fully listening. “Aha” and “Oh that’s great!” roll off of my lips as I glance in their general direction while I am cutting a cucumber, finding a lost shoe or wondering why there is still not a match for that pink sock. Sometimes my kids notice this lack of attention and scold me by saying, “eyes on mine,” to be sure that my limited attention will find its way to them. But with three kids, managing our home and my work, there’s a lot to keep me distracted.

Our recent move to Israel has helped me slow down and focus more because what they need me to focus on is becoming more pressing than “look at this cool Lego thing I built.” In their way, they are processing what it means to have left the place where they felt at ease, to join a new culture as an immigrant. “I just don’t know what’s going on,” my son laments, because his first grade teacher in Jerusalem doesn’t speak to him in English. And my 3-year-old pines, “when am I going to have a playdate with my friends from my old school?” The ninth of never, I don’t reply. “Everyone here has black eyes,” my daughter continues, talking about the mizrachi (Jews who are eastern or oriental in origin) children in her gan (nursery school), who are very different from the blue or green-eyed classmates in Sag Harbor. Read the rest of this entry →

Everybody Else’s Perfect Kids

By at 11:54 am

everybody else's perfect kids

After nearly two and a half years of living in the San Francisco Bay area (a temporary break from our lives in Israel), I am trying to keep my head above water. It seems that in today’s middle class America, everybody else’s kids are no less than perfect.

Until 2012, my kids grew up in an Israeli suburb. I had an enormous social network comprised of mothers and children. Our house and yard were always filled with running, jumping, screeching, laughing, and the crying of not-perfect kids. With the exception of a couple of “hysterics,” my mommy friends had no illusions about their little angels. We freely exchanged accounts of parenting challenges including school struggles as well as developmental and behavioral setbacks. By and large, we were honest and supported one another.

Today, I also have a large social network of mothers. However, with the exception of a few “eccentrics,” my mommy friends are incredibly busy convincing each other and themselves about how wonderful their offspring are. It seems that everyone is a sports star, a rock star, and a genius. Read the rest of this entry →

Oct 6 2014

11 Things That Don’t Suck About Moving With Kids to Israel

By at 2:01 pm

Israel-photo

For the past few weeks, at school drop off, I have tried to disengage from my red-faced, hysterically crying and clinging children. My kids have never been those happy-go-lucky kids who skip into school, but the intensity of our morning separations has hit a new extreme this year. There is a reasonable explanation for our tearful new reality–we recently moved across the world from familiar Cleveland, Ohio, to our new home in the ancient city of Jerusalem.

We are thrilled to be living in the city of our dreams, but my four kids’ transition from their cozy Jewish day school to a bustling Israeli public school system has been challenging. Moving to Israel with preschool and school-aged kids is not for the fainthearted. Since the start of the school year on September 1st, school-related crying, whining, complaining, and defiance have become as much a part of our daily routine as breakfast and brushing teeth. 

I dread school drop off probably more than my kids do. It is torturous to leave them in an environment where, although they are safe and being cared for, they can hardly communicate in or comprehend the rapid-fire Hebrew being spoken around them.  Read the rest of this entry →

Oct 1 2014

The Things I Learned Teaching English in Israel

By at 4:13 pm

Israel-relief-map

When I made aliyah from Montreal, I never planned to teach English in an Israeli classroom. Aliyah was about leaving Montreal to become Israeli, rather than bringing a piece of Canada here with me. I soon discovered, however, that since everyone wants to speak English, teaching English is a much sought-after profession. As it turns out, it’s also a great day job for a writer.

I began the new school year by writing vocabulary words on the white board. The day’s assignment was to define and use certain phrases: “What is a relief map?” I ask them, quite certain they will be unfamiliar with the three dimensional map that portrays the ups and downs, mountains and valleys, of a geographical terrain. A hand goes up. A boy in the back. It’s always the boys in the back who give me butterflies in my stomach those first few weeks of school. We haven’t had our meetings with their homeroom teacher so I don’t know the family history of each student, which child might have lost someone close during this summer war in Gaza, which child might be struggling through their parents’ divorce, or who might be trying to hide socio-economic issues under fake designer labels.

There is still so much I have to learn before I can become an effective teacher. For now, each student before me is a tabula rasa. I have to ask their name when they raise their hands; I still have not matched the wire-framed glasses, the dimpled cheeks, or the intense hazel-green gaze to the names on my list. Read the rest of this entry →

Sep 18 2014

The Unexpected Way My Daughter With Autism Embraced Her Jewish Identity

By at 10:41 am

Israeli-flag-Dana

One of the duties thrust upon us as Jewish parents is to live a Jewish life so that our children may also develop a Jewish identity.

I must admit that I am a failure at that most of the time.

See, I have an autistic daughter. Read the rest of this entry →

Sep 11 2014

The Hardest Part About Sending My Daughter to First Grade in Israel

By at 12:02 pm

First-grade

I’m holding a number 2 pencil and there’s a university issue blue book in front of me. A bland-faced test proctor places a sheet of paper, face down, on my desk.

“Don’t turn it over until the bell,” he says.

It’s my final exam, and the questions on it, and how I answer them, will determine my future.  Read the rest of this entry →

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