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The Only Things My 18-Year-Old Son Needs When He Moves to Israel

A suitcase with clothes and other elements, such as sunglasses or a camera.

Both my kids are excellent packers. Come vacation time, and they will stuff their bags full with everything they need for a week at the beach. I provide the checklist, and they don’t forget to pack a single thing.

But this time it’s no week at the beach. My 18-year-old son is packing to move to Israel. I see the stacks of t-shirts, jeans, and underwear, the piles of blankets, pillows, and sheets, all lining the wall in his room. “He’s got this,” I tell myself. Whatever he doesn’t bring with him, he’ll be able to buy there anyway. So, no problem.

But what about the things he can neither put in a suitcase nor buy at the store? The things you hope your child remembers to bring as he starts a new life in a new country. So, in case my son forgets, here’s that checklist:

1. Your patience. Believe me, Israel will try your patience. The bureaucracy alone is enough to make anyone crazy. As hard as it sounds, don’t let it get to you.

2. Your sense of adventure. Remember, starting a new life is an adventure. Those first few weeks, with all the sights and smells, the sounds and the general craziness, don’t ever lose that feeling. Explore. Get on the bus and go somewhere. Head north. Visit the springs at Banias. Head south. Breathe the air in Arad. Have fun in Eilat. Go explore. Anywhere. Everywhere. Just go.

3. Your good judgment. Abba and I raised you well, and while there might be the temptation to reinvent yourself, don’t forget who you are. Two things come to mind. First, choose your friends wisely. It’s better to be alone than to surround yourself with people you don’t like. Second, if you weren’t allowed to do it in the U.S., you might want to think twice before you do it in Israel. But ultimately, the choices are now yours, as are the consequences.

4. Your willingness to take risks. Try something new. Maybe you’ll be good at it. Maybe you won’t. But it doesn’t matter. Either way, you’ll have a great story. Whether the risk is big or small, it doesn’t matter. Learn to milk a cow. Drive a tractor. Go rappelling down a cliff. Talk to someone you might otherwise never have met. Anything. Later on, you’ll decide if it was worth the risk. But take it from me, it usually is.

5. Your generous spirit. There will be the tendency to focus on yourself as you build your life. That is to be expected. But just as you were always helpful at home, so should you be helpful in Israel—your new home. So, don’t forget to participate in the world around you.

6. A support system. When you are starting your life in another country, it’s up to you to develop your support system. Friends are invaluable, and the bonds you create there will be among the strongest you’ll ever experience. But you’ll need more than just friends your age. Start to build a network of older adults you can reach out to and rely on when you need that level of support. And don’t be shy to ask for help. Sooner or later you’ll need it.

So, pack your bags. Get on that plane, and go start that new life. We are so excited for you!


Read More:

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No One Prepared Me for My Son’s Bris

9 Surprising Women Who Are (Or Were Raised) Orthodox Jewish


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