• Jodi Samuels

7 years living in Israel

Updated: 6 days ago

On the day of our two-year aliyah anniversary the children made a cake and woke us up singing. I played along which made them happy. “Imma, I was worried that you would not want to celebrate,” Meron said. “You always remind us how hard it is here and how you wish you could go back to New York!”

Clearly, I didn’t keep my feelings to myself.

Last week we marked a momentous occasion. It was 7 years since we landed on the

holy land! There were no celebrations because life was simply normal. I guess my kids also know I am still struggling along in the journey.

It didn’t take long for me to decide. I hated living in Israel. As a Jewish community leader, I’m supposed to be positive and sing the praises of making aliyah. But I have to be honest, those first few months (which stretched into years) were the most challenging of my life.


In New York, I was connected, influential and could advocate and navigate any situation. My biggest challenge in Israel was that, without the language and the ability to express myself and under- stand others, my Type-A(AA) personality was stressed out.

What compounded the challenge was that everyone else in my family was happy. It was lonely and isolating. It also didn’t help that Israelis were incredulous as to why we would make aliyah. How does one give up the American Dream and a Manhattan lifestyle to immigrate to Israel? I still don’t know how to answer that. Behind the social media posts detailing our adventures was a person struggling with aliyah, with idealism and finding herself.

Gavin’s grandfather moved to South Africa from Lithuania before World War II. All ten of his siblings stayed in Lithuania and ended up being killed in the Holocaust. Imagine how this man would feel now that his grandson was living in Israel and his great-grandchildren would be serving in the first sovereign Jewish army in two thousand years. It is profound from a generational standpoint.

In August Meron started his combined army, yeshiva and paramedics training. A 6 year commitment to Torah learning and serving the State of Israel. It was a huge moment for me. Gavin and I did not grow up religious. Here we were religious, olim and Meron was a reflection of our journey.

I do admit, part of me is idealistic. I am enthralled that Israel is really the “Start-up Nation.” I love hearing Hebrew on the streets, a testament to the revived and thriving language. The ingathering of the exiles to a land that we had lost then regained, is a miracle. I fully believe our DNA echoes in this land. I believe Israel is the best place for my children and where all Jews should live.

Some people say it takes “2 years to settle in, others say “7 years” and a friend promised me after “19 years” it will like feel like home. So I keep to my aliyah mantra that helped me survive the first days and still rings true. “God please give me coffee to deal with the things I can and wine to deal with things I cannot”

So l’chaim and lots to all of us on the journey!


Photo Credit: Laura Ben David

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