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  • Writer's pictureJodi Samuels

Surviving 2 Years in Israel

Today is our two year aliya anniversary. Our kids made a cake and woke us up singing. It’s definitely a mile stone worth noting but there is a lot to the story of an idealistic family with a special needs child relocating to a new country with a foreign language and culture. Meron’s comment this morning said it all. “Imma I was worried that you would not appreciate the cake and you would remind us all how hard it is here and how you wish you could go back to New York!”

As a community leader it’s my expected role to speak about aliya in glowing terms. But behind the Facebook posts is a person who has struggled with aliya, with idealism and finding myself. The last 2 years have been the most difficult time of my life. Before I left I had a spreadsheet listing my concerns and hopes. It’s just been harder than I could ever have imagined. The next question people always ask if Gavin is happy. I respond that idealism is like a good bottle of red wine it smooths over a lot of things. My idealism has been challenged since I arrived!!!!

In NY I was connected, influential and could advocate and navigate in any situation. My biggest challenge is that without the language my type A personality is stressed. I am now dependent on so many people to help in so many areas. Without my kids I would be lost. I cannot read messages from school, talk to teachers or open mail without help. Every school meeting for Caila requires a translator, every form needs a favor, everyday needs me to ask for help and this kills me.

By nature I am resilient and buoyant personality. My response to feeling anchor-less has been to build friendships, circles of influence, organizations and community initiatives. TG this has all been successful and has helped. But it has not made the journey easier!

I live in an idealistic world of my immediate family and friends who are all in love with Israel despite her flaws. It’s hard not to be drinking the same cool aid. In fact it’s lonely! One of the hardest things is for me to hang out with Israelis who are incredulous that we left Manhattan for Israel. I so often share their perspective.

Moving with a special needs child from New York with arguably the best services in the world is very hard! We in no possible way can replicate the services and support that Caila had in an inclusion environment. It’s however amazing to watch her survive inclusion with so much less support. She has learnt Hebrew and reads, writes and speaks in 2 languages. Far more impressive than her typically developing mom!

Yes I have taken Ulpan and my Hebrew has improved but I started in Cita Aleph the very beginning. I never had a Jewish day school education and my learning has a long way to go.

Our kids see us as immigrants – the foreigners. Many immigrant populations live with the parents been lead by the kids in the new society. The usual economic reasons that justify the move to a new country don’t hold true in Israel. While I struggle personally I know it’s the right place for my kids.

Meron took about a week to settle in and Temira about three months. They have never looked back and it’s a pleasure to see them thriving. You simply cannot compare the education system or the price paid for education. It’s apples and oranges. I truly believe what they lack in education in classes of 35 vs 20 kids they make up in soft skills that kids learn here. The skills that make the Israel the start up nation! Someone explained it to me that in Israel kids feel they are an integral part of the future. This drives there happiness. I have no doubt it’s true.

So here I am toasting to our anniversary hoping it gets easier. People here routinely say it takes 7 years. I am hoping for big dose of idealism and shorter time line. I love the fact that everyone visits Jerusalem and seeing you all warms my heart. Until then I will continue to enjoy my favorite parts of Israel – the beach, food, weather, coffee and great wine.

Originally published: October 7, 2016


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