Finally home in Israel where we belong

Facebook’s well meaning year end round-up isn’t appealing to everyone. It is supposed to present an upbeat summary of a positive 2014 but 2014 wasn’t a positive year for many people. It was a terrible year for me in many respects and were it not for my family and where we have wound up, 2014 would be ending on a particularly sour note for me.

Flying into Tel Aviv

Thankfully, 2014 is going to come to a close on a pretty good note because our family made a big change to our lives, we left South Africa to create a new life in Israel. My wife and I made the decision in early August 2014 after I returned to South Africa from a short visit to Israel in late July to visit family. It was my first visit to Israel and it transformed how I perceived and felt about this tiny country.

My plan, before we left, was to write about our experiences as Olim Hadashim (new immigrants) but, now that we are here, I’m at a bit of a loss what to write. We had a few hopes about what Israel would be like and, although we are still in a sort of honeymoon phase of our Aliyah process, life here is even better than I hoped it would be. I think it will continue to amaze me even when we are in a daily routine of work and day to day stresses.

A local playground

Life here is profoundly different in a pretty subtle way. I feel an underlying sense of belonging here that was simply missing in South Africa. That probably has to do with a combination of my feelings about living in South Africa as well as the environment we found ourselves in but, here, it is different in an important way. We’re only at the beginning of our journey to integrating fully into Israeli society. We’re still learning Hebrew; still looking for work; processing basic admin necessary to function effectively here and figuring out the bus routes. Despite that, we are already Israeli and don’t have to justify our presence here even though we have only been here for just under two weeks.

I think another reason I feel at a bit of a loss what to write about our transition is that I don’t want to fall into the trap of criticising South Africa now that we no longer have to deal with the factors that made life in SA uncomfortable. My mother said something to me when we were planning our move that has stuck with me. She said (and I’ll paraphrase a bit) “Don’t start attacking South Africa when you leave. South Africa gave you a lot in the time you lived here.” I think that is absolutely correct. South Africa ultimately became a country that we weren’t welcome in but it sustained me and my family for decades and there are many things about it I will miss going forward. Of course there are aspects of South Africa I won’t miss but what good does it do focusing on negative things?

Tel Aviv highway

We’re at the beginning of a challenging journey and making the move here, to Israel, was one of the best things we have done. Israel has welcomed us and our family has already begun to benefit from being here in ways we hoped it may. I don’t think of myself as South African anymore (well, for starters, I’m not – South African law stripped me of my citizenship when I became an Israeli citizen). I’m a learner Israeli, but an Israeli and I am really glad that we are finally home where we belong.


24 responses to “Finally home in Israel where we belong

  1. Paul avatar

    Enthusiast, coder, runner, Happiness Engineer at Automattic supporting WordPress customers. Passionate about my wife and proud Dad. I am neurodivergent with ADHD and some sort of anxiety disorder. I am also a Type 2 Diabetic. I moved to Israel with my family in December 2014 and changed my career to focus on content marketing as […]

  2. jenty avatar

    I’ll be following your story for sure 🙂
    Wish you all the very best with your new adventures, the place you’re staying in looks absolutely amazing! Hope you find jobs soon and A settles into his new school quickly

    1. Paul avatar

      Thanks very much Jenty. It’s been quite an experience so far.

  3. Wenchy avatar

    Hello my dear friend, I wish your family much happiness in your new home. It’s a bit like being comfortable in your own skin I think?

    1. Paul avatar

      Thank you. It does feel a bit like that.

  4. Steve avatar

    Why weren’t you welcome in SA?

    1. Paul avatar

      Jews as a community seem to be less welcome in South Africa since Operation Protective Edge in July/August 2014. Whether it was because the ruling party genuinely holds anti-Semitic views or just makes anti-Semitic comments for the benefit of its sympathetic stakeholders, the result is an environment that has become increasingly hostile towards Jewish South Africans.

      The problem, as I see it, is that comments by the ANC and some government ministers set the tone for groups which are more openly hostile towards Jews. This intolerance trickles down and manifests more and more in day to day life. The message becomes: “We don’t want you here.”

  5. TheTechieGuy avatar

    wow Paul – had no idea! think it will a bit difficult to get you on the radio show now 🙂 I wish you well on your new journey !!!

    1. Paul avatar

      Thanks Liron. This is why I asked about calling in.

  6. Nathan Jeffery avatar

    It must be exciting, yet I imagine, it must also be a bit intimidating; the thought of moving to a different town intimidates me.

    The posts/pictures/tweets you’ve shared so far make me want to get on a plane and come and see the place for myself.

    I’m really glad things seem to be going well so far and I’m looking forward to experiencing more of the country through your camera’s lens. 🙂

    1. Paul avatar

      Thanks Nathan. The main thing for me at the moment is learning Hebrew. You can probably manage without it but that’s not what we’re aiming for.

      1. Nathan Jeffery avatar

        I agree, that’s very important. I think it will enhance the way you experience being there.

        Based on the limited words I have seen, it looks complex but with practice and perhaps a teacher it’ll eventually become second nature. Just think, you’ll soon be able to watch(and understand) a whole lot more TV programs and you’ll become comfortable reading a new range of books and online content.

        Language opens up new worlds and connects people. 🙂

        1. Paul avatar

          Oh sure, we’ll learn the language. I’m just impatient. There should be a download for this, like Matrix!

      2. Nathan Jeffery avatar

        `sudo apt-get install language pack`

        or something like that… 🙂

        1. Paul avatar

          Do I need to SSH for that?

          1. Nathan Jeffery avatar

            yup, with root access 😀

  7. […] those challenges will probably vary. I do know that I will begin 2015 in a very different place (literally and figuratively) and I am very grateful about that. I have my wife and children with me and I am […]

  8. […] had a pretty busy couple months culminating in a move to Israel in December. I have a couple albums which I’ll start posting soon. In the meantime, this photo of the […]

  9. Jason Elk (@jasonelk) avatar

    Mazel tov to you and your family, Paul. Very excited to hear about your new journey together and have no doubt you will embrace the opportunities that your new home will bring. Lots of good thoughts from Pat and I. Enjoy!

  10. […] lately? It caught my attention because I have been listening to a lot of 80s rock and pop since we arrived in Israel (thanks to my Rdio subscription and my iPad which has become my new […]

  11. […] haven’t made a particular effort to hold on to the South African part of my identity since we became Israelis but, listening to Johnny Clegg and Savuka on Rdio, there are reasons not to give up on South Africa […]

  12. […] friends have been asking us about our move to Israel late last year so I started preparing a list of tips that have helped us and thought I’d […]

  13. […] next big change was our move to our new home in Israel last year. It was probably one of the best decisions Gina and I have made for our family. People […]

  14. Paul avatar

    Today is our 10th wedding anniversary. Wow, 10 years. A lot has happened in the decade since Gina and I stood under that chuppah. Here are a few things that stand out for me. I’ll probably come up with more after this is published so I don’t make any promises that this post captures all the highlights.
    When it all began
    I met Gina in November 2003. I think it was around the 17th but that remains a little controversial. Our first date was a blind date facilitated by our mothers who met through a widows’ group (Gina’s dad passed away in 2001, mine in 2003). I had recently broken up with a girlfriend and my father had passed away from pancreatic cancer a few months earlier. I decided to spend some time on my own for a while.
    My mother called me and told me about this woman she met (Lindy, my then-future mother in law) who, as it turned out, had a single daughter who her mother was pretty keen to introduce to someone. I wasn’t really interested but told my mother than if this girl is/was a Sagittarius, Leo or Ares, I’d meet her. If not, I wasn’t interested.
    This may sound very weird or hippy but I’d had a few bad experiences dating people in other signs so this seemed like a reasonable compromise to me. My mother thought I was a bit difficult (she may have said I was “full of sh*t”) but she said she’d find out.
    My mother called me back soon after and told me that this girl is/was a Leo. I’d basically committed myself so I agreed and took down her phone number. I called her, introduced myself and we arranged to meet at JB’s Corner in Melrose Arch a few days later. At the time I had a beard and when I told Gina this she apparently thought her mother had set her up with some religious guy (oy!).

    I wasn’t sure what to expect so I staked out the restaurant from a public square across from it until she arrived. This was more to brace myself in case she wasn’t quite what I was expecting (whatever that was).
    When I saw her she didn’t disappoint at all.
    We started talking and didn’t stop until after we were asked to leave the restaurant when they closed. The highlight of that evening was our discussion about how Star Trek: Nemesis really disappointed both of us. A fellow Star Trek (and Star Wars) fan? I was hooked.
    We had a second date a few days later (when she opened her door she was even more beautiful than I remembered from our first date). That was our beginning.
    Then she said “yes!”
    We dated for about a year and a half before we finally got engaged. I think about relationships in terms of an ocean metaphor. If your relationship’s depths are calm and life affirming, you’re off to a great start. You’ll need those quiet depths when the surface becomes stormy to keep you grounded and help you through difficult times.
    I wrote about how I proposed a day or two afterwards:

    We’re engaged!
    I really enjoyed our wedding (if you want to really dive into the day, here are the photos).

    Rabbi Rose married us at the Waverly Shul. I’m glad we did it there.

    My bride was absolutely stunning. I think she actually took my breath away when I first saw her in her wedding dress just before the marriage ceremony. I know grooms often say something like this but she really was (and still is) beautiful.

    Our wedding reception was at the HOD Hall in Orchards, Johannesburg.

    We started our new life together with our honeymoon in the Drakensberg. We stayed at the Drakensberg Sun which is one of my favourite hotels/resorts in South Africa. It was a terrific break although I took my laptop in case I had to work (not the best decision but I had started my own business about 6 months before).
    Starting a business is tough and I remember when I decided to leave Werksmans and go on my own how Gina supported me. She supported me for the 9 years I had my own businesses, through all the tough times that affected our family. I didn’t always appreciate how much she supported me when the easier thing to say could have been “Stop this and go find a job”.
    The early years
    I remember at least one conversation with Gina, some time around our wedding, in which she informed me that she expected to be in the labour ward a year after our wedding. I was a little taken aback but my wife can be pretty convincing. As it turns out we fell pregnant (by “we” I mean I made a contribution, she did all the real work) in early 2007. It was possibly during our first wedding anniversary weekend back at the Drakensberg Sun.

    Aside from going off chicken entirely for most of her pregnancy, it all went fairly well. At least from my perspective.

    Aaron arrived a few weeks early and, within the space of a couple days, my great love affair expanded to two people.

    Our first year with Aaron was probably fairly typical for new parents: a lot of panic, having no idea what to do when he cried or had colic and also beginning to appreciate having this incredible little person in our lives.

    2008 turned out to be a tough year with the Great Recession but we made it through with a few emotional bumps along the way. I think I learned a lot about how to deal with challenging times towards the end of the year and realised (a little more) what an incredible my wife is in tough times that doubtless stressed her out too.
    Me and Gina at a Jewish Entrepreneurs event in 20092009 was an expansion year. Mostly for me, I seem to have ballooned a little. Gina, on the other hand, was as beautiful as ever.

    One of the highlights of 2010 was a weekend getaway to the Westcliff which Gina won for us. It was quite an experience usually not for mortals like us.
    Of course, 2010 was also the year our family grew again. We found out that we were pregnant again and we dubbed our baby “theSQL” (it is both geeky and a little funny).

    Our little girl, Faith, was born in December that year (just a few days after my birthday). She brought a new dynamic to our family and joined her proud brother as my new great love.

    Our life seemed to start moving really quickly after Faith arrived. I was trying to build a business and we had two growing kids, each with their own personalities. Just as figuring out how to be a good father to our children, being a decent husband to Gina has been an ongoing process. If anything I have learned how I let my own issues get in the way of a better relationship with my family.

    In 2013 I was diagnosed with diabetes and Gina practically changed our kitchen over to diabetic friendly foods almost overnight. My diagnosis was a shock to me but she helped me adapt and probably did more to shift me onto a healthier diet than I even realised.

    She helped me bring my blood glucose levels down to normal levels within a few months and I managed to remain pretty well controlled until late last year when something in my body changed and my levels rose again. We’re going back to some basics with my diet and, once again, she is making changes behind the scenes to improve our diet to help me regain control over my diabetes.

    Finally home in Israel where we belong
    2015 was a challenging year. It was our first year in our new home in Israel and the changes weren’t always easy to process. It was also a year that really emphasised for me just how important my family is to me. My wife and our kids are basically what my life is all about. Practically everything else is in support of our new life here.
    Being a husband takes a lot of work. For me, most of that work was on myself because I have a tendency to let my inner Crazy really get in the way of better communication with my wife. Communication really is so important. I see the difference when I get it right. Those are the times when we are back in sync like we were right in the beginning (and many times since then) when we agreed about that Star Trek movie.

    This time 10 years ago we were at the Protea Hotel on Corlett Drive trying to stay awake long enough to eat an early supper. We didn’t get through the meal and passed out soon afterwards on our hotel room. The next morning we woke early and drove to the mountains to start our honeymoon and our new life together.
    Every morning is an opportunity for me to be a better father and a better husband. I haven’t always made it easy for my family but if there is something worth working for every day, every moment, it is that. I hope we have many more periods of 10 years together. Each of the moments that make up those years are opportunities to spend with my wife and our children and that is what matters most to me.
    Happy anniversary, angel. Much, with tons and stuff.
    אני אוהב אותך, ממש!

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