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. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.”

  4. 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.

  5. 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 😀

  6. […] 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 […]

  7. […] 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 […]

  8. 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!

  9. […] 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 […]

  10. […] 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 […]

  11. […] 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 […]

  12. […] 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 […]

  13. Paul avatar

    Paul mentioned this Post on

  14. About me • Paul Jacobson avatar

    This Article was mentioned on

What do you think?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: