A Siren wailed and freedom rang


The picture that says it all.

The other day I thought it was high time that I updated my blog.  I sat down to write my blog post about Pesach and I pondered  about what I was going to write, how it feels to celebrate as an Olah Chadesha and even just the mind boggling experiences of shopping in Israel for this Chag. There are so many scenarios I could describe but it seemed fitting that today of all days when I share my thoughts, I talk about Freedom.

 It is always a dangerous prospect to leave me alone with my thoughts but on a day like this, freedom is a most fitting theme!

 Today is Yom Hashoa, a day when we honour the memory of the six million Jews hunted down and exterminated simply for being Jewish. It is a day deeply ingrained in the collective Jewish psyche and felt in our souls as it will be for generations to come.  I sit as a yartzheit (memorial) candle flickers in memory of the martyred six million and an Israeli flag flutters proudly from my balcony and many others across the country as we ready ourselves for Yom Ha’atzmaut (Independence Day) next week. It is a fitting tribute from a proud nation to our country and her people. We are reminded on a day like today of the importance of the existence of this country. How many could have found refuge, been saved, found hope in the existence of a Jewish state?

This morning,Israelcame to a stand still as the memorial siren wailed at 10am. It was profoundly emotional for me to stand in complete silent memory. Tears streamed down my face as I contemplated the magnitude of 6 million lives lost. Who were these people? Who could they have become? What became of my family? I remember the names of those whose fates we know. Aleksander Carpel for whom my father is named. Caroline Carpel, Miriam Carpel and countless other relatives whose names are forever captured in the vaults of Yad Vashem by Lazarus Karpel, who bore witness. I remember with fondness the fact that brothers spelt their surnames differently. These were people. Loved by many. Murdered by Nazis. Today, remembered by me, living in freedom in the State of Israel.  

I thought about the enormity of making Aliyah. The opportunity it brings for us to live in freedom in our tiny, democratic, fiercely passionate and proud Jewish State. There is that word freedom again!

We woke up this morning to the breaking news that Chief Terrorist and public enemy number 1, Osama Bin Laden had been killed. In an interesting twist of irony, both the death of this madman and another, the architect of the Holocaust, Adolph Hitler was announced May 1!

Again the word freedom rings. Bin Laden has kept the world in collective imprisonment as his drip fed terrorist rhetoric through messages broadcast via the internet and rare video appearance. Is it a coincidence that on Yom Hashoa, we hear of the demise of yet another hate-filled lunatic?

As Yom Hashoa draws to a close this evening, the wreaths placed at memorials around the country will dry, normal broadcast scheduling on TV will resume and the flames of yahrtzeit candles will die out. But we will forever remember the vow that we have sworn, NEVER FORGET and NEVER AGAIN.

A word or two……

So you know your Hebrew is coming along nicely when you wake up in the middle of the night and start conjugating verbs. Lomed.Lomedet.Lomdim. Lomdot. Ay Carumba! No wait, wrong language!

The hebrew language is several thousands of years old and like the people who speak it on a daily basis, it cannot be boxed in by rules or structure! As I mentioned in my previous blog post, when you commit to making Aliyah you have to commit to everything that comes with it. That includes coming to grips with the national tongue. Many Anglo Olim fall into the trap of “well most people speak English anyway so I can get by with that”. Not so fast. If you want to truly integrate into Israeli society, you need to have a good command of the language. Afterall, you wouldn’t live in France without learning French now would you? Nachon.

Having a good command of Hebrew means that not only will you be able to converse and join the workforce but you will also be able to do all those important things that are imperative to surviving in Israel. This includes understanding the banking services, buying train or bus tickets and of course the most important……..ordering your coffee! Yes, cafe society is part and parcel of Israeli living. You must be able to communicate if you want “l’kachat” (take away) “L’shevet” (to sit) and what delicious edibles the waitron is telling you about in the usual rapid manner.
Learning a new language is intimidating for sure. Especially when english style letters are not used and you think that what you are writing so diligently should be displayed in the abstract section of an art gallery!

Someone once said that Hebrew is ingrained in the Jewish soul. No amount of soul-searching will help you conjugate verbs or understand those elusive gender rules!

Luckily, Israel has the processes in place to help its Olim become proficient in the national tongue.
Enter Ulpan. Ulpan is an intense five month programme or as I like to think of it “Hebrew bootcamp”. Not only does Ulpan present a brilliant opportunity to learn Hebrew but also to form important social bonds with other immigrants. Where else would a Portuguese speaker and a Russian speaker be forced to speak to each other in their new shared language?

Most countries have a preferred national sport. In Israel it is the ability to debate. Israel is a passionate country and her citizens feel very strongly about airing their opinions – all this is done is rapid Hebrew with the odd hand gesture. Well, hand gestures are mostly reserved for dodgy drivers! The point I am trying to make is that if you really want to fit in you must make every effort to speak Hebrew.

There is something very comforting about hearing people speak Hebrew. While it can be gutteral, Hebrew is also very melodic and expressive. In an extremely modern and technology driven country, hearing an ancient language brough to life is awe-inspiring!

Now if I can only figure out those infinitive verbs…….

Chicken dances……

It has been over a month since we “committed” (so to speak) Aliyah.

Committed is a great word because a) you have to be very committed to this process to make it work, b) you have to be committed for not being in your right mind!!  Jokes aside, I am thoroughly loving every minute of my experience because when I made my mind up to make the move to Israel, I committed myself 100% to making it work.

People who have had a successful Aliyah will tell you that it is all about attitude. Okay, that and a sense of humour! But it is true. Make the effort and do so with a positive attitude and you will reap rewards.

Aliyah is also about starting again and not taking yourself too seriously. You have to understand that you are almost rediscovering the world, albeit in a different language. I find this strangely liberating. You also have to be prepeared to make a total fool of yourself on occasion. An example of this would be setting off to the butchery to order chicken breasts.

Now the Snert and I make a habit of taking our dictionary everywhere we go or at least try to learn a few words a day. We do look ridiculous standing in stores, dictionary in tow. Don’t fall into the “you can get away with english, everyone speaks it” trap. Make learning Hebrew a priority if you want to integrate, get a great job and of course find out what people are saying about you!

So off to the butchery we go and for the life of me I could not remember the term chazeh off (chicken breasts). This almost resulted in me doing a frantic chicken dance while pointing to the obvious.Imagine the look on the butcher’s face! Anyhoo, managed to get my point across and have a good laugh at the experience.

You will also learn that there are really good people out there. The Ex-Saffers here in Modiin have been truly exceptional. We have wanted for nothing and are making really good friends. People will want to share their experiences with you. Listen to them. Advice is greatly appreciated. My only advice to people wanting to help Olim Chadashim is remember that this is all new for us. It is one thing to dispense with words of wisdom, it is another to enforce your experience on to others.

Everybody’s Aliyah experience is different. Mine is completely different to Snert’s. What is frustrating to some is a breeze for others and everybody’s reasons for leaving wherever they came from are different. There is no right or wrong way to feel. Enjoy your process and remember it is YOUR Aliyah. Own your experience!!!

 One of the pitfalls that nobody can prepare you for is distance from people you love. When someone you love experinces a tragedy, it is agonising to not be able to be there physically for them. This hurts and you have to give thanks to the gods of Facebook, Skype and cellular technology.

 Tuesday morning we start ulpan. I never thought that I would be headed off to “school” at 34 years of age!! Kinda looking forward to it…….

For me, it is another brick in the wall. Another segment of a puzzle I am putting together to create a wonderful life in my new home.

So, anyone wanna do the chicken dance with me….?

A red carpet was rolled out…..

What a week it has been! After departing from Johannesburg, “Mystery Snert” and I along with 60 other Olim made our way to Israel. In true Israeli fashion, our plane was delayed and we eventually landed and were processed as new Olim by midnight Monday. Can you believe that in just a few hours after landing, we were Israeli citizens and had registered for our medical coverage! One Teuday Oleh (immigrant ID book) with a dodgy picture later, we bussed off to Jerusalem and the Ramada Hotel and collapsed exhausted into our beds.

Tuesday and Wednesday were spent organising our lives from our banking to our cells. Naturally I took advantage of a free month’s subscription to the Jerusalem Post. Being without the Blackberry and internet I was starting to have withdrawals for information. It has done wonders for my Blackberry thumb though….

Wednesday afternoon we had a very very moving ceremony at the Kotel (see pic) where we were given our  teudat Zehut’s which are our Israeli ID cards. We are officially Israeli citizens. I am wondering if they will revoke mine when they see my driving ………….

I have to say that “Mystery Snert” and I were treated like absolute dignitaries. We have been shmoozed and feted and really have wanted for nothing. I found it highly amusing when I was quoted in Israel Hayom (one of the Hebrew daily newspapers) even though I did not speak to any journalists. I guess that is Israel!

We arrived in Modiin after taking the scenic route (and by scenic route I mean our bus driver had never been here nor did he have directions or a gps so we saw the mall and surrounds about 100 times) we arrived at our new apartment. It is gorgeous and we were so appreciative to see members of Telfed standing on our doorstep with supper and groceries for a few days.

I cannot express how hospitable, warm and fantastic the South Africans have been to us. They have rallied around us and we want for nothing. We have also managed to do a shop, deposit money and argue with the internet provider with our pidgeon hebrew. I have the vocab, Snert the grammar and together we can actually string a whole sentence together! Shabbat was made so special by the Shaff’s and the Tannenwald’s who hosted us last night and today for lunch.

I have to say an enormous thank you to Shimon and the Israel Centre in SA and the Jewish Agency, Misrad HaPnim and Misrad Ha Klita in Israel for rolling out the red carpet.

We miss our friends and family but carry you all with us everywhere we go.