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Looking back at the first year as Olim Hadashim…

  • BenitaLevin
As I write this column, my family of four is getting ready to celebrate exactly one year as olim hadashim in Israel. As clichéd as it sounds, I must say that the past 12 months have flown and the experiences have far exceeded any of our expectations.
by BENITA LEVIN | Jan 25, 2018

The words, “If I’d known then what I know now”, come up often when people ask about our first year as immigrants in a new country. Here are some of my primary observations, after what many said would be a difficult and tumultuous year:

If you give a child the freedom to be, they’ll grab it with both hands

Up until the time we made aliyah, my then 10-year-old son and nine-year-old daughter had never walked or cycled alone anywhere. On the second day of school in a new country, they walked home together. No hesitation.

I have learnt that if you give a child the freedom to move around – without adults in tow – they’ll take it on, without looking back.

They cycle to friends, walk in the park and make their own arrangements, day and night. It seems completely natural to them.

As a South African mom, I celebrate it and often have to pinch myself when I think about the incredible independence they have at such a young age.

The fact that they’ve learnt to speak a new language so quickly is also a huge plus for young children as they are able to immerse themselves in a new social environment quickly.

Our culture should be celebrated, as should our differences

We were warned about the culture shock when we arrived here. I now believe that South Africans are among the most polite people in the world.

Generally, it seems that we have no problem waiting in queues and we tend to voice our opinions diplomatically. That isn’t always the case here.

People seem to be far more assertive and opinionated. During the past year, we’ve met people from around the globe – religious, secular and atheist.

How exciting to smile at our differences and keep learning about a range of beliefs, customs and traditions.

South Africans support each other, no matter where they find each other in the world

There is no doubt that one of the hardest things about immigration is leaving your family and your inner circle. So, the move to Ra’anana was made that much easier by the close-knit South African and English-speaking community here.

The welcome is overwhelming at first – reconnecting with people you haven’t seen in years, invitations to people you’ve never met and regular messages and visits from fellow olim. These friends soon started to feel like family…

Must have: a healthy sense of humour

I believe that we all get to decide how we respond to certain situations. We can choose to get upset, let go of a situation or simply laugh.

There have been countless situations over the past year in which I just shrugged, smiled or both – like the time that a woman ahead of me in the supermarket queue had a meltdown over a grocery ‘issue’, or when a shop assistant whispered that we should try a competitor because they had a “better deal”, or when a coffee shop owner told me he didn’t have any change in his cash register, so I should just come back and pay the next time I’m in the area.

An attitude of gratitude – le’at le’at (slowly, slowly)

I believe that no matter where one is in the world, an attitude of gratitude helps. Every country has its pluses and minuses. I am consciously grateful on a daily basis for the way things have turned out over this brief period of time.

My favourite saying continues to be “le’at le’at (slowly, slowly)”. Aliyah has taught me that you really don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow. I do know that we will mark our one-year anniversary here eating a shwarma in a beautiful place with some very special people.

Word of the week

Magniv – ‘cool’, as in very nice

Smile of the week

Watching thousands of runners at the Tiberias marathon along the magnificent Lake Kineret and spotting one of them running with a bottle balancing on his head (I have photographic evidence)!

 

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