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Aliyah – the good, the bad and the meshuga




After just a few weeks living in Ra’anana – less than 15 kilometres from Tel Aviv – here’s a taste of just some of the surprise situations we’ve experienced…

Driving Miss Daisy. That’s the only way to describe the pace one drives for the first few weeks, in the wrong seat of the car on the wrong side of the road!

Soon though, you realise that the cacophony of hooting in the vicinity is not always about you. It might be directed at the unsuspecting older lady in the car at the traffic light, who didn’t put foot to the accelerator as soon as it turned green. Any delay at that juncture, is likely to spark a loud response from the surrounds. 

A new immigrant can drive with their existing driver’s licence immediately – they have one year to take a new driving test. Until then, when there’s mass hooting nearby, just smile and wave. 

The size surprise.  Space is something we’d become accustomed to in South Africa. A large family home with a garden and pool was about to be replaced by a cozy flat with a garden roof.

Watching your furniture being wrapped up and packed into a large moving truck in Johannesburg was a unique experience. Seeing it being unpacked in the northern hemisphere a few weeks later, is a huge relief. Watching a crane hoist your couch into your new lounge through the balcony window? Fascinating.

The shekel. As we all know, economic uncertainty is affecting most parts of the world right now. Converting the South African rand to the Israeli shekel can make you feel nauseous, as you sip on your R60 coffee.

The expression, the “rands and cents” don’t add up, takes on a whole new meaning. Schools and medical aid are free. But, the cost of living is high. We’ve met many people who have two jobs. Many commute to America, Britain, France and South Africa. 

Lost in Translation. A teacher phoned this week. Her tone was upbeat, but between my matric Hebrew and her English, we couldn’t understand each other at all. The solution? She SMSed me in Hebrew. I SMSed in English. We both used a “translation app” on our phones to understand each other. A great short-term solution, but I’m not sure I agree with those who say one doesn’t need Hebrew in Ra’anana. Let’s see if the five month Hebrew ulpan course helps, at least with basic conversations?

Trust. This is the most heartwarming culture shock. I took out a credit card to pay at a small shop the other day, but the machine wasn’t working. “Not to worry,” I said, “I’ll go and take out cash and will be back in a few minutes.” “No need,” the woman smiled, “come back another day or whenever you have time.”

I was stunned, and asked her how she knew I’d return. “Of course you will,”, she laughed. Of course, I did. But I was so struck by the trust she showed a complete stranger. 

And so, the contrasts continue. So far, the good far outweighs the bad and the meshuga.

Favourite new word of the week – Be’simcha – with pleasure.

New phrase of the week – Hafuch chalash bevakasha – a weak cappuccino please. (Because a latte doesn’t seem to be so common here?)

Lesson learnt – When packing up one’s home, mark the box contents clearly, lest you can’t find your much-needed kettle till you open the very last box.

Smile of the week – Our children’s school doesn’t have a regular school bell. Instead upbeat music blares out across the premises to mark the start and end of each lesson.


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