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Aliyah – the good, the bad and the meshuga

This is the first of a weekly column by former news editor of Eyewitness News, Benita Levin, who we will be following as she settles into her new home in Israel. We will literally be walking through her process of integration with her.



Letters/Discussion Forums


If you’d told me six months ago, I’d be writing this article in Israel as an Olah Chadasha – (new immigrant) – I’d have said you must have the wrong person. Truth is, I thought we’d always live in beautiful South Africa. Our children would grow up in a magnificent country, they’d be blessed to have doting grandparents and family in all the main cities and they’d be privileged to receive a good education.

We’d pass on the values and lessons taught to us by our parents, and then the world would be their oyster.

What’s not to love in South Africa? My husband and I had jobs we loved, our children were happy to go to school each day, we were part of a vibrant, active community in Johannesburg and in our own private way, we could be involved in work that helped make a small difference in the country. Our family of four were happy. Life was good. In fact, it was close to fabulous.

It took a crime incident of less than five minutes to change our outlook. While no-one was physically hurt, there is no doubt our sense of safety and security had been rocked. It saw us asking a lot of questions about our children’s future and it saw us acting very swiftly.

You are doing what? Are you meshuga?

I can’t help but smile when I think of the range of responses to our plans – they included “Mazeltov – it’s where all Jewish people belong”, “Wish we could come too”, “We’ll be there in a few years”, “Do you know how hard life is in Israel” and “Are you guys crazy meshuga”?  

I’ve worked in radio news for more than 22 years, a job I love and see as a true privilege. My colleagues know how much I love South Africa, how positive I was each day in the newsroom and how much I believe the country will overcome the many challenges it faces.

They also understood that as parents, we all want our children to be safe. They were concerned about our chosen destination:

“Is it safe there? What about the rockets? Are you really going to a war-zone?”

People in the Jewish community were equally shocked, but the response was so different. “We’re devastated to lose your family from the community, but Mazeltov,” “How lucky are you to be going home” and “You’re living the dream”.

Making the decision

As a life coach, I am lucky enough to help guide people to make life changing decisions. The same “rules” applied for this personal and heart-wrenching process; once you’ve listened to your gut instincts and made a final decision, things suddenly start falling into place.

A huge weight had been lifted from our shoulders as soon as we made the call. It wouldn’t be easy saying goodbye to incredible family, friends and colleagues. It would be surreal leaving the special country we’ve called home all our lives.

We were taking a huge risk. But as I’ve said many times in lead up to our arrival: “It may be a lot easier to do this when you’re 28-years old, but we’re not 88”.

We are starting with a blank canvass, and we have no idea what lies ahead… It’s all been about stark contrasts. How terrifying. How exciting. How right it all feels…


The question I used most this week – “Atah Medabair Anglit”? – Do you speak English?

The phrase I heard others use most often this week – “Rega Rega”  One moment.

New word for the week – Koom Koom – a kettle.

Laugh of the week – ordering a coffee in my best broken Hebrew attempt and getting a reply from the smiling waiter in English, with a strong Australian accent!


 Benita is a communication & broadcasting consultant, journalist and life coach.

Twitter: @benitalevin and website:


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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Sonny Myerson

    Feb 11, 2017 at 6:13 pm

    ‘I was looking for a \”sherut\” from Tel Aviv to Afula, so I went to ‘information.’ I asked in Hebrew, \”ayfo ha sherut le Afula? The ‘gentleman’ in the kiosk looked at me and said \”voetsek.!\”‘

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Letters/Discussion Forums

Tribute to a man who embodies Judaism at its best



As the Torah observant manager of a busy food establishment and as a member of the Jewish community, I wish to give thanks and recognition to a pillar of righteousness.

Rabbi Yossi Baumgarten joined the United Orthodox Synagogues (UOS) kashrut department more than 40 years ago, and gave the prime of his life to serve the community.

No factory was too far. No mashgiach question was turned away, even if called at 01:00.

Baumgarten addressed kashrut matters with integrity and honesty, and with a zest and energy that motivated and inspired all those who had the privilege and honour to work with him.

I once had the privilege of going on a trip with Baumgarten. The man is utter Judaism. From the way he treats others, to the way he ties his shoes and walks. His greatness is in his kindness, humility, and truthfulness.

The UOS kashrut department has been internationally recognised for decades as a result of the sterling input of Baumgarten, and this is evident by the many calls and messages he would field throughout the day from people all over the world. Whether it be a call from the Orthodox Union or the OK or Star K certification agencies, or a mashgiach or local housewife, the Jewish local community and the kosher world at large owe Baumgarten a debt of gratitude.

On behalf of the Mashgiach Association, we wish Baumgarten much strength and success in all his future endeavours.

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Letters/Discussion Forums

Deafening silence about Afghanistan, hue and cry about Israel



Tali Feinberg’s excellent piece in the SA Jewish Report (2 September) titled Africa4Palestine Compares Israel to Nazi Germany, offers sufficient expert academic opinion to totally discredit this narrative that is the backbone of the organisation’s campaign. That crusade together with the continuous use of the apartheid canard has one goal only: the total destruction and delegitimisation of Israel. Both apartheid and Nazi myths carry powerful emotive connotations.

While these falsehoods are somewhat over-played and over-used, Israel’s defensive operations are what elevates the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions organisation’s attack to a crescendo. Just months ago, the world erupted in a show of anger, with hordes filling the streets of capital cities, admonishing only Israel during a conflict with the Hamas terror group.

Contrast that to the recent get together in which Hamas and Islamic Jihad poured congratulations on the Taliban for the takeover of Afghanistan and broke bread together. These Sunni terror groups, including Al-Qaeda, share an ideology of gender violence and misogyny, and support each other in multiple ways. Of course, the Taliban’s unmentionable barbaric treatment of women has been well documented and condemned by most of the world.

Those throngs of protesters voicing thunderous support for Hamas, the blood brothers of the Taliban, now manifest a deafening silence. Where is “the squad” – Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar, and Rashida Tlaib? Not forgetting Jewish college students on the left, who all had much to say in their condemnation of the only country in the region able to stand up to terrorism of this kind.

Are those protesters oblivious to the plight of Afghan girls and women?

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Letters/Discussion Forums

US left’s outrage over Kabul bombing smacks of hypocrisy



As the deadline for the evacuation of those desperate to flee the Taliban take-over of Afghanistan approaches, ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) detonated two deadly suicide explosions in the airport precinct of Kabul, killing more than 60 civilians together with 13 United States (US) military personnel.

This tragedy as the events in Afghanistan unfold bought home the reality of having to contend with these types of contemptable and despicable atrocities that aren’t foreign to the Middle East – not to forget where suicide bombing originated more than 20 years ago.

The untimely deaths of the 13 US servicemen has had a profound effect on the psyche of the American public, whose outrage is expressed in most prominent press reports, and is a stark reminder of the dangers of foreign assistance to unstable areas around the world.

Why should American boys die while defending freedom and democracy, is a question on everybody’s lips.

Most Americans, from Democratic liberals to the Republicans, are outraged and incensed – about the only time that the two agree on anything. Even those high-profile celebrities, with the likes of “The Squad” – Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar, and Rashida Tlaib. Not to forget Trevor Noah and the Hadid girls, and of course, the left Jewish college students, who all had much to say in their condemnation of the only country in the region able to stand up to terrorism of this kind.

Just a short while back, these good folk were singing the praises of another organisation, the actual founders and inventors of suicide attacks, in fact showing no remorse whatsoever that such attacks are perpetrated against other democracies. In those cases, the perpetrators are the heroes, and the victims condemned by this coterie. Would this set be accused of hypocrisy? Surely not, given the outrage demonstrated today in the US.

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