By Justine Friedman
To make Aliyah in the literal sense of the world is a process of going up. Going up from a place that would assume to be on a “lower level” up to the land of Israel which is therefore assumed to be on a “higher level”. And while this is true for the most part, and I imagine the ultimate result will be one of ascension, this process of going up sometimes feels a lot like a long slide down a snake in a game of snakes and ladders.
I may still be very fresh and green in this process as I have only recently arrived from South Africa in November of 2019, but already I see a trend that I can imagine will continue to emerge no matter how long the period from my actual date of Aliyah.
Living in the land of Israel still feels quite surreal. I can’t believe I am actually here. I feel that from the time my husband and I decided to start the process towards making this monumentous change in our lives until today, that there was always another force at work ensuring that once we got on board that Aliyah train there was not a single exit stop on the way until we disembarked at Ben Gurion airport.
All olim (immigrants) have their own story to tell and some sound and seem more glamorous than others; but the truth at the end of the day is that we all want to be here and we all miss and mourn the loss of what we have left behind. No matter where in the world you have come from, what we gain has come at the cost of a loss as well.
For me one of my biggest losses was walking away from the private practice I had built up over 17 years in Johannesburg as a dietician. I had just started giving more talks and using coaching in sessions to help my clients with the skills and tools they needed to make lasting lifestyle and behavioural changes. With the ability to work online I am so lucky to still be able to connect and help some of my clients. However, to practice in Israel I need to convert my degree and sit an exam. Imagine after 20 years going back and studying an entire syllabus all over again! So each day, I sit down with my new brand of coffee and my water from my mehadrin water machine and tackle the next chapter of nutrition.
As I slowly settle into a new home, culture, language, grocery store, foods, driving on the opposite side of the road, medical system, the list goes on… my desire for the familiar screams out to me. Having a sense of humour is definitely a priority when countless times I have to remind myself which side of the car to get into if I want to be the driver. The first few times I reached for my seat belt over the wrong shoulder and every time I am in the passenger seat it feels weird that I can’t look up at the rear view mirror and see what is behind me.
Waze (the GPS navigation app) has become my best friend. I really don’t know how people made Aliyah before this incredible app existed. A small victory for me is when I am able to get from one point to another without needing to use this super intelligent driving buddy!
If I can reflect on the last 3 months my highlights have been davening (praying) at the Kotel (Wailing Wall) , seeing our container drive up to our front door and offloading our possessions from home, receiving my permanent Teudat Zehut (identity card), receiving my Israeli drivers licence and my children finally telling me that they are enjoying being here and that it is starting to feel like home.
I know I have a long way to go. A doctor recently told me, after 25 years I will feel settled, but I am so grateful to be where I am with the incredible community of olim (immigrants) around me who make friends feel like family. There is a process to the rungs up this ladder of Aliyah that I need to climb and I will learn to embrace the slides down the snakes as well because in my heart I know that I am finally home.
Justine Friedman (nee Aginsky) made aliyah from Johannesburg, South Africa in November 2019 with her husband and their two children. In Johannesburg she was a successful clinical dietician, coach and speaker who ran her own private practice for 17 years. Justine is passionate about helping people, and women in particular, achieve greater degrees of health in their mind, body and soul. She achieves this with her own blend of a holistic approach which includes nutrition, skills and tools for improving thoughts and healing emotions and energy healing which includes visualisations, meditation and hypnosis. All consultations that she offers can be done both face to face or online. She is based in Modi’in and loves the challenges and successes that living in Israel has to offer.
Feature Picture – Credit : RONEN ZVULUN / REUTERS