ISRAEL IS ALL YOU HAVE

By Martine Alperstein

Read that title again.

Because believe it or not, this beautiful, complicated, tiny little country that is steeped with your ancestral heritage, is all you have.

I have never understood how people of Jewish faith could ever denounce Israel. I have never understood how some people imagine you can be anti-Zionist and not be antisemitic. Zionism and Judaism are intrinsically intertwined. The history of Israel and the story of the Jewish people, are the same story. And Israel exists because a Jew had a dream.

I am not sure if it is ignorance, naivety or the ostrich syndrome that enables any Jew to believe that without Israel, they would be safe and protected. Tonight we light a yahrzeit candle on Erev Yom Hazikaron in memory of the 23, 928 soldiers who gave their lives to protect our existence, which acts as a reminder of the price we have paid in order to ensure that the yahrzeit candle we lit last week on Erev Yom HaShoah in memory of the 6million Jews that were annihilated in the holocaust, will NEVER happen again. Ever.

Maybe it comes from being privileged, having never encountered antisemitism in any form? Maybe it is ignorance thinking it is happening to other Jews because of x, y or z but that it will never happen to you?. Maybe it is being raised in an environment that is desperate to blend in, to be part of the crowd, to be unrecognised? Maybe it is from having lost the  connection to your roots, to your traditions and customs out of necessity or something else?

Those who know me well, know that I despise conflict and will avoid it at all cost. I believe in the value of giving and the value of love. I teach my children that respect and tolerance are basic human rights, that people are all just people, irrespective of colour, race, religion, position, financial status, sexual orientation or political beliefs. We won’t change the world through hate, through violence, through arrogance, through intolerance or rigid barriers.

In order to make a difference on our planet, to be able to build bridges and stretch out a helping hand, you first need to know yourself, your roots, your history, your traditions and customs. You need to believe in yourself and your heritage. You need to understand that first you stand strong, you stand tall………..  And it’s from that place of confidence, strength and courage, that you can reach out and connect, lift up, assist, aid, collaborate, communicate and facilitate the change.

On an airplane we are taught to first put the oxygen mask on ourselves and to then help others because without that oxygen, you will be useless. The same is true for a Jew and Israel.

Denouncing, belittling, and removing yourself from Israel will not bring you any love, respect or acceptance, it will not make you courageous nor a hero. It will not make a difference and it will not bring change.

Earn your respect by being true to your heritage and to yourself. Show your strength by loving who you essentially are. Find your heritage, your individual and communal spark….honour those who came before you, and shine.

Shine your light.

Be true.

Rebirth of a Nation. David Ben-Gurion publicly pronouncing the Declaration of the State of Israel, May 14 1948, Tel Aviv, Israel, beneath a large portrait of Theodor Herzl in the old Tel Aviv Museum of Art building on Rothschild Street.

Take a good look at those who fought hard, sacrificed and suffered to fulfill their dream of aliyah, those who walked barefoot through a never ending desert, those who sat in jail, those who risk their lives to light Chanukah candles underground…. and those 23, 928 neshomot who gave their place on this earth to ensure that you have a home.

The Young and the Adventurous. A new group of young olim  (immigrants) arriving in Israel (Photo: Sason Tiram)

 

And from YOUR place of brightness and truth, start to close gaps, give with loving kindness and do the desperately needed tikkun ha’olam (Jews bearing responsibility not only for their own moral, spiritual, and material welfare, but also for the welfare of society at large).

A Homecoming. On February 12, 2021, some 302  immigrants from Ethiopia were flown into Israel on a specially chartered flight sponsored by the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ) despite Ben-Gurion Airport being closed and the borders being sealed off tight to lower COVID-19 infections.
 

 

Israel is the reason that you are. Israel is the reason that you can. Israel is the reason that you will always be able. Israel is the reason that we are free to be.

“Were you there when the camps were liberated?

Are you with us now as we rebuild?

Were you standing next to David Ben Gurion when a two thousand year old dream was fulfilled?”

Raise Your Hand – Julie Geller





About the writer:

Martine Maron Alperstein made aliyah from Cape Town 21yrs ago. She currently resides in Modiin with her husband, kids and kitty cats.

While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO)

From Bombs to Babies

Israel at 73

By David E. Kaplan

Not sure how the field of psychology would view it but there is something strangely unique in Israel’s character and calendar  that only a split second separates joyful Independence Day  from the sad day that precedes it. Possibly perplexing to non-Israelis – the shift from grief to joy in the space of a heartbeat  – but that is what Israelis do each year. For 24 hours we remember and honour those fallen in defense of the State of Israel as well as victims of terror, and the next 24 hours we celebrate the fruits of that sacrifice – an independent Jewish State after 2000 years of exile and unrelenting persecution. Coming a week after Yom HaShoah where we remember and honour the six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust, Jews know the PRICE of statehood because  they also understand the NEED for statehood.

If the Jewish partisan and poet Abba Kovner wrote in a pamphlet  in 1942 “Let us not go like lambs to the slaughter!” to inspire his fellow Jews in the Vilnius area to take up arms against their German invaders, then look only to the following year of 1943 and the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. In the largest single revolt by Jews during World War II, the uprising by a civilian population, untrained and without sophisticated weapons – men women and children – held off the might of the Nazi invader for nearly a month. Very impressive when you compare it was nearly the same length of time as the trained Polish army took to be defeated by the German army – one month!

Lions not Lambs. Abba Kovner (center) with Rozka Korczak-Marla (left) and Vitka Kempner-Kovner after the liberation of the Vilna ghetto(Yad Vashem).

Far from “lambs to the slaughter”, they were heroes to a man, woman and child.

Twenty-four hours preceding Israel’s annual sound of  fireworks is the sound of the siren, when traffic stops and people stop talking in mid-sentence. Life in Israel is frozen for those two minutes encapsuling so many bitter and tragic memories. I for one always think first of the names of those I know who were either killed in uniform or perished in a terrorist attack – I rattle them off in my mind as I stand solemnly, their faces flash by as if flipping over the pages  of a cerebral picture album.

Defiant until Death. No military uniforms or helmets, Jewish fighters in civilian attire, take on the might of the German army during the Warsaw Ghetto uprising.

According to the Defense Ministry, the country’s total number of people killed in war and terrorist attacks now stands at 23,928 They are not numbers – their names and faces are known throughout the land – each and every one of them!

On the flip side, as we celebrate Israel’s 73rd Independence Day, and reflect  on the loss of 6,000,000 Jews mourned only a week ago on Yom HaShoah, today we can celebrate Israel’s population standing at 9,327,000 million – over a third more than was lost in the Shoah – and growing.

Light unto the Nations. The last public Independence celebrations before Corona, people watch fireworks during a show to mark Israel’s 71st Independence Day in Jerusalem on May 8, 2019.

If on a national note we take pleasure that 167,000 babies have been born over the past year, I take personal pleasure that one of those babies is my grandson. I take further pleasure that another is on the way.

Yes, the country can feel proud of its inventions and innovations from hi-tech to Smart Mobility but this Independence Day, I reflect on our successes in the baby manufacturing business that all Israelis are super active in.

Be Fruitful and Multiply. Israelis delight in fulfilling the divine injunction from Genesis.

What can bring more delight that looking upon these  ‘products’ in nappies under the ‘blue and white’ brand:

“Made in Israel”!




While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO)

Decked out in Blue and White

By Rolene Marks

I love this time of the year in Israel. The country is transformed into a blue and white celebration as the roads are lined and national buildings festooned with Israeli flags. There is a festive atmosphere as many decorate their balconies and cars with flags and of course, barbeques are sold out – all in preparation for the national holidays, Yom Hazikaron (Memorial Day) and Yom Ha’atzmaut (Independence Day).

This year as the country starts to recover from the global pandemic we are acutely aware of all that has been lost.  The feeling of celebration is a lot more subdued and pensive this year, many still fearful to gather in large groups but also immense gratitude that we are coming out of this difficult year – and for our world leading vaccination rollout.

This year our beloved country turns 73. Israel is several thousand years old but the modern state was founded in 1948. She wears the lines of her history with grace and integrity and a cheeky sense of humour. At times this is punctuated with a deep sadness and if you look a little closer, sometimes you can see a tear in her eyes.

It is no coincidence that the national holidays fall very closely to each other.  It was intended that way so we are aware of the price that we have paid to have this country. We are reminded of the pain of our past and the sacrifices of the many that ensure that we continue to live in our vibrant but flawed democracy. There is nothing Israelis value more than life and this is demonstrated with such heart around these holidays.

This week we commemorate Yom Hazikaron – Memorial Day for soldiers and victims of terror followed the next day by Yom Ha’atzmaut, Independence Day. Last year, Israelis like many around the world were in lock down and this placed a heavy burden on bereaved families who were unable to visit the graves of the loved ones. Thank goodness this year, we have the go ahead to visit cemeteries and to have gatherings to celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut. We can return to our favourite national pastime (besides engaging in robust argument!) – the barbeque.

 This Yom Hazikaron we will mourn 23 928 who have fallen in defense of the state and hundreds of victims of terror. Every year, we immerse ourselves in remembering the lives that we have lost but also gratitude for their service. Their names; and the names of the wars and operations are etched in memory – the War of Independence, the Six Day War, the Yom Kippur War, the wars with Lebanon, Operation Cast Lead and the many others.

Their names are seared in our hearts.

And there are those whose names we will never know but whose valiant acts of bravery are the reasons that we enjoy the freedoms that we do.

At 20h00 a mournful siren will announce the start of Yom Hazikaron, followed by a ceremony at The Kotel (Wailing Wall) in Jerusalem. The time for remembrance and reflection begins.

Yom Hazikaron inspires in us a sense of awe and creates an incredible sense of solidarity amongst Jews around the world, but it is here in Israel where the emotions are seriously heightened. Our soldiers are not uniformed strangers who serve, but our children, spouses, colleagues, parents, friends and lovers.

They are the people we love.

Yom Hazikaron is also a day of gratitude. Few words can express how grateful we are for all who protect us on land, sea and air. Our brave warriors, these lions of Zion are our guardians and protectors. We are proud of them; we embrace them, and we love them.

There is nothing more important to Israelis than life. We revere it and we revel in it. And it is on this solemn and heartbreaking day that we are reminded of its fragility.

And then the whole mood of the country changes from one of somber memorial to that of celebration!

From the north to the south and everywhere in between, Israelis begin to celebrate!

One of the most special moments is the annual fly over of the IAF featuring planes throughout our history. This is a highly anticipated annual event and this year will be viewed with a lot more excitement and sentimentality because it couldn’t happen last year.

On this 73rd year of Israel’s Independence we have much to celebrate. Extraordinary achievements, historical peace deals, triumph over adversity and the temerity to face our ongoing challenges with the strength and gusto that has come to characterize the Israeli spirit.

We will continue to wear our blue and white with pride!

Am Yisrael Chai!







While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO)

New Land, New Life – Making it in Modiin – Part 2

Aliyah – immigrating to Israel –  is increasingly  on the radar of Jews around the world. In this the second of a  2-part ‘Aliya on the Agenda?’ series, Shelley Berman  relates her experiences in the transition from Glenhazel in South Africa to Modiin in Israel.

(Part 1 – Aliyah on the Agenda?)

We approached the whole investigation with a positive determination to find a way. In terms of practicalities, one important change was that after three visits to our children here, things were much more familiar. I was no longer so afraid of the change. I was overcoming my fear of the unknown.

Upon our return to South Africa, things moved at lightning speed. Before we had even had a serious discussion between ourselves about when or how to market and sell our home in Glenhazel, word was out in our community that we were making Aliyah, and within a week our home was sold to the daughter of an acquaintance.

The planning was exhausting and draining, both physically and emotionally. Clearing out and packing up our possessions was an arduous task, but we tackled it with the same precision that we tackled everything else. List  after list was drawn up, and all the admin of tying up our affairs was dealt with.

The 29th of December 2018 is a day that will be forever etched in my memory; the day that I left South Africa, my homeland, the land of my birth. It was with such a heavy heart that we bade farewell to family and friends. A very difficult goodbye was to my mother-in-law, who was in the Jewish old-age home in Johannesburg.

But the hardest of all was to our son and daughter-in-law and their children. By then they had been blessed with twins, and saying goodbye to those children before leaving for the airport was just gut-wrenching. Our final moments at the airport saw the four of us clinging to each other in an embrace that I wanted to never end, and left us running for the boarding gate in a haze of tears, literally at the last minute. It is my fervent hope that at some time in the future, they will decide that Aliyah is on their agenda too.

From Glenhazel to Modiin

The morning of Sunday 30 December 2018 dawned bright and clear as we disembarked at Ben Gurion Airport. My heartbreak and sadness lifted as I felt such enormous pride stepping onto Israeli soil. As a staunch Zionist ever since I was a teenager, this was, in its own way, a dream come true.

As we walked into the airport, we saw a familiar face standing and holding a sign that read “BERMAN FAMILY”, and my heart soared. Telfed – South African Zionist Federation in Israel – had notified us that he would be there to welcome us, and had sent me his picture in advance. What a thoughtful and helpful gesture that was!

Red Carpet. Ian and Shelley Berman are welcomed at the airport by Avraham (left)  – the representative from Telfed and the Jewish Agency – who guided them through all the bureaucracy.

Avraham guided us through all the bureaucracy at the airport, and we exited Ben Gurion as Israeli citizens, with our temporary Israeli Identity Documents and an envelope of cash given to us by the Israeli government. My sense of gratitude was, and still is, immense. I soon realised that our whole Aliyah journey would become a journey of gratitude.

We soon settled into life in Modiin. My daughter had found an apartment for us to rent, and we had signed the lease, trusting her judgment. It is a lovely apartment, and perfect for our needs. My daughter and son-in-law have been a solid rock of support to us. I am so grateful to them, not only for being there for us every step of the way, but for being the trail blazers who led us to take this journey.

With their help within the first few weeks, we had set up and moved into our apartment, and dealt with all of the bureaucratic red-tape that goes with making Aliyah. So many people had ‘warned’ us about how difficult it all is, and how we should expect problems here, there and everywhere. Nothing could have been further from the truth.

Fell into Step

Every step of the way, we found people to be helpful, obliging and caring. We were welcomed and congratulated as new olim (immigrants), wherever we went. Every government department that we visited ran like a well-oiled machine. This was so refreshing for us, coming from a place where those offices are notoriously inefficient and unhelpful.

Of course, the language was a challenge, but we managed to get by with my imperfect Hebrew. We were pleasantly surprised to discover that most Israelis do speak at least some English, and in all government offices we were able to find someone who could help us in English when my Hebrew couldn’t cut it.

It only took a few weeks before we had received our permanent ID cards and drivers’ licences, and we had bought a car. Now, it’s all very well to have a car and a valid licence, but you may be wondering about the actual reality of driving here. Well, more about that later.

Certified Smiling Israelis. Newly arrived South Africans proudly flash at Ben Gurion Airport their temporary Israeli  ID documents on the path to receiving passports.

Things were going so well for us when we got a shattering phone call. My husband’s mother was seriously ill. We booked tickets and boarded a flight the next morning. Who would have believed that we would be winging our way back to Johannesburg, just four weeks after leaving?

Sadly, we lost our beloved Bobba Ros three days after we arrived. My husband sat shiva (week long mourning) with his siblings, and we returned to Israel enveloped in grief. This loss was a very hard aspect of our Aliyah. We had not yet found a shul that we felt we could call our own when my husband now needed a daily minyan (quorum of 10 Jewish adults). It was so hard for him to tackle this, and he had to do it alone.

Life  soon settled into a routine, and we felt calm and happy. Ulpan was going well, and we were both improving our Hebrew. Our grandsons were nearby, and our daughter was expecting her third child.

Walk in the Park. The Bermans with their grandkids in a local park in Modiin.

On Track

I found a part-time job teaching English at a school in Tel-Aviv, in a maternity replacement position. This was an eye-opener for me. Israeli teenagers are very far removed from what I was used to. But it was a great experience. The school was lovely, and my colleagues were very helpful.

Dealing with the Israeli Ministry of Education was a challenge, but eventually I was able to get my degrees recognised and I was so proud to be working and earning, only ten weeks into our Aliyah journey.

Taking the train to Tel-Aviv to go to work was such a treat for me. Israelis complain about the public transport system. They should only know how good they have it here. I still marvel at the efficiency and  the safety of the trains.

Getting crushed in the crowds on the station platform, and walking through the streets of Tel Aviv among the throngs of Israelis  – all talking on their cell phones  – made me so proud and happy to be a part of this society. This aspect of my day, which so many consider to be drudgery, gave me so much pleasure.

I was working three days a week, and going to ulpan (school for intensive study of Hebrew) twice a week, when I saw an ad for English teachers at an adult English school in Modiin. I sent them my CV, and they called me to invite me to an interview. After a lengthy interview process, I got the job.

Deciding Destiny. Only three months in Israel, new immigrants Ian and Shelley at a voting station in Modiin about to vote in a national election.

So now I was working three days a week in Tel Aviv, going to ulpan two mornings a week, and teaching English to adults three evenings a week. I was also, and still am, a very involved and dedicated Bobba, and spend as much time as possible with my precious grandchildren. (Our Israeli granddaughter was born six months after our arrival, and BH the three children keep us on our toes). I suppose you could say that I was very busy. But I was loving every minute of it.

The temporary school job soon came to an end, and life settled into a very comfortable routine. My work teaching adults was very satisfying, and I was really happy there. In terms of convenience, the school is in the mall, right opposite our apartment, so I couldn’t ask for more.

Towards the end of our first year, my husband was lucky to find a job that he really enjoys. He has a background in the retail world, and found a job at Superpharm, also in the mall. He is happy there, and we count our blessings that he found a job without too much difficulty. Many of the predictors of ‘doom and gloom’ led us to believe that it would be almost impossible for him to find work, because of his age and his lack of Hebrew. Thankfully, this was not the case at all.

Modiin Mall. The Azrieli Mall in Modiin where both Ian and the writer have found employment.

Shul and Socialising

One of the bigger challenges that we faced was finding a shul (synagogue) with a community where we would fit in. We came from a small, close-knit community in Johannesburg, where our shul was almost like an extension of our home, our community like family. We knew that we would never be able to replace this in Israel, and it remains a challenge for us. However, we have  joined a shul, an Anglo community in Modiin, where we feel really comfortable, even though most of the members are a lot younger than us. We were just starting to really enjoy shul, when Corona became the buzz-word and attending shul has become a distant memory. I really hope that we will be able to return to shul soon, as this is an important element to integrating as olim (new immigrants), and being accepted socially.

One of my biggest fears was my concern about making friends and building a social life. We knew exactly one other couple here (who have become good friends). While I was never a social butterfly, I do have numerous very close friends who have been my friends for many years. While they will always be irreplaceable in my life, I am also so grateful to the people who reached out and extended a hand of friendship to us here. We have been very lucky to build up a nice circle of good friends in Modiin, but Corona has made it difficult to cement new friendships. Please G-d, now that we have all been vaccinated, we will be able to start socialising again soon. 

Shades of South Africa.  In a familiar culinary posture,  Ian is ‘braaiing’ (barbecuing)  on his balcony in Modiin on Yom Ha’atzmaut. (Independence Day 2020)

Of course, shul and socialising are not the only aspects of our lives that have been affected by Corona. In March 2020, I was put on Halat, another buzz-word. Basically, unpaid leave. While I am still officially employed, I have not been working since the start of the pandemic.

Once again, I am deeply grateful to the State of Israel, for the incredible assistance offered through Bituach Leumi, or National Insurance. Registering with them and submitting my unemployment claim was a huge operation, but, with the help of my brother (who made Aliyah thirty years ago), fluent in Hebrew and familiar with the system, this too was overcome.

I have always been a busy, active person. I have always worked. It is not in my nature to sit around and do nothing. I have tried dabbling in a bit of content-writing, and would love to build up a practice for extra English lessons. It is my fervent wish that I will be able to get back to work soon. Now that the vaccination campaign is well under way, hopefully Burlington English will be allowed to reopen and I can go back to the job that I love.

Icing on the Cake. December 2020 saw the Bermans celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary in Israel.

Shot in the Arm

Which brings me to yet another aspect of life as an Israeli for which I am deeply grateful. Vaccinations! I am proud to say, ‘Gam Ani Hitchasanti’, I have also been vaccinated. Nowhere else in the world would I have been amongst the very first group of people to be invited by my healthcare provider to have the vaccine.

Our healthcare provider proved another eye-opener. As South Africans, we were used to paying huge sums of money every month for private medical insurance. Sadly, it is a country where private health insurance is a necessity, not a luxury. We still marvel at the world class medical care available to us here, for a very small contribution. Sure, the Hebrew does sometimes make it daunting, and a little difficult to navigate the system, but we manage. And there is always help available if you need it.

When it comes to all the officialdom and red-tape, if you are really stuck and need help, the ladies at the Olim centre in Modiin are wonderful. I have reached out to them on a few occasions, and they are always willing to help.

In the Driver’s Seat

Unfortunately, the one difficulty that nobody could help me to overcome, was my fear of driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road. This was something that I had to tackle all on my own, and I did. I never used to be a nervous driver. In Johannesburg, with some of the notoriously worst taxi drivers in the world, I drove without hesitation. I zapped around in my little car with the utmost confidence.

Sea Breeze. Closer to the sea than they were living in Johannesburg, “Modiinics” Shelley and Ian enjoying a night out at the Hertzliya Marina.

Do I now feel the same way here? No! But I am getting there. It has taken practice and perseverance, and I’m pleased to say that I can take myself wherever I need to go. But do I enjoy driving here? Suffice it to say that I could probably write a book entitled “101 Reasons Why I Don’t Like Driving In Israel.”

Thankfully, the aspects of life in Israel that I don’t like are few and far between, and insignificant in the big scheme of things. I have been cooking for forty years, but had never cooked on gas before. It took a lot of getting used to, and I still don’t like it, but I deal with it.

The water is so different. It is much harder, and is filled with minerals. The kettle gets all gunky and has to be descaled regularly, while the dishwasher leaves horrible streaks on everything. In the winter, everything is Wet Wet Wet, and I’m NOT referring to the popular soft rock band. Hang up your towel after your shower. Tomorrow night it will still be damp, while the mould spores are growing prolifically on the bathroom ceiling.

These are minor irritations. You get used to them. You learn to adapt. Yes, even I, so resistant to change, have learned to adapt. When I consider the bigger picture, I have so much to be grateful for. Over the last two years, there has not been a single day when I have questioned or doubted our decision to make Israel our home.

Face the Music

I have recently discovered the music of the late Tom Petty. When I listened to the album, Wildflowers, there were three songs with lines that spoke to me, that could in fact have been written for me and my Aliyah journey.

You belong somewhere you feel free”. For me, this is Modiin, Eretz Yisrael. To have the freedom to go out for a walk alone, late at night, without fear of being attacked; to see my grandchildren riding their bikes freely through the streets, with gay abandon; to live in a home with one lock on the front door, with no security gate, no alarm, and no electric fence; you cannot put a price on such freedom!

Aliyah is not for the faint-hearted. I will never make light of the enormity of the undertaking. It is without a doubt the most difficult thing I have ever done. But, to quote Tom Petty again:

 “What lies ahead, I have no way of knowing” But….

I’m not afraid anymore!”

Belonging in Israel. The lyrics by Tom Petty of the Heartbreakers that so resonated with the writer.





(Part 1 – Aliyah on the Agenda?)



About the Writer:

Shelley Berman and her husband, Ian, made Aliyah from South Africa in December 2018. She has always been a staunch Zionist with a strong love for Israel. With a degree in English and an English teacher by profession, she is passionate about education. She has also always loved writing, and has worked as a content writer. She is dedicated to her family, and is a proud mother and grandmother.





While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO)

Aliyah on the Agenda?

Aliyah – immigrating to Israel –  is increasingly  on the radar of Jews around the world. Whether excited to be living in a thriving Jewish state, being a part of the “Start-Up Nation” at the cutting edge of the sciences and medicine, or as parents joining one’s kids and grandkids, folks are moving to Israel for a variety of – positive – reasons.

In a two part series, Shelley Berman from Johannesburg relates her thought process and experiences of the transition from Glenhazel to Modiin.


Part 1:

Leaving Glenhazel

By Shelley Berman

Aliyah? On my agenda? NEVER!

Or at least, that’s what I thought, until April 2016. But allow me to introduce myself and give you some background. I am Johannesburg born, a 60-something mother of two, grandmother of six, English teacher and writer.

My husband, Ian, and I were in our mid-to-late fifties, happily married for about 35 years, with two married children and two grandchildren. We were very comfortable in our secure (or rather, what we perceived to be secure) suburban life in Glenhazel, Johannesburg.

Family Ties

We had everything that we thought we needed: our children and grandchildren nearby, a very close extended family of siblings, nephews and nieces, a lovely home, good jobs, a warm community, and good friends.

Thank G-d we both enjoyed good health and were quite content with our lives and comfortable lifestyle. Aliyah, or any form of emigration, had never crossed our minds, was something that we had never considered, and that only other people did.

That is, until our daughter and son-in-law announced that they were going to be those other people. The rumblings first started one shabbat afternoon in early 2016, when we were having a general family discussion about emigration. I could see which way the wind was blowing in their minds, and fear gripped my heart.

The thought of my two precious grandsons being taken away from me made my blood run cold. I retreated to the bedroom and couldn’t face the rest of the conversation. I adopted an ostrich attitude, kind of like, if I don’t hear them talking about it, then it’s not happening.

But, as the weeks wore on, the rumblings became more of a constant topic of conversation, until they announced that they were going on a pilot trip, an exploratory mission to see if they could make this work.

Leaving their 18 month old and almost 3 year old boys with us for ten days, they went off to explore Israel, and the opportunities ‘She’ could offer them.

Emotional Roller-coaster

They came back with stars (of David) in their eyes, passionate about their decision to make a new life for themselves and their young family in Modiin, Israel. They started planning for a January 2017 departure, and begged me and my husband to join them on this adventure.

To say that this was a terrifying time for us would be to completely understate the emotions that were raging through me. To be parted from my beloved daughter and grandsons? Unthinkable!

But, on the other hand, to accompany them and, in the process, abandon my other child, my son and daughter-in-law, who at the time were going through their own challenges with trying to start a family? Equally unthinkable!

However, we decided to keep an open mind and go on a pilot trip ourselves, thinking that it would empower us to at least make an informed decision.

In July we took a trip to Israel. We rented a small apartment in Modiin for ten days, and made lots of appointments to see people whom we thought would be in a position to advise us.

Majestic Modiin. Once the place of the ancient Maccabees, the  city of Modiin today where Ian and Shelley Berman have joined their daughter and her family.

Sadly, this trip was not a success. The people we met with were mostly unhelpful and very negative, giving us the impression that this would be a bad move for us, and leaving us feeling quite hopeless that we could make it work.

How wrong they were!

If only I had known it at the time, we did not choose the right people to advise us. From a so-called financial advisor to a recruitment agent, to a realtor, they all only served to amplify and exacerbate my fears.

Fears of what, exactly?

Well, really, of everything related to Aliyah. But primarily, fear of financial insecurity, of parting from all my loved ones in South Africa, of the physical hardship of such a massive move, and the enormous fear of change.

We returned from that pilot trip totally deflated and deeply sad. Our babies would be leaving us, and we were utterly bereft at the thought of being parted from them. But we knew that we just had to accept the situation.

January 2017 came faster than we could have imagined. When Juliet said to Romeo, “Parting is such sweet sorrow”, she lied! There was nothing sweet about this parting. It felt like my heart was being ripped out. I was enveloped in a shroud of sorrow that lasted for weeks.

But my children were happy, and that is really what every mother wants for her children. Somehow, motherhood gives you the ability to overcome your own heartache by putting your children’s needs above your own.

We paid them our first visit over Pesach 2017, just three months after they had left. We could already see on that trip how they were starting to settle down and were enjoying life as Israelis in their homeland. We had a wonderful two weeks with them, and came again in December of that year.

A Walk in the Park. The local park in Modiin where the Bermans love to walk and have fun with their grandkids.

By that stage, we were becoming more familiar with Modiin, and were realising more and more just how much we loved Israel in general, and Modiin in particular. But nothing had changed in terms of our personal perspective.

Until April 2018. We were on our third visit, this time over Pesach (I had actually started a small home-based business to help to fund frequent trips to Israel, which thank G-d was doing very nicely). Pesach in Israel was so special. On this trip we finally concluded that this was the place we wanted to call ‘home’.

Aliyah was now seriously back on our agenda. We set up many meetings, this time with people who were better qualified and informed to advise and guide us, and by the time we stepped on the plane to go home, the decision had been made. We knew that our next trip would be on a one-way ticket.

So many people have asked me what, in fact, had changed that made us realise that Aliyah could actually work out. There is no definitive answer to that question, other than our attitude. On our original pilot trip, we came with an attitude of “Oh well, let’s see if there’s any chance that we could do this.”

I realise now that that was the wrong attitude. By April 2018, we knew that we had to find a way to make it work. Our approach changed from ‘Let’s see IF this can work’ to rather thinking ‘Let’s figure out HOW  this can work’.

“We are Home”. After collecting their baggage, Israel’s newest immigrants , Ian and Shelley Berman are welcomed by their daughter and grandkids holding up an Israeli flag.




About the Writer:

Shelley Berman and her husband, Ian, made Aliyah from South Africa in December 2018. She has always been a staunch Zionist with a strong love for Israel. With a degree in English and an English teacher by profession, she is passionate about education. She has also always loved writing, and has worked as a content writer. She is dedicated to her family, and is a proud mother and grandmother.



While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO)

From Ben to Charlie

A saga of ships and the men who ‘sailed’ into modern day Israeli history

By David E. Kaplan

I sat enthralled listening to a recent webinar on the globally popular “Lockdown University” – born out of the Covid-19 pandemic  – on Ben Hecht, the famed Jewish American screenwriter, director, producer, playwright, journalist, and novelist.

Ben Hecht. The American screenwriter, director, producer, playwright, journalist and novelist who went on to write 35 books and some of the most entertaining screenplays and plays in America.

It was interesting to learn that his indifference to Jewish issues changed when he met Hillel Kook, also known as Peter Bergson, who was drumming up American assistance for the Zionist group, Irgun. Hecht wrote in his book, Perfidy, that he used to be a scriptwriter until his meeting with Bergson, when “I accidentally bumped into history” – that is, the burning need to do anything possible to save the doomed Jews of Europe.

Golden Boy. Ben Hecht was a master of cinema’s golden age as well a writer on the world’s blackest age  penning articles and plays about the plight of European Jews, such as ‘We Will Never Die’  and ‘A Flag is Born’.

He did!

When our superb lecturer Trudy Gold mentioned that following Hecht’s support for a Jewish State through his writing, noting that the proceeds of his successful play  “A Flag is Born”  – dealing with the subject of illegal immigration and the fight against the British – were used to help purchase a ship to support that cause and was named the S.S. Ben Hecht, I suddenly recollected a South African connection.

The Stage is Set. Bringing the cause of the Jewish state to the hearts and minds of Americans. New York City opening of Ben Hecht’s A Flag is Born at the Alvin Playhouse

Back in 1996, I interviewed a former South African in Israel who served on that vessel during Israel’s 1948 War of Independence. His name was Charlie Mandelstam.

On deck of the SS Ben Hecht was a world away both geographically and atmospherically from Charlie’s small agricultural hometown of Standerton on the Vaal River, east of Johannesburg. He came from neither a Zionist nor a religious background, but Charlie too was about to “bump into history” when “my older brother and I started reading in the press about the Jewish struggle in Palestine – it fascinated us. We both felt that the creation of a State of Israel was vital and that our family should be represented in the struggle. We had both served in WWII, me in the navy but this was now personal. Only one of us could go as someone had to stay with our widowed mother and run the family furniture business. At that time, all I was interested in was golf and girls and I certainly didn’t want the responsibility of running a business, so I volunteered.”

A young Charlie Mandelstam serving on the convoys off the east coast of Africa during WWII.

If Charlie had seen little action  on his convoy runs between Mombasa, Madagascar and the Seychelles during WWII, that would not be the case in his next war. It was the end of June 1948, and Charlie had only been in Israel for ten days when below deck on his first ship – the Eilat –  an ex-American ice-breaker that had been converted to bring across illegal immigrants – Holocaust survivors from Europe –  and then turned into a patrol boat, he suddenly heard the rat-a-tat-tat of gunfire above as three Egyptian spitfires staffed the upper deck and the bridge.

Here I was, my first day in the Israeli navy, and a fellow shipmate lay dead on the deck!”

A short while later, Charlie was transferred to a sub-chaser – the S.S. Ben Hecht. “It was only called a subchaser because it was the only ship with radar” explained Charlie, “but it didn’t have any anti-submarine equipment.”

Ready for War.  A new ‘chapter’ for the Ben Hecht now recommissioned to patrol Israel’s coastline.

It has an interesting and intriguing history before Charlie graced its deck.

Built originally as a private yacht by the German firm Krupp, it changed hands and was used, at one time, to smuggle the gold of the Republican Government from Spain to Mexico, shortly before its fall in the Spanish Civil War.  Later, it was acquired by the US Navy and used as a coastal patrol vessel until 1946 when it was purchased by a company serving as a façade for the “American League for a Free Palestine”, an organization that was connected to the Revisionist Movement. It was then that the ship was re-named for the author and screenwriter Ben Hecht who was active in Revisionist circles and financed  the purchase of the ship from the proceeds  of “A Flag is Born”.

The March to Independence. Ben Hecht’s ‘A Flag is Born’  advocated the creation of a homeland for the Jewish people in the ancient Land of Israel.

Ben Hecht vs Emir Farouk

On March 1st, 1948, the Ben Hecht sailed from Port de Bouc, France, carrying 626 Ma’apilim (Jews who illegally immigrated to British controlled Palestine in the 1930s and 1940s – known as Aliyah Bet)·. The crew of 18 was made up – for the most part – of American volunteers and when the vessel was close to Palestine, it was intercepted by two British destroyers, towed to Haifa, and the Ma’apilim transferred to an internment camp in Cyprus.

Bound for Palestine. Two child refugees aboard the SS Ben Hecht that will be intercepted by the British and its passengers interned in Cyprus. ( Courtesy the Institute for Mediterranean Affairs).

The crew was imprisoned by the British authorities in Acre Prison, and assisted in the preparations for the famous Acre Prison break.

The S.S. Ben Hecht would know greater success in the next chapter of its history with the young South African on board although Charlie relates the famed incident that followed with humour in keeping with his colourful personality.

An American friend of mine aboard the ship got the address of some girls from Ma’agan Michael who were stationed in Rehovot. We got to know them and they used to tease us, “You guys came all the way from the States and South Africa to have a good time sailing between Haifa and Gaza! Why don’t you join a fighting unit?” Soon after there was the famous incident where four speedboats, three of them homemade kamikaze torpedo boats, were launched from our ship – the Ben Hecht. When they got close to the Emir Farouk the Egyptian flagship and an accompanying minesweeper anchored outside Tel Aviv harbor trying to prevent Israel from rearming by sea, our guys jumped safely into the water, and the torpedo boats exploded on impact, sinking both enemy ships. Although the sinking of the Farouk was Israel’s most dramatic naval victory in the War of Independence, all I really saw of the whole thing was the explosion in the distance from on board our ship. However we couldn’t rush fast enough to tell the girls of how we sank the enemy ships. Well, how they laughed at us. It turned out that the guys who had actually been on the torpedo speedboats were friends of theirs from their Kibbutz – Ma’agan Michael.”

Israel Strikes at Sea. The Emir Farouk, the flagship of the Egyptian navy before Israel’s attack off the coast of Tel Aviv.

Charlie would find his “girl” after the war on moshav Habonim where many his shipmates and other South Africans had settled.  “I used to work in the fields and brought feed for the dairy. Lucy used to milk the cows early in the morning. She wore shorts and I couldn’t help notice her legs. They were beautiful; they still are,” he said chuckling. Charlie married Lucy and eventually left the Moshav in 1960 and taking a job as the coach of the newly opened Caesarea golf course, despite his mother’s reservations:

 ‘Fun golf ken men machen a leben ?’ (From golf can you make a living?”)

Charlie remained there for the next 35 years.

Life after War. Looking ever so debonair,  Charlie Mandelstam at home on Moshav Habonim.

Over those years, many of the golfers, Charlie rubbed shoulders with either on the course or on the ‘19th hole’  included Danny Kaye, Kirk Douglas, Frank Sinatra, Sean Connery, Micky Rooney, Peter Lawford and Zubin Mehta. Charlie related  a game he played with US diplomats, Asst. Secretary of State Joseph J. Sisco,  whose career in the State Department spanned five presidential administrations and who played a major role in Secretary of State Henry Kissinger‘s shuttle diplomacy in the Middle East and Alfred Atherton, who helped in the negotiations that led to the 1978 Camp David peace accords between Israel and Egypt.

Astute diplomats, they could plot the course of the political destiny of nations but on a golf course, Charlie was frank:

 “they were poor golfers!”

The night following the game, “I got a phone call from Ted Lurie the then editor of The Jerusalem Post asking what the scores were. I politely skirted the question. That Sunday, the paper ran a piece about Sisco and Atherton playing the local pro, Charlie Mandelstam who wouldn’t divulge the scores. On Monday, I received a call from Joseph Sisco telling me he had just called Abba Eban suggesting he recruit me into the diplomatic corps.”

Down to a ‘Tee’. (L-r) At a 1963 exhibition round at Caesarea – Rex Moss, club champion, Isabel Blumberg, two times South African woman’s champion and club champion; Herman Barra, most famous Jewish golfer and world senior champion and Charlie Mandelstam, club pro.
 

Charlie Mandelstam from Standerton, South Africa came to patrol Israel’s shores, but stayed captivated  by the land and its people, and of course, “a fine pair of legs!”










While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO)

Nhonho and Nomsa

By Martine Alperstein

A few days ago I had a really lovely zoom call with Nomvuyo, known by most as Nhonho (pronounced Nono). Nhonho is a very dedicated and pious Christian, and Zionist. Her love for Israel and the Jewish people is incredible. It was a lovely conversation, and hopefully the first of many.

I was born and raised in Cape Town, South Africa right in the middle of the apartheid era.

We were a regular middle class traditional Jewish family and we had (what in those days was called) a maid. Her name is Nomalizo Priscilla Zonke, Mama Zonke to her church, but we called her Priscilla. Priscilla had a husband, Elliot, one son, Theophelus and three daughters – Sylvia, Cynthia and Henrietta.         

When I was about 11, Priscilla came to tell us that she was leaving. She had decided to go back upcountry to the Ciskei, to build a house in the village where she came from. I was heartbroken. Literally sobbed for weeks.

Writer’s mother Vivienne Maron with Priscilla Mama Zonke

We lost touch for a few years. We had no way to keep in touch while she was in the Ciskei.

And then one day about five years later, Priscilla got in touch with my Mom. I don’t remember the details but she came back to help us three days a week. I was ecstatic. It was during this time that I really got to know Priscilla. We would talk for hours, and hours. She taught me so much. She was super smart, super intuitive and super forward thinking. Her religion and her G-d meant everything to her. As did her family. She was super proud of her daughters, and of her grandchildren. Her son, unfortunately, passed away young from an illness.  And she loved and adored me as much as I did her.  She named me NOMSA.

Priscilla Mama Zonke

Twenty-three years ago I made Aliyah (immigrated to Israel). My parents joined me just under three years later and my brothers both moved to Johannesburg. Priscilla and I kept in touch over the years. I would call her every few months. When I got married, she travelled from Cape Town to Johannesburg to celebrate with us. She was my 2nd mother.

And then one day, her phone number was out of order. I kept trying to call her but to no avail! Eventually, one day about three years later, the phone rang and someone answered. I was super excited only to be told that I had called the number of a shop.  The number I had was no longer hers!  I kept trying every phone number that I had. No luck.

Fast forward a few years to April 2020.

I see a DM in my messenger inbox from someone named Thandi Hlobo. I had no clue who it was and normally I would just delete the message without reading it, assuming it was spam.

But something made me read the message and jumped up shrieking with excitement.

Thandi Hlobo

I knew Thandi Hlobo. I knew her well.

I knew her as Sylvia Zonke, Priscilla’s oldest daughter.  Priscilla had moved in with her during the lockdown and they were chatting about us. Thandi decided to look for me on Facebook, found me and sent me a message. We quickly moved to WhatsApp messenger and video calls. Thank G-d Priscilla is doing well and keeping safe and healthy. I have since also connected with two of Priscilla’s grandchildren who I knew as little kids.

Priscilla Mama Zonke

Thandi and I started talking a lot. She is religious. She is pious. And she is an ardent Zionist. We have had some very interesting conversations. Thandi recently reached out to me, telling me that her friend Nhonho would like to connect with me, and asked if it would be okay to give her my number.  Nhonho got in touch and we arranged a time to talk over zoom.  And talk we did.

Nomvuyo (Nhonho)

Nhonho wants to start the conversation. She just wants to talk. We have to start somewhere and with what we have.  The bridges will be built slowly. We have set up a weekly call, which I am already looking forward to. Respectful dialogue to learn from each other, to discuss differences and similarities, to learn to trust. Nhonho is a Black African Christian Zionist and I am a White ex South African Israeli Religious Jew. We can only start small with us.

But as we all know the power of a butterfly’s wings, maybe us will be enough.

Nomvuyo (Nhonho) (R) chatting with the writer, Martine Alperstein Maron (Nomsa) (L)





About the writer:

Martine Maron Alperstein made aliyah from Cape Town 21yrs ago. She currently resides in Modiin with her husband, kids and kitty cats.










While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO)

Weathering the Storm

By Gabi Crouse

Just about everything you read these days is corona-related. There are a million articles by know-it-all’s suggesting “5 ways to keep fit during Corona” or “How Corona saved my marriage” and I’ve even seen one titled “Corona and the great depression”.

Really?

Let’s not kid ourselves, nothing in our lives has not been affected by this pandemic and anything you read will somehow relate to the upside down world that has now become the ‘norm’ – including this article!

Allow me to reflect on some of my observations as a mother, employee and an Olah (“immigrant”).

The Mask Mistaker!

So, the first thing I need to say about all this is that I have accepted that ‘Karen’ is my new nemesis. For the sake of clarity I will admit that I’m not so brazen to be above wearing a mask. Of course I’m not – I wear my mask! On the contrary, I have mastered the choreographed new corona dance called “Oy, I forgot my mask!” The steps are easy: it’s a brisk three-step forward – quick left spin with a simultaneous perfectly timed slap on the forehead – back three steps into the house. That’s it!!! In fact any idiot can do this dance – and often does.

As I was saying regarding the Karens of the world – you know who they are – the power trippers that seem to have nothing better to do than wield their power over suspected corona carriers. They seek out to destroy the slightly falling-off-the-bridge-of-the-nose’ mask wearer. Heaven forbid your nose sticks out by mistake!

So whenever I encounter one of these ‘police’, I take full advantage of my hidden mouth and I spew forth a few profanities that I know they can’t see. Although the eye-roll is a little harder to disguise.

‘Lift’ the rules?

One of Karen’s many duties includes being the bouncer to entrances to stores. This, you should know, is not an easy job. She has to count the amount of people entering and leaving the store as to keep the 2 meters distance between shoppers. Then by waving her magic thermometer-charged wand, allows/denies entry.

Put Your Mask Where Your Mouth Is. Jerusalemites at the Mamilla Mall near Jerusalem’s Old City on June 4, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

My confusion comes in when all shopping is said and done, and we gather round the elevator – or lifts. I have noticed that most people don’t seem to be as enthusiastic as Karen. Everyone squeezes into that small space and I just know that good old ‘Rona’ rubs hands together relishing at the all-you-can-infect buffet.

In those situations, I don’t need Karen to remind me to lift my mask!

Inspector Zoom

It’s easy enough to laugh at these idiosyncrasies, but when it comes to the education of our children, or lack thereof, the situation becomes less humorous. What does make tears roll down my cheeks (maybe laughing / maybe crying / perhaps both) is the amount of pressure applied on parents, students and teachers. Parents who work full time jobs with homes to run, now find they have a new role. I, for one, do not remember applying for position of teacher/principal/personal assistant. It is not a job I want or am

qualified to do! Besides that, I am not pro pro-bono work! And I am still expected to pay school fees.

Accepting my fate though, I decided to be the best I can be under the circumstances. I printed out forthcoming schedules, set up work-stations for each of my non-obliging students and ensured they each had what they needed. I was ready … I was so ready!!! The cables, the work stations, the time slots for each child who share one laptop and the time prep for food breaks etc. Boy was I ready. This quickly faded.

Once the group chats started firing away like explosions of the 4th of July, my head began to spin. I know I must have reprinted those schedules a hundred time before I finally gave up and left them to stew for a while on my desktop folder.

Some of the WhatsApp groups look like this: ‘Tap this link for this week’s schedule’, followed by ‘no sorry, this one’, then a new one the following week. Then this ‘teacher may not be available today’ and we are sorry but ‘we’re experiencing technical issues’ followed by ‘this class to reschedule in place of the other one’. It’s frenzied. And that is just for one of my children! Did I mention that these are in a language foreign to me and I spend my life jumping to google translate?

It’s one thing to be on top of class schedules for the day but it’s a whole different story getting your students to comply. Some children – God bless them – are willing participants but there are other kinds of children also.

A Student unto Himself

Appealing to the other kind of student with bribery negotiations, warnings and scary face tactics become less and less affective and rewarding for good behavior becomes nonsensical – leaving us parents feeling pretty hopeless. Why? To threaten with punishment or offer a reward is a double edge sward!

What’s the leverage?

What do kids want these days? Screen time, junk food and hanging out with their friends.

If you don’t do your school work, I’ll take away the phone/screen… wait what? That’s not going to work out too well – they need those.

Alternatively, I’m not thrilled by the idea of offering more screen time as a reward all the school screen time. Junk food so they can get sugar highs and crash while sitting at their screens? I think not. And as for friends during lock-down? Poor kids – they lose all round.

Shush! Daddy Needs to Focus. Managing the kids and work at home.

On a more serious note, kids have borne the brunt of the situation from all sides. However, if a positive is to be found, the kids have had to become self-reliant and assume responsibilities. They have had to take ownership of their own education in a lot of ways. This is at best very overwhelming and even more so for olim chadashim (new immigrants) who have yet to come to grips with Hebrew.

For example: each of my children have several different ways of on-line learning and interacting with their schools and teachers. Mashov, Teams, Zoom and one other which is beyond my spectrum of memory (I am NOT tech savvy and God help the child who isn’t!). The kids have to know how to access the lessons using the codes provided, know their schedules which keep changing and have enough Hebrew knowledge to know what to do. It all takes twice the amount of time back and forth to google translate before they even get started. The scope of pressure on these poor olim kids is beyond the realm of reasonable expectation.

Credit Due

I will say that some schools are supportive and worthy of appreciation. In our family, we are exposed to three different school institutions but only one of the schools fully understand the difficulties the olim kids experience. They are helpful and concerned and do everything in their power to support. For the other kids, whose schools are less compassionate, I am forced to outsource assistance which comes at an additional cost. So it goes.

Full House

On the plus side I get to have my kids at home all the time. All day. Day in and day out. How lucky am I?

In addition to keeping me company while I work, they are free to raid the kitchen at any time they feel a slight peckishness – I know this because of the evidence they leave behind. I mean, who needs a clean house anyway? Goodbye to shining clean floors, hello to friendly footprints and crushed pretzels to remind me of my full house.

I am a little sad that my dishwasher handed in its resignation and I am slightly concerned about the black hole in the fridge where there used to be food. Also, the laundry basket has disappeared under its heavy burden along with the cat.

School at Home. An Israeli youth seen during a remote learning at their home in Moshav Haniel, on March 18, 2020. (Photo by Chen Leopold/Flash90)

Change of Heart

Finally though, I would like to mention that we have been dealing with this for long enough to know that we, as humans, are adaptable. However, when we fail to exercise a willingness to adjust some of our ways to accommodate the needs and interests of others, this frequently results in conflict – personal and social.

In the final analysis, while different and divergent thinking around the world is welcome as it reflects the beauty of individuality and creativity, when it is met by intolerance, the results can be regrettably  – and avoidably – destructive.

Perhaps adaptability and flexibility is exactly what the world needs today.



About the writer:

Gabi Crouse1.JPG

Gabi Crouse – Based in Israel, Gabi writes opinions in fields of politics, Judaism, life issues, current social observations as well as creative fiction writing. Having contributed to educational set works and examinations, as well as interviews, Gabi will usually add in a splash of humour.



While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs

VIRAL REFLECTIONS

By Justine Friedman (nee Aginsky)

One week ago, if anyone had told me that I would be sitting at home and writing this I would have thought how crazy! Surely in a weeks’ time my life will be pretty much the same. I would have done a few loads of washing, been for a walk or run, fetched my kids from school and got ready for an afternoon of studying and then extra murals.

I now sit with more time on my hands than I ever dreamed possible and I feel like I am on some strange holiday.

The exam I was meant to write on the 2nd April has been cancelled by the Ministry of Health and I have no idea when in the future a date will be set for it. I am both relieved and frustrated. Relieved as I this was really the crunch time to get through all the big sections of nutrition work and also frustrated as I was relying on writing and passing the exam so that I could receive a licence to practise the profession I am so passionate about in Israel.

One thing I certainly can see from all of this is how little control we have over most of what we are living through now. It is a reminder that the illusion of control we all felt we had was exactly that – an illusion!

image004 - 2020-03-17T150303.604
Bizarre At Ben Gurion airport. Passengers wearing masks to help protect against coronavirus arrive at Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv, Tuesday, March 10, 2020. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

As I sit in my apartment in Israel so grateful that I have Wi-Fi and access to live talks and programs, I feel stifled that I am unable to just hop on a plane and go anywhere. Just a trip to the shops involves wearing latex gloves and a bottle of sanitiser. So, I fill my days with trying to establish a new routine for my family so that we all have some kind of a structure. I still have my kids up by a certain time. We all still pray in the morning and then they do some schoolwork. We are luckily not in a state of quarantine, so we are still able to leave our apartment and go for walks. I am now so mindful of just how close I am to the strangers and friends on the street and even though a distance of two meters sounds like a lot, it also feels rather close!

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Few And Far Between. The Western Wall viewed from the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, March 13, 2020 where only a few were at prayer. (LH/Times if Israel)

I strongly believe that each of us now have a big role to play in how we conduct ourselves. We can easily get swept up in the fear and panic of stock piling food, masks and toilet paper. Or we can choose to focus on the gift that this invisible virus has given us, and that is time. Time to be with our families, time to discuss what is truly important in life and most of all time to reflect on how we can live our best lives and be the best human beings we can be.

An attitude of positivity and gratitude has never been more important. Instead of focusing on what we don’t have or the fear of not having, we need to enter into a mindset of the abundance of what we do have. We live in a plentiful world. We live in a world that has become so used to instant gratification. At this time the biggest gift of all is to know just how blessed we all are.

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Snapshot Of The New-normal. Two women take a selfie as they wear face masks in Tel Aviv, Israel amid coronavirus pandemic, Sunday, March 15, 2020

For those people who are truly suffering, who are unable to be with family members, who can’t hug and kiss a child, who are truly ill with this virus these musings may seem nonchalant and without empathy. I pray that all of those who are affected will be out of suffering soon. I pray for healing for all. But for those of us who are being responsible and reducing exposure and living in as much of a lockdown as we can, I pray that we all have the tranquillity of mind to know that positivity and prayer is the best remedy and is a far more powerful tool for surviving this pandemic than panic and fear.

At this time of greatest uncertainty for every human being the world over, we are united in one thing. No matter our colour, creed or religion we are all affected in one way or another. Let us choose to be united in the ability we all have, to share kindness, words of care and encouragement and support, for no virus can control our behaviour. That my fellow human beings, is entirely up to us.

VIRAL REFLECTIONS2

 

 

About the Author:

1581402634466blob.jpgJustine 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 is based in Modi’in and loves the challenges and successes that living in Israel has to offer.

 

My journey as an Olah (Immigrant)

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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

 

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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