Monthly Archives: January 2014

Challenges in making aliyah to northern Israel

northern israelA number of people have been in touch with me in the 2.5 years that I’ve been living in northern Israel to ask about its suitability for new immigrants.

My experience living in northern Israel has in many ways been positive but it would be misleading not mention the realities of living in this area.

Language –  I was fortunate that my Hebrew was pretty decent when I got here and dh also can manage fine in Hebrew.  This is something that most new olim don’t have and it makes their lives much harder.  In the center of the country there are many English speakers and most professionals can communicate in English.  The down side of this is that a person can feel less motivated to learn Hebrew, but the up side is that you can function more smoothly in your day to day life even if you don’t know Hebrew.

This isn’t the case in the north, where the second language of many professionals is likely to be Russian or Arabic.  To me it seems that those without Hebrew are in a difficult situation here.  My mom had a very hard time after her  hip replacement surgeries because of this – the nursing staff didn’t speak English and instead shamed her by repeatedly telling her she should be able to speak Hebrew. This, despite the fact she had only been here a short time and made aliyah at the age of 62!   It can be very emotionally debilitating to be an intelligent and educated person and to feel so totally incompetent on a daily basis due to your inability to express yourself.

Learning a second language as an adult can be very, very hard and for Americans this is particularly hard.  Part of that is that we don’t grow up with a second language, like many Europeans.  Part of this is that our language structure is different than Hebrew – the Russians have a much easier time since their structure is more similar.

Social supports – When you move to northern Israel, you’re unlikely to move a community that will have significant social or emotional supports for you or your children.  That’s because those supports, especially in the beginning, will come from other Anglos who understand what you’re going through.  Israelis for the most part have no clue what’s it’s like to be totally alone here – no friends, no family, often no Hebrew language skills – and while they may be pleasant and kind people, they’ve never needed the supports you’ll need and are unlikely to offer meaningful help.

The north has a growing Anglo population thanks in large part to Nefesh B’Nefesh’s efforts and the financial grants that have encouraged new immigrants to move here.  That population is still very small in just about every area in the north and most of those people are new to the country themselves.  They’re trying to get their lives in order and figure out things for themselves – they aren’t going to have lots of excess emotional time and energy to give you ongoing assistance.

What does it mean to navigate life in a new country without any meaningful social or emotional network?  It’s hard.  Really, really hard.  I look back on all that we went through after we moved here and just about every aspect of our challenges were compounded by our physical isolation and our inability to access the kind of support that immigrants to the center of the country take for granted.  This is huge.  You may not anticipate needing help – I certainly didn’t – but making aliyah is a huge lifestyle change and as positive as it may be, it’s also traumatic in many ways for all members of the family.

It can be very emotionally and socially  isolating to move to this part of the country.  So often I felt totally alone, trying to navigate through situations myself that people in more central areas had lots of support with.  This ranged from typical challenges with job searching and the school system, to more specific issues we had to deal with.  We didn’t have people to speak to when we had a baby with special medical and therapeutic needs and was unable to get something as basic as a good quality breast pump despite reaching out to a local LLL leader and a lactation counselor (this was the cause of insufficient milk supply and why I stopped nursing after 4 months).  The resources just weren’t here and they still aren’t.  All of this would have been hard and even painful no matter where we lived but it didn’t need to be excrutiatingly lonely.

My kids were affected by moving to a community in which the school professionals had minimal experience with new immigrants.  The expectations of them were unrealistic – some of the kids rose to it, some didn’t.  Those who worked incredibly hard to learn the language and integrate at an older age didn’t get credit for the herculean feat they had accomplished because it was taken for granted, and those who were more typical in their response to being a new immigrant were labeled as having psychological or emotional problems.  In an area where there are lots of kids who have moved with their families who have a similar pattern, professionals are aware of what the norms are and kids aren’t as quickly labeled and pathologized.

An advantage to our kid is that they were forced to learn Hebrew and this is something the older kids are grateful for.

Employment – jobs are harder to find in the north and salaries are lower.  Almost every single new immigrant I know who looked for work locally has struggled to find it.  My husband was unusual in finding a job with an Israeli company as quickly as he did. Some people end up with incredibly long commutes to areas where the jobs are.  Those who have done best financially have moved here with a job that they were able to keep even while working from a distance.  (Israelis have also told me that finding jobs in the north is difficult but this is compounded for those new to the country.)  This is a very significant factor that is downplayed to those considering moving to the north.    

Are there people who have moved here and been happy?  Absolutely!  It’s a beautiful area of the country and the cost of living is lower (which is a significant if you have a salary from a different part of the country since it means you can live much more comfortably here).   As with moving anywhere, a person should move here with their eyes wide open and be careful not to dismiss or minimize the points I’m sharing.  Think hard about how to be as supported as you can be in all of the above ways when you move here because that support or lack of it can be the difference between a successful aliyah and a disaster.


My ambivalence peeking through

This morning I woke up suddenly from a dream that was so real that I kept thinking about it all morning.  In the dream, I met someone with the power to grant one wish for me.  I was about to tell her that I wanted to have enough money be able to buy an apartment for each of my children and then just before I responded, realized she had overheard dd17 mentioning to me that she’d like to get married young.  At that point I smacked my forehead head in dismay when I realized the person was going to grant dd a wish she didn’t know she’d made and then woke up.  

Your dreams reflect your thoughts during the day, and I think this was part of my dream because: a) we’ve been thinking about buying a house in the insanely expensive real estate market that is the Israeli reality and I’ve been feeling concern about how my kids will be able to do the same once they’re married, and b) yesterday a woman who used to be my neighbor called to let me know her 19 year old son is engaged.

Other friends have had kids getting engaged but so far all of them have been just a step ahead of me in their stage of life so while some of these things felt close, I could keep telling myself my kids are too young. Then I spoke to my neighbor who just turned 38.  I told her she didn’t seem old enough to be a mother-in-law; I met her when she was one month pregnant with this son and haven’t seen her since she was a very young mother of three children.  She told me she doesn’t feel like she’s old enough either, and  I responded that I’m very happy my oldest is only 20 and I don’t have to think about this yet!  She said she would have preferred if her son could have waited another couple of years to begin dating.  But she’s chassidish and said since all the young men begin dating when they turn 19, it would have reflected badly on her son if he hadn’t started as well.

Then at lunch time, dh got a call from an old friend.  The last time I saw this man, he was single young man in his mid twenties who was a guest at our Shabbos table!  He got married not long after that so he must be in his mid forties by now.  He had seen my son at a wedding recently and wanted to know if he was dating.  I’ve had a few people approach me about ds20 but I’ve told them he’s not interested at this point (the same thing I’ve said when asked about dd19 and dd17).

I don’t know why this call unsettled me more than other people who have approached us.  Maybe because I was overhearing dh’s call and I processed it differently; maybe because of the effort this person clearly made to seek us out.  Part of it was if it was a year from now this would be a serious suggestion and I’d need to be able to deal with it.  As I sat there I felt the need to mentally prepare for this stage of life, to have people calling me and needing to take it seriously and ask the right questions and do the right research.

The main part of it was because I felt intimidated to hear a suggestion like this.  The family is related to to some very well-known and well-respected role models in the Jewish world. Edited to add – this situation brings up some areas of difference between my beliefs and the mainstream charedi position.  As a result,   I’m apprehensive of being looked down on as not religious enough.

This post was supposed to be about something else, but I’ve often found I start off writing about one thing and something different comes out.  My conscious mind doesn’t have an issue with this at all – I trust that whoever each of my children marries will be a good person, I’m pretty accepting of who I am at this point in my life and believe that people can be different but still respect others  – but my subtle discomfort revealed that I need to do some more work on letting go of what others think of me so that I’ll be fully ready to embrace this stage of life when we get to it.  In the meantime I’m still grateful that I don’t have to deal with this yet!


Interview with acceptance committee in new community

acceptance committeeYesterday dh and I headed to the Jerusalem area for our rescheduled meeting with the acceptance committee.  Since it’s a closed community, everyone who wants to live there needs to be approved first.

I asked the person doing the interview how long it would take and he assured me that we’d be finished withing 10 – 20 minutes.  It took an hour instead. He didn’t count on how interesting we’d be.  :)

I expected the interview to be pretty straightforward and I also expected we might run into a little bit of stickiness regarding homeschooling.  I was right about the homeschooling being a concern but I anticipated that it would be more easily overcome than it was.  They said they had a past negative experience with a homeschooled family who later enrolled their children in the local school and their academic level was low, which caused the school to be upset with the acceptance committee.

Though I addressed what I perceived to be the underlying concerns – that we were going to stay to ourselves rather than be part of the community, that our kids were unsupervised and not getting any education, that we would put our kids in school and they wouldn’t be on a suitable level, that we wouldn’t put our kids in school….one member was still was very uncomfortable with it and told us outright that it’s hard for him to get past this.   (We all appreciated that he was forthright and direct.)

Ds15 was home for Shabbos and like all the kids, has been wondering what this place we’re planning to move to is like.  I suggested that instead of going directly back to school on Sunday morning, he take a detour and join us, then continue to school from there.  I told him he could walk around and check out the area while we were having our interview but they invited him to join us, saying that they like when older children are present since it’s important for teens to be happy with the decision to move.

This turned out to be a good thing.  It also was good when dd17 (who also wanted to see the area) got there when our meeting was supposed to be over but instead arrived about forty minutes into the meeting, when we were in the  middle of discussing how uncomfortable they were with the idea of homeschooling.  They were able to ask both of the kids if they were homeschooled and be reassured that they’re doing well in a traditional academic school framework after having been homeschooled many years.

He then asked us if we vaccinate our kids, prefacing by telling us that this wasn’t really an acceptable question so I understood it wasn’t typical for the interview.  I was a bit taken aback to be asked about vaccination at a meeting like this; I expected more about our professional backgrounds or past community involvement!

They told us they’ll let us know about the results of the meeting within a week.  My kids asked if we would stay in Karmiel if we weren’t accepted and I told them I didn’t think it was likely they would reject us over homeschooling, but if they did we’d have to start searching for somewhere else.  There’s  no question we have to be close to Jerusalem at this point in our lives.  The committee representative called us at 4:30 that afternoon to let us know we’d been accepted; we appreciated that they didn’t keep us hanging!

After our interview we looked at several houses.  Our preference has been to find a rental home and then later determine if we’d like to purchase a home in this area.  However, there are very few homes big enough for our family that become available to rent so we decided to be more flexible and look at homes for sale.  Whether we rent or buy it was helpful to get a sense of what the houses are like since they all have similar layouts.

I asked dd17 and ds15 for their feedback about being there.  This is a small community of 600 families and it will hopefully be warm and friendly and is overall a pretty place, but the kids both said Karmiel is much nicer.  Obviously a beautiful city in the most beautiful part of the country is going to be nicer than most other places, but our priority isn’t about the aesthetics.  They thought everyone we met was very warm and friendly as did dh and I.  It was a tiring day and what will give everyone some sense of focus and clarity is when we find a home – it’s hard to be enthusiastic when we have no idea when we’ll move.  As I keep telling them – and myself – we have to be open to what God wants of us and it will happen when the time is right!


Making decision to leave Karmiel

ship moving outAfter lots of deliberation and soul searching, we’ve decided to move our family closer to Jerusalem.

This has been a decision that has taken a long time to come to.  I feel that God was trying to show me again and again that this isn’t the place for us but I was so intent on looking for the positives that I kept ignoring the messages.  It wasn’t until ds4 and I were hit by a car in the beginning of October that I started to tune in.

It was hard to even consider moving – my mind kept moving away from it.  I just didn’t want to think of having to start over.  We’ve had so much upheaval in our lives and things were finally beginning to stabilize; the last thing I wanted was to shake things up by moving somewhere new.  Bit by bit, my mind started touching around the edges of the idea and gradually accepting that it was not only necessary but could be very positive for our family in many ways.  To be willing to move, I had to be honest about what was missing for us and also to trust that life could be better than it currently is – and after so many challenges that left me feeling emotionally steamrolled, trusting that things can be good is something I consciously and constantly work on.

Intellectually, it makes perfect sense to move.  Ds20 and dd17 are both in Jerusalem;  dd17 will be able to live at home and ds20 will be able to come home for Shabbos much more frequently.  Ds14 is near Bnei Brak and his travel home each week will be much shorter.  Dd19 will want to be near Jerusalem when she comes back.  Yirmiyahu will have better access to medical care and services.  There are more boys’ high schools so we hopefully won’t have to send any of our other boys to a dorm when they reach high school age.  There’s more homeschooling support in the center of the country, there’s more support for Anglos in the center of the country, there’s potentially more work for my husband in the center of the country.  There’s more everything in the center of the country!

We moved here with a large family that included older teens.  Making aliyah at this stage of life is unusual but we did it because we wanted to continue to preserve our family togetherness even as our children got older, moved out and got married.  Ironically, it was this goal of family closeness that has been most challenged by our location in the north.  Our family has enjoyed many things about living here and I’m glad we moved to Karmiel, but it’s also clear that to stay here will compromise our highest values.

When are we moving?  We don’t know yet!  This isn’t the season in which homes usually come on to the market but I’m hopeful that one will become available very soon in the community that we’ve decided to move to.  We made this decision quite some time ago but weren’t mentally ready to consider moving so soon until a couple of weeks ago, and now my husband’s job ended last week.  This wasn’t part of our plan but it was timing from Above!  So it’s the perfect time for him to search in the Jerusalem area close to where we’ll be living.  (He’s a technical writer – if you have suggestions or leads, please let me know!)

We will really miss Karmiel – our friends, our home and so many wonderful things about it.  But at this time what we most need isn’t here for us.


Changed plans for the day

changing plansYesterday dh and I had an appointment in the Jerusalem area and I thought today I’d be posting about that.  But literally two minutes before we walked out the door, ds6 woke up.  My husband saw him first and told me to look at him.  I took one glance and the trip was cancelled.  The entire lower third of his face was swollen and instead of the planned trip to Jerusalem, ds6 and I made an unscheduled trip to the pediatrician.

Thankfully, it wasn’t serious though it looked frightening; he didn’t look anything like himself.  I was trying not to panic thinking we were in for another hospital stay.  What it was is what the doctor called apthous; she told me was English but I had no idea what that was.  I looked it up and aphthous stomatitis is basically a canker sore.  I don’t have experience with canker sores and assumed they were something minor; I didn’t know they could have this kind of effect.  When we got home I gave him B12 and probiotics to help speed his healing and then he fell asleep for a few hours.

While he was sleeping, I took advantage of dh being home to get some paperwork for dd17 from the Ministry of the Interior.  In order to get the leniencies she’s entitled to as someone new to the country on different academic testing (she’s studying in a framework that is entirely in Hebrew), I needed to get a letter documenting when she entered and left the country.  After an hour and a half there, I got the paper and headed to the plant nursery that was a five minute walk away.

Ever since I took on the voluntary management of our apartment building, I’ve been wanting to plant some things in the entrance area.  I’ve planted a couple of plants I rescued that were being thrown out and started other plants from cuttings since there wasn’t money to spend from the communal funds.  That was nice but there was still empty space and I wanted some color other than green!  Since there’s now money in the building’s account (which I’ve been managing very carefully since it was in bad shape when I took over) I spent a bit less than fifty dollars on some perennial flowers.  I chose plants that will come back year after year and that will propogate themselves so they will get larger and expand with time.  That makes this purchase a one time expense.

When I got home ds6 was still sleeping but the other kids joined me in transplanting the plants I had planted a few months ago, then planting the new plants.  We filled all of the large stone planters that were empty.  I lined the bare patch owned by the city in front of our building with baby aloes that I took off a rescued mother plant and placed three small flowering  succulents in the center.   In our entrance area I cut back a plant that was mostly killed when someone painted their fence and a lot of paint was sprayed on the plant in the process, sectioned off the shoots that looked random and haphazard with a line of stones that we found when we were digging, and planted a circle of aloes in that area, too.  I’d love to buy white stones to fill in the path between them; it would look very pretty.  One day maybe I’ll do that but for now I’m being very frugal.  I know in the past they’ve spent more than I did on plants to have someone spray poison to kill the weeds so I feel justified in spending what I did.  Considering the budgetary constraints I’m working within it’s looking very nice.  

After a couple of hours of planting outisde, we went in and ds6 finally woke up.  He asked if he could play on, which I agreed to.  The last time I let him do this was a couple of months ago so it was a treat for him.

While ds6 was playing his reading and math games, Yirmiyahu showed us that he knows how to stand without holding on to anything!  We saw a first glimpse of that a month ago and were waiting to see this become something he does intentionally. We’re so excited – and now he can show off at his 18 month evaluation with the child development team in a couple of days.   I would have missed the excitement if I had gone to Jerusalem!  I posted this on my Facebook page, not planning to share it here but then thought some of you would enjoy it.

Yirmiyahu standing by himself

This is the reality of life with kids – you have to learn to be flexible.  Things often won’t go according to plan and that’s okay.  While my day wasn’t at all what I planned and I did have some frustration about having to cancel our appointment, which was something important to me that I really wanted to take care of – I had a really nice day!


Philosophy of Happiness – TED talk

Below is a 12 minute talk given three months ago by seventeen year old Sam Berns, who had progeria, a disease that rapidly ages children.  There are less than 300 people in the world with this disease.   In this TED talk, Sam shares about his philosophy for happiness.

Sam died on Friday a week ago but has left behind a message that will continue to inspire and help others going through their own difficulties.


The ability of children to pick up on unspoken thoughts

Mind ReadingToday I read an article (I think in a back issue of the Smithsonian magazine) that babies show an emotional response to their parents fighting even while they were sleeping.  Even behind closed doors when they aren’t consciously aware of anything, they’re picking up the vibes!  Dr. Gabor Mate writes a lot about how parental emotions can lead to a variety of symptoms in children even when all the parties involved are unaware of their emotions.

Often people think that if you don’t say something outright that people around you aren’t aware of what’s going on with you.  We drastically understate the ability of those around us to intuit beyond our words and sense things that are unspoken.  I don’t think of myself as highly intuitive and I frequently pick up on a lot of unspoken messages when speaking with people.  And our kids pick things up even more than we do, as they’ve been attuned to paying attention to the nonverbal cues of adults since they were born.

I’ve come to believe that there are invisible psychic cords that connect our thoughts to the minds of our children; this accounts for how they  they pick up many things we think they shouldn’t have awareness of without us ever saying a word.  So I wasn’t shocked when ds6 asked me this today.  He’s the same one who asked me about when he would die, a few days after Yirmiyahu almost died.  Yirmi’s medical situation wasn’t something that I ever talked to about him or with him around.  And yet he picked up on it.  I’ve recognized that I have very emotionally aware children – and that’s a blessing but also a challenge, as they are so attuned to the unspoken.  But unquestionably most children are much more aware than we want to believe.

That’s kind of scary, isn’t it?


Why I joined Facebook – to make the world a better place

hands[1]>>Because of the privacy invasions inherent with Facebook our family shuns it and always will. It also strikes me as immodest for individuals, to have so much of one’s life publicly available, though its essential for business these days. Why did you feel the need for it? I recall you writing that you do not blog for income. You already have an online presence for your parenting/homeschooling consulting, so I’m wondering how your cost/benefit analysis came down in favor of Facebook. <<

I’ve been blogging for 7.5 years. When I started, most people didn’t even know what a blog was.  At that time I was having my website designed (for my breastfeeding pillow manufacturing business) and asked the designer to add in a blog as a side point, something that could help the new moms making purchases at the site by offering some parenting tips I found helpful.   A blog was such a new idea that my designer was telling me how cutting edge it was to add in something like that!

Eventually I switched the blog to its own platform away from the business site, and for years actively resisted doing anything that would commercialize my blog.  I was approached by those wanting to buy ad space and readers emailed me to tell me they were buying things at my recommendation and wanted me to add affiliate links so I would get credit for the purchases.  Many people told me to monetize.  But I kept refusing.  I thought I was on high moral ground; I didn’t want to cheapen myself or my message with ads or self-promotion.  Now I see that I justified staying in my comfort zone.

I feel differently now.  You know what money is?  Money is time.  When you come right down to it, that’s what it buys you.   I have many responsibilities that require my time.  I wish I had time for all of those who need my help.    I used to embrace helping people while rejecting the financial aspect but as charitable an intention that was, it meant that I was able to help fewer people.

Living in the 21st century, social media is a potentially powerful tool.  Used well, it can make the world a better place.  If with a bit more effort and time – and some stretching of my comfort zone – I can reach significantly more people, then I have a responsibility to do that.  We were each put into this world to shine our unique light – we don’t serve anyone by playing small.

It’s taken a lot of talk from others and from myself for me to overcome my resistance to stepping out more visibly.   I’ve been so resistant.  So resistant.  I  kept insisting that I couldn’t, it wasn’t me, making excuses, so many excuses.  You know what really helps me overcome that negative inner voice?  That it’s not really about me.  I’m here in this world to play the part God put me here for.  And right now Facebook is part of that role.



Entering the Facebook world

fbWell, I’ve finally done it.  After years of actively resisting this, I’ve finally entered the world of Facebook.

I’ve had to overcome a few mental hurdles in order to embrace this but I’m continuing to work on doing things that are difficult for me, knowing that every small victory builds character.  Here are some of the things I’m overcoming:

1) Fear of having my time consumed by online activities.   I make a continuous effort to constrain my time online.  Time online more easily than not becomes a huge time suck, where you look at the clock and realize you’ve been clicking here and there for three hours and have nothing to show for it.  I didn’t want to have one more thing to have to control and I was worried about Facebook’s reputation for becoming addictive or at the very least very time consuming.  I had to trust myself that I have the discipline and focus to use this tool appropriately.

2) Discomfort of anything that hints at self-promotion.  I realized I’ve been avoiding taking actions that would force me to step fully into my life and face my abilities. That keeps me from playing the role God put me in this world to play.  Telling God you’re not up for the job doesn’t impress Him; He knows you’re making excuses to avoid seeing your true potential.  So this is a small step toward living larger.

3) Technophobia– my husband can’t understand how I can know as much as I do about technology and still be so technology wary.  I set up a Facebook page for my blog so that you can follow me there – they’ve made the process pretty intuitive – but I was still worried I’d make some big mistake that would result in me posting something unwanted on someone’s feed.  I won’t describe how anxious I was because that would be really embarrassing.  Then I realized no one really cares that much.  :)

4) Avoidance of popularity contests – When I recently switched my blog to this site address, I lost fifty percent of my traffic.  I usually don’t pay that much attention to numbers as that’s not the main thing, and I’m trying not to put too much weight on this.  But online social media has a heavy numbers focus – how many ‘friends’, subscribers, likes? The winners have bigger stats, the losers have small numbers.  Ugh.  Can you say ‘rat race thinking’?  It’s easy to get caught up in thinking this is a reflection of you and your perceived value.  It’s really not.

So I’m overcoming all of these perceptions of my limitations and desire to stay in my comfort zone, and have bravely put a Facebook like box on my sidebar- please click on it!


Combatting the sniffles with natural antibiotic tea

feeling-sick[1]feeling-sickYesterday a few of the kids along with dh and myself woke up with the sniffles and a sore throat.  I had all the ingredients for this natural antibiotic tea on hand and decided to make a double batch to combat the germs going around.  This is a recipe for the brave and adventurous!  When you see the ingredients, you’ll understand just why.


Powerful Antibiotic Tea


  • 1 t. cayenne pepper
  • 1 t. fenugreek seeds
  • 1 t. powdered ginger or 2 T. raw ginger
  • 1 t. fresh garlic, minced
  • 1 licorice root
  • 2 T. mullein

MIx all the ingredients together in a pot.  Pour 2 quarts of boiling water on it and let it steep about thirty minutes.  Strain the tea mixture through a cheesecloth and add the sweetener of your choice.  (I usually add the stevia leaves to my tea mixes but forgot to add it this time.)

Drink this throughout the day until it’s all finished.  The best time to take it is as soon as you feel you’re coming down with something but it’s helpful even after you’re already feeling under the weather.  This is very spicy and is best drunk as quickly as possible!