Category Archives: aliyah

visions

The joy of watching dreams manifest in my life

Two nights ago we had the official engagement party for Tehila and Meir. The only thing missing was that we didn’t get a family picture with our new couple. :(  It wasn’t for lack of wanting one! Fortunately, the wedding is in just seven weeks so we’ll make up for that soon. :)

I’m happy to have a picture of our lovely new couple, though!

Tehila and Meir at their engagement party

We are so deeply grateful and happy to welcome Meir to our family. It’s a very special thing to watch your child find the person she wants to spend her life with, and we all like him almost as much as she does!

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Several months ago, I was contacted by a writer for Mishpacha magazine. They were planning a new column that would come out monthly over the course of a year, interviews with women who had fulfilled a dream. She wanted to know if I would be willing to be interviewed.

At that time, I shared with her about my most recent vision that had come true, of Rafael joining our family.  They held off on printing my interview since they said I was too well- known and didn’t want me to be featured in the beginning of the series.

My interview for the Dreamscapes column came out last week in Mishpacha’s Family First, right in the middle of this very special season of celebration for our family.  And as this issue came to print, I’ve been thinking a lot about the manifestation of a different vision that has been very close to my heart for years that is unfolding right now.

In February 2011, I spoke to my husband about the possibility of making aliya that summer, with nine children ranging in age from 2 – 18. To say he was lukewarm to the idea would be putting it mildly! One of the things I told him then was the following:

“In another five years, our kids will be dating and getting married. We already know that the older two girls want to live in Israel when they’re married. It’s not likely that Baltimore will be very compelling for any of them.

We’ve invested so much in our family and that connection is very important to us, but over time our kids will end up living in completely different parts of the US and even the world.  The older our family gets, logistically it’s going to be very hard to continue to physically be there for one another.  But if we move to Israel now while all the kids can make the move with us, hopefully by the time they’re ready to get married, they’ll want to stay in Israel. And hopefully being in the same small country, we’ll be more able to be physically present for one another even after they’re married.”

It’s a huge credit to my husband that he agreed to make the move, despite his hesitations. We shared the vision of continued physical proximity and connection as our family expanded, and it continued to be an important factor in our decision making process when we moved from Karmiel in the periphery of Israel to much more centrally located RBS less than three years ago.

I don’t take it for granted for a second that we’re been able to be present for these moments in the lives of our adult children. And I don’t take it for granted that each of our three couples is starting their lives here in Israel. What I feel is a very deep sense of humility and gratitude for Hashem’s kindness to us.

Avivah

 

don't give up

What our aliyah journey has taught me – don’t give up on your vision!

Can you believe that this week marks six years since we moved to Israel?!?

Moving to a new country with nine kids (ages 2 – 18) wasn’t an easy thing to do. Moving to a part of the country where there was very little support for new immigrants made it even harder. I’m not going to belabor the difficulties.  I’ll just say that it was really challenging.

Moving 3.5 years later to a different city in an entirely different part of the country was yet another new beginning to be navigated, and starting over is always hard.  I have to admit that I had a bias against living in an Anglo enclave, which is why I didn’t consider moving to Ramat Beit Shemesh directly from the US.  I’m glad to have completely released that negative thinking and am very, very happy to be living here now.

A couple of days ago, two different sons shared with me their unsolicited thoughts.  One said, “It was a really good move to RBS.  It seems everyone is happy and keeps getting happier.”  The younger one said, “Everything just keeps getting better and better!”

We went against almost all the standard advice that is given to those considering making aliyah (and I’m not recommending anyone do what we did!), but we are SO grateful to be making our lives here.

Our kids are happy, they have friends, they have no longings for the US.  My husband and I both do work that we enjoy, we live in a home that we enjoy, in a community that we enjoy. Does so much good news sound boring?

The path to get here wasn’t boring! It took time to get where we are now along with plenty of bumps in the road.  (If you’ve read my blog for long enough, you know about some of these challenges.) There were lots of frustrations and difficulties that included intense financial stress, struggling to figure out where we fit religiously and socially, determining what educational paths were right for our children, dealing with the medical system and in general, starting over in every way. The starting over piece is HUGE – after years of building a life, you move to a new country and start all over as a new immigrant.  It’s not fun.

But it was worth it.  It was really, really worth it.  While I’ve had an attitude of ‘bloom where you’re planted’ in each place that I’ve lived and appreciated everywhere I’ve been, I’m happier now than I’ve ever been.  And I think my family members would say the same thing.

So my message is: when times are tough, just keep going forward.  If you keep taking the next right step, eventually it will lead you where you want to go.  It may take more time than you want it to take, and you’ll definitely have surprises or detours along the way.  But if you’ve thought about your course of action and determined that moving forward is the best option for you, then don’t give up on yourself and your vision.

Avivah

happy birthday

Celebrating my birthday with my first webinar launch – join me!

Today is my birthday.  And it feels significant.

It’s been two years since I shared – also on my birthday – about my deep sense of exhaustion and depletion following the three years of challenge after challenge that followed our move from the US to Israel in 2011.  About my lack of energy or desire to do anything.  About my fear that I would never have any motivation to do anything again.

After moving to Israel, not only did I lose my support network and years of social collateral, but I lost myself.  Really, really lost myself.  I was so consumed with trying to hold my family together through all the upheaval and changes – and I did a really good job of that.  But my underlying sense of who I was, my confidence and belief in myself, my sense of belonging and identification were so seriously challenged by the transition to a different culture and everything we went through that I emotionally kind of climbed into a cave to regroup. And because the cave felt so safe, I contemplated just staying there.

But you know, fear grows in the dark.  So as safe as it was, it didn’t feel good.  I knew I was avoiding being who I was put in the world to be and that feeling kept pushing its way toward the surface.  I would push it down again and again, and it would keep pushing back up.  Finally after my birthday a couple of years ago, I knew it was time to stop making excuses to myself and to take some baby steps in a new direction.

It’s been an amazing two year journey from where I was to where I am now. It’s been a process of learning to love and nurture myself at a deeper level, reclaiming and owning my gifts and abilities, moving from the emotional safety of staying out of the light and being willing to show up as my true self in the world.

It hasn’t been easy.  I’ve had to build and strengthen spiritual muscles, some of which I let atrophy and others I didn’t know existed at all. These spiritual disciplines have taken consistent consciousness and effort to maintain, and there remains lots of room for growth.  Yet I look at my life after these two years and marvel at how much better it is in every way – I’m healthier, I’m calmer, I feel more at peace with myself and the world around me.  It’s because of all this inner work that I’m now able to share myself and my parenting approach in a broader way despite what sometimes feels uncomfortable.

And it’s so incredibly appropriate that tonight, on my birthday, I’m launching my first Leadership Parenting webinar ever.  As much as my intent is to be of maximum service to you, it’s also a gift to myself to share my roadmap for building a strong and connected family.  I truly believe that no matter where you are coming from, no matter how hard your background or how much you’re struggling right now as a parent, you can learn to be compassionate and kind and powerful and influential in your family – to be an effective leader – from a place of love for your children and for yourself.

So I invite you to join me on this 16 week Leadership Parenting training workshop series.  It will be a journey of self-discovery and insight, along with practical suggestions on how to apply leadership concepts in your daily parenting.  The webinars will be accessible by computer and by phone, taking place live on Sunday nights (Israel), 8:30 – 10 pm/ 1:30 – 3 pm EST.  The first hour is my presentation and the remaining thirty minutes is for your questions.  If the timing doesn’t work for you, you can still participate at your own convenience by watching or listening to the recordings.

To join, all you need to do is send $200 via Paypal to avivahwerner@yahoo.com.  I’ll email you a confirmation along with a link to register.  Once you complete that, you’ll automatically be sent an email with details to access the webinars and after each webinar, you’ll receive a link to access the recording.

I’m looking forward to this shared journey of exploration and learning with you!

Avivah

success

College staff: “Your daughter is remarkable – how did you do it?”

Dd20 is now a college graduate!

Dd20 graduated a day before her twentieth birthday with a specialization in technical engineering/industrial design. At the graduation event, dd was called up to receive a certificate of excellence, which she was later surprised to find was accompanied by a generous check.

I got teary eyed during the speeches as the significance of this milestone sank in. Less than five years ago we moved from the US to Israel with a fifteen year old daughter who couldn’t speak Hebrew, who faced every challenge thrown at her with a good attitude and never gave up.  And here she was, not only coping in an Israeli educational institution in a very challenging field but excelling.

Afterwards the head of her department came over to me to and told me that not only is dd the top student in their college, but she would have been the top student in the best university in Israel.  She went on to detail the personality traits she based her statement on and asked me, “I honestly want to know – what is your recipe for raising a daughter like this?”  I deflected the question and said that dd has had the main part of turning herself into an amazing person, but the department head told me that she has seen many, many students and she is convinced that how dd was raised is a big part of her success.

People have asked me how I raised my children to be high achievers.  My honest response is that I didn’t actively set out to do this.  The fact that my older kids have all excelled in the academic and work frameworks they’ve been in is a reflection of their personal motivation and work ethic.  If they hadn’t excelled, I would think just as highly of them all.  If they do their personal best then I see that as a success, regardless of how that compares with anyone else.

I tried to create a home environment in which their internal motivation had space to develop, where their unique personalities and gifts were recognized and supported.  I didn’t have a personal agenda that I pushed on them.  I didn’t give them the message that I needed them to succeed in a certain way to make me feel like a successful parent.  Parenting isn’t supposed to be about me – it’s about helping my kids become who they are meant to be.

I’ve tried to communicate to them my deep belief in them without pressure to perform or produce.  I trusted that they would all develop according to their own individual timelines, and to believe in their abilities and competence even when I didn’t yet see it.  I encouraged them when they were unsure of themselves but didn’t push them to do what they didn’t yet feel ready to do.

It was important to me that they were hardworking and responsible – and they are – and those qualities have served them well.  I wanted them to believe in themselves, to invest themselves fully in whatever learning or work experience they were involved in.  And they have.

It was nice to be recognized as having had a part in dd’s success, but really this is her success, her hard work, her investment in herself and in everything she’s done.  We are so, so proud of her!

Avivah

Four Year Aliyah Anniversary

a0060[1]Four years ago today, our family got off the plane at the airport in Tel Aviv to start our lives in Israel.

We packed a lot of living into this time and it’s hard to believe so much could happen in only four years!

It’s been good but it hasn’t always been easy.  My sense of competence, identity,  and contribution were shaken repeatedly as we faced health struggles, educational struggles and financial struggles.  Sometimes it felt overwhelmingly hard but for the most part we tried to roll with the punches and live life on life’s terms.  Even at the hardest times there were always plenty of things to appreciate about living here.

As we mark four years of being here, I am continually filled with gratitude and awe that we’ve merited to make this incredibly special country our home.

“That all sounds nice,” you may say.  “But what about your kids?”

Coming with nine children ranging in age from 18 – 2, many told us we were brave (though I’m sure foolhardy is the word that was rustling around in their minds!).

We knew the odds of successful transition with kids above age 10 aren’t good.  We weighed this information and despite having five kids at the time in the problematic age range, made the decision to come with the belief that as a strong family unit, together we would weather whatever was to come.  Our family unit was tested again and again but it was this strength that pulled us all through.  I feel overwhelming gratitude and humility that becoming part of these statistics wasn’t one of our challenges; I don’t take that for granted.

I asked my kids if knowing how hard it was going to be, they regretted moving to Israel?  Every single one of them told me they’re very happy to be living here, and the older kids told me the difficult experiences helped make them who they are now.

Here’s a brief aliyah related update on my kids at this point:

Ds22 moved here right after his 18th birthday.  He went directly to a yeshiva for English speakers and this is where he continues studying today.

Dd20 was almost 17 when we moved here and went to high school for a year, then to seminary in the US for a year.  She is working and now applying to *Israeli college programs for religious women for the coming year, which she plans to combine with working.  Her Hebrew is decent. (*When I use the term Israeli, I mean it’s a Hebrew speaking institution that isn’t geared towards the Anglo population.)

Dd19 moved here a couple of weeks after turning 15 and went into tenth grade at an Israeli high school.  She skipped eleventh grade and graduated high school in two years. She then went to an Israeli seminary for the first year, then to an American seminary for her second year while simultaneously attending a women’s college program for industrial design.  She has one year remaining before completing her design studies.  She is completely fluent in Hebrew and socially comfortable with Israelis.

Ds16 moved four months before his bar mitzva.  He was skipped into eighth grade where there were two other English speakers in his class rather than put him in the seventh grade where he would have been the only English speaker.  We then kept him in the eighth grade for a second year so he’d be in the right grade for his age group.  He went on to an Israeli yeshiva high school with a rigorous Torah and secular curriculum where he’s been very successful.  He is completely fluent in Hebrew and socially comfortable with Israelis.

Dd14 moved here when she was almost 11.  She went through two years of school before we pulled her out to homeschool for the next two years.  Next week she will start at an Israeli high school.  Her Hebrew isn’t strong right now but we expect with the solid language foundation that she has, combined with her desire to learn  and being in a Hebrew social environment that she’ll become fluent in Hebrew within a year or so.

(Social and cultural integration is an important factor for us in choosing schools for our children.)  

Ds13 arrived here as a nine year old, and was completely traumatized after a year and a half in school.  He’s been homeschooling for the last 2.5 years.  We’re beginning to consider potential schools for him for high school but we have a year until that time.  His Hebrew comprehension is good and if he needs to speak Hebrew he can say what he needs to.  It’s at the level that he’ll take off very quickly once he’s in a Hebrew speaking environment.

*Notice that it’s not the younger kids who picked up the language quickly, despite being in a completely Hebrew-speaking school environment.  Yes, I have an explanation for that but I won’t share it right now. :)

Ds9 came as a five year old and went straight into kindergarten.  He picked up the language quickly and is an incredible reader in Hebrew.  (He also reads English at an age appropriate level but nothing near his super speed in Hebrew.)

Ds7 (for a couple more weeks :)) was almost four when we moved.  He went into gan, which he hated.  We pulled him out in late winter, then put him back in pre-kindergarten for the following year.  He had fluid in his ears for the second half the year and this kept him from hearing well enough to pick up the language well.  He speaks well enough to socialize and I continue to work on this at home.

Ds6 was 2.5 when we moved.  He stayed home with me until he was 3.5, then went to gan for a few months.  I traded easy language acquisition in gan for more time at home in the early years.  Totally worth it.  His comprehension is improving constantly.

Ds3 was born ten months after we moved so there’s not much to say about his aliyah process.  :)

Sometimes I wonder how we had the courage to leave behind a pleasant and fulfilling life to start all over.  It was a spiritual choice based on the belief that as good as our lives were, they could be better living here – and they are.

Avivah

Don’t be afraid to see your kids struggle

I was speaking to a friend who recently moved to Israel with her family.  When speaking about how things are going so far, she commented that she’s concerned that it will be hard for her kids.

I responded, “It will be hard for your kids.”  Does this sound like I was trying to depress her?

My intention was just the opposite.  A parent has to know and accept the reality before he can face it head on.   You can have a great attitude, your kids can have a great attitude – but that doesn’t mean it won’t be hard.  It’s very challenging to move to a new place and make new friends, and much, much harder when you have to do it all in a new language with a different culture to navigate.

A parent needs to be able to validate to his child what the child’s experience is.  Sometimes we’re uncomfortable seeing a child struggle so we minimize the difficulties he is facing.  It’s really a bad idea to try to assuage our own discomfort by telling a child to have a good attitude and smile, or doing anything else to minimize what he’s experiencing.

Parents often have the mistaken idea that our job is to make our children happy.  It’s not.  There’s no way to smooth every potential bump our children may face, and even if we could, we would be crippling them emotionally by removing challenge from their lives.

Our job is to help our children develop the tools to deal with life’s ups and downs.  They grow by facing tough times with our active support – combined with our trust in their ability to come out of the other side of a hard situation stronger and happier.

Avivah

A kosher phone or not a kosher phone, that really isn’t the question

Last year I decided to join the twentieth century and got a cell phone.  Yes, I realize I’m about twenty years behind everyone else. :)  I resisted because I didn’t want to be on call all the time and try to limit my usage of technology because of my concerns about how it’s encroaching on our lives societally.

Anyway, the time had come that I needed unlimited long distance calling and I could get that affordably with a particular cell phone plan.  I was given a choice of a kosher or non-kosher line (a kosher phone is one that can’t access the internet) and chose a kosher phone.  I have no need for anything more than the most basic phone so this worked for me.

Fast forward a year and we moved to Ramat Beit Shemesh.  When we got here, I had terrible reception with my cell phone provider. After two months of not being able to make it work, we were happy to finally find another cell phone provider that had good coverage in our area and also had an unlimited long distance plan (the most important criteria for me since I call overseas daily).  But it didn’t offer a kosher phone option.  It didn’t really make a difference to me since I have a simple phone that isn’t capable of accessing the internet and don’t want anything more, so I got the non-kosher option.

Today dd and I met with a principal of a high school (yet another one!) we’re considering and after we finished went down to speak to the secretary to schedule the follow-up interview.  The secretary asked what my phone number was.  I started telling her the number, and she exclaimed, “It’s not a kosher number?!”  (There’s a one digit difference in numbers that are kosher or not.)

I told her that I had a kosher phone until recently but changed because of a lack of coverage where I lived, at which point I was abruptly cut off and told that of course there’s coverage in my area, that it’s a big problem that I have a nonkosher phone since parents in that school aren’t allowed to have them. (This school has a strict policy on technology usage as they don’t want a home environment that conflicts with values and attitudes they want to convey.)

I felt bothered that she was implying I was lying or making excuses or whatever negative thoughts she was having about me, but told her of course I would switch to a kosher phone if that was the school rule but right now this is the number I have.  She responded in a way that felt hostile and judgmental to me.

I left, fuming inside, and by the time I got to the bus stop a two minute walk from the school I was ready to call and cancel the follow up meeting for the next day.  No way would I send my daughter to a school where a secretary spoke to me in that disrespectful way and dared to judge me by the number of my cell phone.

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But then I started thinking, what do I stand for and what do I really want?  Is this really a deal breaker or is my ego getting in the way?  I don’t have a philosophical issue with having a kosher phone or not since I use the phone the same way regardless.  I knew this school had rules that were more stringent than what I would personally choose but chose to look into it further because in many ways it’s the best fit for my daughter.  In some ways it’s not.  Every institution is going to have something I don’t like about it and the spirit behind the rules is in line with the spirit I try to raise my children with.

But the interaction I had was unpleasant for me.

I thought about this issue and what it represented to me from all angles, and determined that I was letting my ego get the better of me.  I don’t know why the secretary reacted as she did rather than politely notify me what the school policy on this was but it was a mistake for me to assume that she was judging me.  It felt that way to me but feelings aren’t always facts and it’s presumptuous for me to think I know what goes on in someone else’s mind.

But I do know what goes on in my own mind.  It’s so easy to get stuck in ego and convince ourselves that it’s about the principle of the matter!  This is why I had to think so much about this, to clarify what this interaction of less than five minutes was honestly about for me.

You know what?  It wasn’t about the cell phone policy.  It was about me being resentful that I was judged unfairly.

Fear of judgment and ego.  A bad combination to make decisions from.

I didn’t cancel the next interview, so dd will continue the interview and testing process.  Perhaps she’ll be accepted, maybe not.  Maybe she’ll be accepted and decide she would rather attend a different school, maybe not.  I’m open to accepting whatever the outcome is, because I’m taking my ego out of the driver’s seat of my decision making and leaving the final result up to G-d.

Avivah

The joy of being known for who you are

You know what I think one of the hardest things about being a new immigrant is?

That you become a one dimensional person without a past.  Every time you meet someone, they have no frame of reference for who you are or what you’ve accomplished.  Every conversation is about you presenting yourself and being evaluated, which is humbling and exhausting. This is true of when you move to anywhere new, but particularly to a new country and culture.

Last night I went to a bar mitzva in Beitar.  I lived in Beitar for six years in the earlier years of my marriage and moved from there to the US fifteen years ago.  I visited for a Shabbos over four years ago but almost all of the people I was friendly with I haven’t seen in a very, very long time.

It was a beautiful bar mitzva.  And it was personally very enjoyable for me.  You know why?  Because I met person after person who I had a history with.  Right after I walked in, someone looked at me and said, “I know you… you’re the shadchan (matchmaker)!”  She didn’t remember my name but remembered I was the one who introduced the couple (over fifteen years ago!) who was making the bar mitzva.

I met someone else whose first birth I attended, three women who attended my childbirth classes, a friend who babysat my daughter when I was still a working mom, a friend who hosted the first parenting class I attended, someone who attended the weekly tehillim gathering in my house.  Last week I was at a wedding in Jerusalem and someone across the table looked straight at me and said, “Avivah, don’t you remember me?”  Of course I did.  Not only did I remember her, but I attended births of her sister and sister-in-law.

It’s really different having conversations with people who you have a history with.  Here’s an example.  When I tell someone I have a history with that I’m homeschooling, the attitude is that homeschooling is unusual but must be okay if I’m doing it.  When I tell someone who I don’t have a history with that I’m homeschooling, I sense people trying to size up if I’m a normal person who is doing something unusual, or a weird person doing something weird.

Our identities are built on years of relationships and activities, and when I moved to Israel I didn’t think about how hard it was going to be start over without the years of accumulated social collateral.  It was hard not to be known for who I was when I moved here, and it’s shifting very quickly now that I moved.

Another reason to be grateful for my move here!

Avivah

Living in RBS and loving it!

I’ve been so busy since moving to RBS – much more than I expected – and it’s really making it difficult to find time to write!

I love living here.  It’s like I was living in the shadows for three and a half years when I was in Karmiel, and now I can step into the light.  I can be myself without concern that some aspect of my beliefs or behaviors doesn’t conform enough to the Israeli charedi community expectation and having it affect the abilities of those around me to see the person I am.   Karmiel is a great place to live for young families who want to raise their children with Israeli charedi norms,  and I really appreciate having families around with older children who have similar values as us.

When we talked about moving, I asked the older kids their opinions and they all basically said it doesn’t matter to them where we are because they’re not living at home.  But actually it’s affected them all positively.

Ds21 comes home much more frequently now that we’re so much closer.  He came home about every three months.  Now he comes for Shabbos about every three weeks!  Dd20 moved home a few weeks ago and no longer has to rent a room in the home of a stranger, and dd18 is home for Shabbos more often.  She can come home when she has a day off from her studies whereas before it wouldn’t have been worth it since she would have spent most of her free time traveling.  Now it’s very easy for them to invite friends so we’ve already had a number of their friends for Shabbos.  Dd18 is in a dorm now but when seminary finishes in another month, she won’t have to worry about finding a living situation, which caused a lot of pressure for her last year when she was in an Israeli seminary with no dorm.

Ds16 has a much shorter commute to high school (he used to spend five hours in each direction when he came home for the weekend) and he told me that school is easier for him now that he’s not so tired from traveling and having to miss classes.  Within a week of being here he already socially felt much more comfortable here than in Karmiel (and this is a son who is fluent in Hebrew, has gone to school with Israelis since we moved here and knew a lot of people in Karmiel).

Since the younger kids left behind very good friends, I was concerned about how the transition would be.  But they’re doing great.  We have one bedroom less but more outdoor space than in our Karmiel home, and having the space for them to run around without having to go to a local park is really nice.  We’re all much more relaxed without the pressure of keeping our neighbors from getting upset about noise.

It will take time to make good friends but the boys (12, 9, 7, 6 and 34 months) are getting to know people.  For ds12 it was really hard socially where we lived since he didn’t go to the cheder and the boys there stuck together in and out of school, so there was no way for him to be involved with them.  There were no extracurricular activities for religious kids and there was no one his age in our neighborhood, which was limiting in terms of being able to meet people and make friends, .  Here he’s part of a boys’ youth group and even before joining that met several nice boys.  On his own initiative he began going to shul (synagogue) three times a day (usually by himself) once we moved here whereas in Karmiel he didn’t feel comfortable and would only go on Shabbos. It really, really makes a difference to be in a place where you don’t feel you’re being judged all the time.

Dd14 is meeting a number of girls her age.  I don’t think it makes up yet for leaving her best friend, but they speak on the phone and the girls she’s met are all very nice.  And that there are girls to meet outside of the school framework is amazing, because this didn’t exist before.  She knew girls and had friends, but again, all of the social stuff for kids in Karmiel was through school and we no longer have that limitation.  We hosted a teen girls shalosh seudos last week that went really well and are considering doing this on a regular basis, maybe every three weeks (depends on our girls since I don’t actively run it).

There are so many lectures and activities that you could be busy all the time!  I’ve gone to several lectures since being here on a variety of topics, in English and Hebrew.  Last night I attended a shiur and was afterwards asked to volunteer at a womens’ event tomorrow night which I hope to do.  I was asked to give a shiur for Shavuos and initially agreed but now have some hesitation about that.  If I end up speaking, I’ll let you know.

Something I didn’t think about at all was how being closer to the center of the country would reconnect me to old friends.  I’m now able to share in celebrations that before I would have just sent my good wishes and apologies that I couldn’t make it.  Since being here six weeks ago, I’ve been invited to three bar mitzvas and one wedding, all of which I can attend now that I’m not so far away.

I’ve bumped into women who recognized me – twice they were girls who were two grades below me in high school!  I met a seminary friend I last saw twenty years ago and then a classmate from sixth grade.  Someone told my husband that when you move to RBS, you reconnect to your past and it’s true!

Last night at a lecture a blog reader approached me and asked me if people are recognizing me all the time now that I’m here.  Not all the time but it happens, but what was a first for my husband was when someone recognized him from my blog!

My husband is also enjoying having so many like-minded people here.  He’s getting to know local rabbis and making time to connect with them.  We are hopeful of finding a rav for our family here; it will take time but it’s important to us and with so many wonderful community rabbis, we’re optimistic that we’ll find someone we respect who will also be able to understand and respect us.

Ramat Beit Shemesh is a different world than Karmiel and as nice as Karmiel was – and it really was nice – I love it here.

But I don’t regret for a second moving to Karmiel.  We had challenges that olim here would think are grossly exaggerated because it’s so different making aliyah to a place with very few supports for new immigrants.  RBS isn’t perfect – nowhere is – but having lived in Karmiel helps me appreciate RBS in a way I couldn’t have appreciated it if I had moved directly here from the US.

Avivah

Our warm welcome to Ramat Beit Shemesh

We are here in Ramat Beit Shemesh and LOVING our new home!

Our movers left on Monday at 3 pm and we’ve been working hard since then to get everything ready in time for Pesach.  We decided to paint all of the bedrooms in addition to the main area (which our older two boys did before we moved) and it was a big job.  Everyone was feeling burnt out by the non-stop work by the second day but we needed to get the painting done so that we could assemble the furniture and start upacking.

I hadn’t anticipated needing to do so much of this work and this set me back a couple of days in my unpacking plans.  But now it looks wonderful and somehow we’ve managed to not only paint but to unpack almost all of our boxes in addition to being ready for Pesach!  The curtains are hung, the pictures are on the wall…the season for miracles! :)

Moving as we did at time when everyone is super busy with holiday preparations, we didn’t expect anyone to take much notice of our arrival.  I was pleasantly surprised and touched by those who reached out.

The morning of our move, a friend emailed to say she’d be happy to give me a lift to pick up some Pesach items I ordered, and was available to drive me other places as well.  Then while on the bus from Karmiel to Jerusalem, I got a call from a friend in a different area who said she would be doing her Passover shopping in Beit Shemesh and offered to take me along.  A bit later during the same bus ride, I got a call from someone I didn’t know who said she lives in RBS and heard we were coming – and could she make us dinner that night?  I got off the phone with a smile of disbelief that quickly turned into a big lump in my throat.

We got to RBS and there was a welcome sign from a neighboring family whose son was already hard at work with our boys spackling the walls.  Within a couple of hours of arriving, two boys arrived loaded with bags filled with canned foods, paper goods, and other useful things – their mother is a blog reader who despite giving birth just two weeks before somehow made the extra effort to reach out to us and send us things to make that first day or two of transition easier for us.  Then an hour or two later, our mortgage broker stopped by with gifts to welcome us to our new home.

This is really different from how things in a very small community with limited manpower were!  We felt so welcomed.

We love, love, love our new apartment. I feel very blessed that G-d has sent us the perfect apartment for our family – it has all the features that are important to me.

I’ve had a constant sense of tension for the past 3.5 years regarding living with very noise-sensitive and critical neighbors and have been very, very, very aware of every sound my children make.  As a result, I’ve limited a lot of things that in and of themselves aren’t problematic because I don’t want them to make noise.   It’s such a nice feeling to hear the sounds of neighboring children playing and to let our own children play without the constant monitoring of their every sound.  It’s amazing to be able to relax and let go of the constant pressure I’ve felt for so long.

Moving isn’t easy and it isn’t fun, but I am so grateful to be where I am now!

Avivah