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What we have learnt from Gan Iriyah (and also what Ella has learnt)

March 30th, 2014


Ella started Gan Iriyah (state nursery) last September and after a couple of months of settling in, we finally got to the stage of dropping her off at Gan with little to no tears. Big achievement. We knew that she loved Gan because she came home every day telling us about what she had done and who she had played with. Her new favourite game to play at home was ‘Ganenets and children’ – the ultimate sign that she was happy at Gan. She spoke to her great grandma on the phone soon after starting and told her that she liked playing ‘gans’ which sounds like ‘guns’ so we then had to calm her down and reassure her that Ella was not playing with ‘guns’ now that we lived in Israel.

The best way for us to know what happens at her Gan was to eavesdrop on her playing ganenets. She always speaks in Hebrew playing this game and we learnt two very important things about the discipline in the Gan through this.

  1. Who the naughty kids were and that if they were naughty they would be put in ‘onesh’ (punishment). When we asked Ella if she had ever been in ‘onesh’, she looked totally offended that we would even think she was capable of such trouble.
  2. There is a Gan called Gan Tzlil in the same building as Ella’s gan and the children are told that if they are really, really bad then they will be banished from their gan and sent to the other gan.  We often hear Ella shouting at her teddies in bed saying that if they are not quiet they will be sent to Gan Tzlil.


Whatever works to be honest!!!!

Gan Iriyah has also improved Ella’s Hebrew slang…we are undecided if this is a good or bad thing. Some of the words that she has come out with include ‘Dy’ (enough) and ‘stam’ and obviously she has perfected the Israeli child’s shoulder shrug instead of opening her mouth to say no. There is nothing worse than hearing the words ‘Dy Ima’ come out of your child’s mouth especially when you are a native English speaker and ‘Dy’ in Hebrew and ‘die’ in English have TOTALLY different meanings. One thing is for sure that Ella is learning new things all the time and more impressively, so are we. 


Google Translate…our hero

March 2nd, 2014


When you first make Aliyah, you can get away with A LOT. You can go the wrong way when driving and end up 20km away from your destination but it doesn’t matter as you have just made Aliyah. You can buy the wrong food product which ruins your cooking but it doesn’t matter as you have just made Aliyah. You can go to all the government offices to do all of your paperwork and speak in English and get away with it because you have just made Aliyah. And you can communicate with Israelis in perfectly shoddy Hebrew full of grammatical errors and with plenty of hand gestures but it doesn’t matter as you have just made Aliyah - they are just dumbstruck that you have left chutz l’aretz to come to live in Israel. So in your first few months, you feel you can get by, get yourself understood and when someone questions your inabilities to speak Hebrew, or know your way around, you can say that you have only just made Aliyah. HOWEVER, there is a sell by date to this Aliyah ‘perk’.

I don’t even know when it was but it eventually got to a stage where you have been here for a year or so and still struggle with the language and you can’t say “I only just made Aliyah” anymore. I got more and more embarrassed about these Hebrew inabilities. Yes I went to Ulpan. Yes I sat for two months studying in a course solely in Hebrew. Yet I have a block when it comes to speaking face to face with people. I totally freeze up. I know this is normal but it’s still hard. Also, the accent gives me away even when I do have the courage to strike up conversation or ask a question. It definitely doesn’t help that Ella (who is 4) has corrected my accent and has told me off for pronouncing something wrong. Time will make this easier but this is definitely a struggle at the moment.

One area I am definitely excelling in concerning my Hebrew is my ability to pay bills, understand emails from the Ganim about what needs to be brought, read letters, decipher payslips. There is a secret (well, not so secret) reason for my success…the one and only Google Translate. I have no shame using this tool and no one should. Just use it with caution…there have been some very strange translations given to me! Let’s hope it will give me more confidence in my Hebrew…if all else fails, Ella can teach me!


Food Glorious Food (well…sometimes)

Feb 20th, 2014


One thing we can be proud to admit is that we love our food! All of us. Being married for nearly 7 years now, I have had time to master the art of cooking (ok, well on the way to mastering the art of cooking). Having had to deal with a few comments from Rafi of “your cooking is great but just remember that my mum has been cooking for a lot longer so her food is top notch” (he thinks this is a compliment), I had grown a bit of a thick skin to suggestions about my cooking. These comments were all made when we were still living in London where I was using familiar ingredients of brands that I had heard of so when we moved to Israel, I had no chance. New supermarkets, new products, the non-existence of some cooking ingredients in Israel…I had no chance. Here are a few of the mistakes that I have made when shopping for food and cooking here and how I have overcome them over the past year…

  • Butter/margarine – I use these products for baking as I love to bake. My kids love banana cake and I usually make it for the family for Shabbat breakfast. The first few times that I made the cake here, I can honestly say they were a flop. Tasteless and just not the same. The response to the cake was unanimous…not good. After a couple of attempts, I realised the problem and it lay in the butter/margarine I was using. In England, butter and margarine generally contain some salt to give extra flavour. In Israel, they do NOT. I had been so used to ignoring the part of a recipe that said ‘add a pinch of salt’ that I had not thought that now was the time to start doing it. So for a cake with taste, add that pinch of salt!


  • Baking powder – these can be found in little sachets not in a tub. It took me three supermarket visits and then a desperate call to my Aunt to discover this.


  • Flour – we are used to two types of flour; plain and self-raising. When I first went to the supermarket to stock up my cupboard with such staple ingredients, I nearly passed out in shock at the sheer volume of different types of flour for all different cooking or baking needs. How was I supposed to choose? Find your brand and stick to it. It’s the only way to survive the jungle of flour. It is pretty easy to buy the wrong type (which I found out when my oatmeal raisin cookies turned into flapjacks, thick and puffy as the flour had some self-raising element to it!)


  • Steak – as the newest addition to our family, the barbeque has been used frequently over the past year. Burgers, sausages, steaks have all been barbequed beautifully…that is the easy part. Shopping for steak and different cuts of beef is a minefield. There are many more cuts of beef available here so enjoy the trial and error.


After a year, I am finally starting to get my shopping technique and cooking to a good enough level…I’m striving for top notch!





Feb 11th, 2014


After the highs and lows and just generally loving life in Israel, we reached a landmark day…our Aliyahversary, our one year anniversary since making Aliyah. We had seen so many friends previously posting their Aliyahversaries on Facebook but now it was our turn. We are not big Facebook users and very rarely post status updates. We save these for monumental occasions like having kids but this day was deemed a good occasion to update our status. The response to our post “Happy Aliyahversary! One year today – feeling happy” was, like every part of our Aliyah, mixed. We had plenty of ‘likes’ and friends who we met here in Israel saying how great it was that we came. There were also a couple of comments along the lines of “still can’t believe you abandoned us but we are happy for you”. We just can’t win sometimes.

In the run up to our Aliyahversary, we were talking about what we should do to mark the day. Looking at our schedules, we realised that all of us were incredibly busy with our normal lives. What we then realised which was amazing was how different these ‘normal’ lives were compared to a year ago. The kids are so settled in their Ganim, Ella speaking Hebrew a million miles an hour, Eitan starting to walk and talk, our jobs going from strength to strength. The fact that the day of our Aliyahversary was so busy was testament to the fact that we had made it work. We have successfully made a life here in Israel and we honestly love every minute.

In the end we had a great idea that was only too fitting to celebrate this day. We took the kids for pizza. Now, this might not seem so special but if you take a look at our past blog posts about our Aliyah process, you will see why it was so appropriate. We started our Aliyah eating pizza, pizza and more pizza and we are celebrating our Aliyah by coming full circle with pizza, pizza and more pizza… and also some falafel, just to show how Israeli we are! 





 October 15th, 2013


Before we came to Israel, we were part of a group working with Habayta to provide more information about the realities of Israeli life before they make the move. This group had also organised a pilot trip and seven people from the group were coming to Israel for 5 days to find out about different communiities. We were very excited as the group would be staying in Modiin for Shabbat and so we would have a chance to catch up with our firnds a well as show them that in two months, we had set up a great home in Israel.






LEARNING THE LANGUAGE – Ulpan through Adina’s eyes

Septmebmer 30th, 2013


About 10 days before Ulpan was due to start, I received a phone call from the Ulpan coordinator for Modiin telling me that Ulpan would be starting soon and that I needed to come at 9am for a test. A test…I freaked out! I didn’t have time to study for a test! She reassured me that it would just be to check my level so that I could be placed in the right group. Thank goodness for that!

Bright and early, I arrived in the Olim Centre surrounded by other olim who had made Aliyah in past few months and we were given our tests which was a comprehension. After we had all finished, the teacher stood up at the front and asked the group some questions.

“Put your hand up if you know the Alef-Bet.” About ¾ of the room put their hand up.

“Ok, who can read Hebrew?” about ¾ of the room put their hand up again.

“Who can write Hebrew?” about ½ the room put their hand up.

Then finally, in Hebrew, “who understands what I am saying?” About a third of the room put their hand up (I am proud to say I was part of that one third).

“Ok, these people will be in group Bet +/Gimmel and everyone else who can’t understand me will be in group Alef.”

And that was that. The written tests we had so diligently completed were overruled by this basic question of “who understands what I am saying?” and the groups were made from there.

And so began my journey of Hebrew grammar, masculine and feminine for every single word and phrase, a whole load of new words that would probably bamboozle me some more and the real start of my Israeli absorption. 


September 17th, 2013


One thing’s for sure…EVERYONE has an opinion about the different ganim on offer in Israel. We needed places for our kids as work and ulpan were about to begin and so we began our search. There are some great Facebook forums for mothers in Israel and one specifically for the area we live in and so we posted a request for Gan recommendations and within exactly six minutes, the dedicated mothers of Modiin replied with various different options as well as their own thoughts about why that particular gan was so great, followed by counter posts saying why other gamin were better. We decided that the only way to really know was to set up visits and see for ourselves.

There were so many options of types of chilcare to choose from…metapelet (childminder), mishpacton (small playgroup in someone’s home), maon (government sponsored groups), Gan (nursery). Once we had decided that we wanted to send the baby to a mishpachton and our three year old to a Gan, we narrowed down our options and chose suitable places. We actually sent both kids to English speaking childcare places as we wanted them to feel comfortable and able to communicate but there are loads of different options of places to go and definitely plenty of Hebrew speaking places.

Our kids cried for the first month every day when we left…you might be luckier than we were! It’s hard for both the parents and the kids (probably more for the parents) but it has settled down and now both kids are thriving in these Ganim. We were so happy that we based our decisions on our gut feeling about each place rather than on people’s opinions as at the end of the day, the parents know their children the best.




Spetember 12th, 2013


About a week into our Aliyah, we realised that we would have to succumb and visit the supermarket to start stocking our home properly rather than buying bits here and there and delaying the inevitable. Here are some things that we learnt very quickly about the supermarkets in Israel.

  1. You need 5 shekel for the trolley. This was not a surprise for us to have to pay for the trolley as we had to do that in England but most Israelis seem to have a token that is the same shape and size as a 5 shekel coin and for the life of us, we have no idea where to get one from. In the meantime, we are doing it the old school way and stashing a 5 shekel coin in our wallets, specifically for the supermarket.


  1. You can buy meat in the supermarket. This is nothing for most people but to us it was huge being the big meat eaters that we are! There are even places online where you can print off the different names and cuts of meat and chicken and so you will never be at a loss when browsing the huge selection of meat at the supermarket.


  1. Supermarket membership cards (Cartis Moadon) are great and give you lots of extra deals and savings just for members. We have one for every supermarket near where we live!


  1. The supermarket workers have sections where they work so they are experts on their section of the supermarket but have no clue what goes on beyond their aisle! I once asked the fruit guy where the pasta was and he looked at me as if I was mental (and it wasn’t my basic Hebrew that stumped him either!)


  1. If you can, avoid Thursday evening/Friday shopping. The beauty of living in the Jewish homeland is that you are surrounded by Jewish life but it also means that everyone wants to shop for Shabbat! Interestingly, when I did go on a Friday morning once (at 7.30am), it was full of men clutching on to shopping lists from their wives!


  1. Get used to seasonal fruits and vegetables! Our daughter loves grapes but we could only buy them when they are firmly in season and therefore reasonably priced and tasty. Expect citrus fruits in winter, melons in spring, peaches/plums/apricots in summer.


  1. Fun fact…Israelis are not big cereal fans in comparison to Anglos. There is a huge selection of cereals but they are pretty expensive so our cereal collection as halved since coming here. Compare the cereals to the price of a kilo of cucumbers and you understand why Israelis have lots of TCP salad for breakfast, lunch and dinner.


  1. It is perfectly acceptable to do most of your shopping, leave your shopping trolley in the line to pay and then continue doing the rest of your shopping. There seems to be an unspoken agreement that you do not move an abandoned trolley. Just embrace it!


  1. You can pay for your supermarket shop in instalments or in one payment. This was a strange idea to us but very much part of the Israeli culture for those who need it.


  1. Finally, as you leave the supermarket, you need to hand your receipt to a sixty something year old security guard who looks at your receipt, glances over at your bagged shopping and then stamps your receipt. Not really sure what this does and how this prevents theft when he can’t see inside the already packed bags but again, go with the flow!


Deep breath…good luck!




September 3rd, 2013


After a week of sleeping on mattresses all in one room to keep warm, possibly the greatest moment of our lives (bar our wedding day and having children) was about to happen. At about 10am, we stood on our balcony and watched as a huge truck with our shipment from London trundled up the road. We greeted five burly men who started to unload the container and bring stuff up to the flat. The big boss man of the workers (who didn’t lift a single box) walks into the flat and asks us straight up “how much did you pay for this place?” Shocked (as we are English and not used to such outright questions) we told him and then he proceeded to tell us that we had paid too much and that he had a seven bedroom house by the sea in Ashkelon for half the rental price.  Ignoring him, we started to direct the movers to the different rooms to put the boxes into the correct rooms.

When checking to see if everything was there, we couldn’t help feeling that something big was missing. The couches were here, the table and chairs were here, our bed was here, Eitan’s cot was here and then it hit us…Ella’s bed was missing. We had ordered a new bed for her from London which was to be delivered straight to the shippers warehouse. One phone call to the shippers and all was answered…the bed was delivered but our surname (Mendelsohn) was spelt Mandelson on the delivery and weirdly enough, there was a family Mandelson moving to Israel at exactly the same time as us, using the same shippers but rather than moving to Modiin, they were moving to Shoham (not far from Modiin). So our bed was put on their shipment instead and would be delivered to us the following week. Ella would have to sleep on mattresses for another week which she thought was so much fun (thank goodness).

It was just the most amazing feeling to see all of our stuff, all of our home comforts sitting in our flat in Israel. Our couches, our table and chairs, our beds (minus Ella’s), our TV, the kids toys. Nothing beat that feeling that we could now unpack all our things and create our home. Great day.  





August 8th, 2013



As we were staying at family in Netanya, we were commuting to Modiin every day for the first week of our Aliya. This meant a lot of time in the car, eating a lot of crisps and listening to the same CD which we had brought with us, interspersed with the radio when the kids had fallen asleep. We had begun the crusade to blitz through our list so that we would be the most super organised olim that ever existed (we can be a bit competitive like that!)

Two days after we made Aliya was Ella’s third birthday. Now, she had already had about three parties when we were back in London to celebrate this occasion but on her actual birthday, we really spoiled her and took her… to the bank to set up an account. Thank goodness our good friend David and brother/brother in law Daniel were around to keep her entertained and took her out for ice cream, bought her a present, bought her sweets – the instructions were “anything to keep her happy”. After killing quite a few trees through the amount of paperwork that it takes to set up an account here, we came across the dilemma of which type of card do we get…credit or debit. In England, people use both but for people who like to keep track of their spending tend to go with a debit card. So, when we requested the debit card, the woman looks at us like we are a bit mad. She then explained to us that in Israel, people like credit cards so that they can buy whatever they want during the month and then only pay at the end. Finally, we understand why so many people in Israel are in debt. It is not a conscious decision but something that is part of society. We decided to be half English and half Israeli…we got both! After an hour and a half, we realised we were starving and so began the pizza fest that would continue for the next few days.

We also needed to sign up for health insurance which meant bye bye NHS for us. As born and bred Britons, we were used to free healthcare thanks to the NHS. So for us, a big difference was the fact that you have to pay for healthcare in Israel. For Americans, it is the same but for us, it was a different mentality to get used to. One definite plus is that the Olim benefits cover a certain amount of the medical fees for the first year – great stuff.

Next stop was shopping for a fridge. We had never shopped for a fridge before because the one we had in London was second hand and came with our flat. So this was a new experience for us. We looked in three different shops, bartering prices between them all (only in Israel) and finally came to an agreement and made our first purchase which would be delivered to the flat the following week. Very proud of ourselves (and also feeling that the guy might have charged us more because he could hear we were not Israeli), we went to get food for the kids (pizza) before heading back to Netanya for the night where we could actually celebrate Ella’s birthday with cake and presents. Not a bad start. We had done most of the paperwork that we needed to do and met up with Misrad HaKlita (absorbtion) to discuss next stages. Now, we had to sit tight and wait for our shipment. 





July 22nd, 2013


After all the excitement of our moving day and finally arriving in Israel as Olim Chadashim, we were completely exhausted. We had planned to stay at family for a few days so that we could get ourselves organised and actually see our flat rather than just studying the same ten photos of the flat that our friends had sent us. We took it easy the morning after. We woke up late (ish – thanks kids) and whilst we tried to relax and absorb the fact that this wasn’t a holiday but actually the place where we lived, we realised that we were itching to start working through the long list of things from the Jewish Agency telling us what needed to be organised and in what order. For example, we needed to sort out a bank account first before we could set up our health insurance so that we could actually pay for the health insurance. Sounds logical. With two kids to keep entertained during the immense amount of paperwork that lay before us, we began planning the next 48 hours


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Feb 11th, 2013

Eight weeks after we announced our Aliya, the day has finally arrived. We are off. The glorious sunny weather has encouraged a few remarks of ‘we get sun here as well so why do you need to go to Israel for the better weather?’ even though it is absolutely freezing. All packed up and sitting waiting for the taxi – atmosphere a bit tense. The taxi arrives early much to our parents dismay (even though they are following the taxi to come to the airport with us).

What is the most anticipated part of the airport experience? When the Elal person asks you ‘what is your reason for travel?’ Our dream response of ‘we are making Aliya!!!!’ is straightway shut down when the guy didn’t even ask us but took one look at our 11 bags and said ‘Ah, you are making Aliya – ok come this way.’ We just nod feebly and follow him to answer the security questions.

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Jan 25th, 2013


Fact - our Aliyah would never be happening without the support and guidance of friends, family and various organisations. Throughout our whole planning process to date, we have had offers of help in all shapes and sizes. From looking after the kids when packing up to actually helping with the packing – we are REALLY going to miss our support network!

In terms of quashing our worries of ‘what do we do when we actually arrive in Israel?’, the Jewish Agency provided us with all of that information including step by step instructions of where EXACTLY you go from when you step off the plane until you are at your first night’s accommodation. They even factor in contingency plans – for example, if someone is not waiting for you, walk a bit further until you see a phone just before passport control and pick up the handset and wait for someone to pick up. All a bit ‘secret agent-esque’ but this definitely eased our minds about the logistical process.


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Jan 10th, 2013


The first question that most people in London asked us when we told people about our Aliyah was “where are you going to live?” Most people in Israel just said “you will find something once you are here.” The Zionist in us told us to be pioneers, camp out on mattresses on friend’s floors for a bit. The English side of us said “don’t be so stupid – find a flat NOW.” So we started our flat hunt straight away.


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  The "To Do" List


January 2nd, 2013



How do you start moving your life from London to Israel in a short space of time? The answer for us was simple…



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 Dream to reality – telling friends and family


Dec 26th, 2013


The Zionist dream of living in Israel is one thing but the decision to go came down to a job. Once Rafi was lucky enough to find work, there was no stopping us. Endless nights talking hypothetically about making Aliyah became very real when we told our parents.


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   We’re Going!!

December 13th, 2012


We are making Aliyah…in 8 weeks! From the pipedream 9 years ago on our gap years, 5½ years of marriage, a couple of kids, many discussions and who knows how many ‘what ifs’ we have finally started our Aliyah countdown.



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