ז' ניסן התשע"ח

Jeffay's Blog



August 2015


End of Holiday


Two Shabbats down and one to go and our English summer has been fantastic so far. Zak has been in to the office a few days a week which has meant he has been able to come with us on plenty of outings, and most importantly we have had plenty of sunny days and of course a few drizzly ones so Ashira could enjoy jumping in muddy puddles in her new willies!


The plane ride was an event in itself, with Ashira finding every part of the journey more exciting than the last. We took a train to the airport, which was an event in itself followed by a bus ride to the old terminal. These exciting journeys made me realise that this holiday was going to one long string of thrilling events for Ashira- who usually walks to gan, gets the car to our weekly Friday outings and very rarely has a reason to go on a bus or train!


Once we had checked in our luggage and gone through passport control we found the free soft play in Ben Gurion where we bumped into the Blanks, a family from our shul in London who had made aliyah a year ago to Bet Shemesh. It was lovely to catch up and see how settled they are.


The only thing more exciting than the airport was going on the airplane, and Ashira didn’t know what to do with herself when the pilot waved at her as we walked up the steps and waited to board the plane!


Since we have been here, we have spent family shabbatot in Manchester and London, been to the theatre to see The Gruffalo, been on a Steam Train in Preston, been to Whipsnade Zoo and had endless play dates and coffee dates catching up with friends. We have of course also done plenty of shopping!


It goes without saying that I love Israel and wouldn’t move back to England for anything, but there is something very familiar and reassuring about shopping here. The supermarkets whilst full of products I can’t eat, just feel so much more familiar, the cashiers smile at you and they have such good sales! The shop assistants speak English and if I need help finding something I can ask with ease, without fear of not being able to understand what they will say back to me!


With one more week to go and plenty of more fun activities to look forward to, I am so grateful that we can enjoy our lives in Israel and also come back to visit all the lovely people we left behind. I am so thankful for modern day communications, which make keeping in touch so easy.


Ashira sees her grandparents regularly on facetime, and when she got to both their houses, she ran to give them hugs as if she sees them every day! I was so worried that she would not have the opportunity to build meaningful relationships with them by seeing them only a handful of times a year but I can see now that it is possible.


For me, catching up with friends has been so lovely. From my high school friends, to old work colleagues and friends from Bnei Akiva, it is like we never left. One of my big fears about Aliyah was making new friends as well as keeping in touch with old ones. Two years in, I am happy to report back that on both accounts I feel I have succeeded. I have lots of lovely friends in Modiin and this summer I have been able to reconnect with my wonderful friends here in London. One of my best friends has had a baby whilst we have been here and I feel so lucky to be around at this important time for her. We went on an outing yesterday with a couple we met at university and between us we have three kids, who had so much fun playing together. What more could I ask for?!


August 2015


Holiday to England


One empty suitcase, one full suitcase, sandwiches and passports are ready and here the summer really starts! We are off for a three week trip to England, to see family and friends and to buy as much as we can possibly fit in our suitcases! This is also the only time of year that we are all home together, as during the year our hectic schedule means we don’t have much ‘holiday’ time, so we will be going on plenty of outings.


As a teacher I don’t work in the summer and Zak is fortunate enough to be able to work from the London office, so after last years 3 week trip to England we decided to come again to escape the crazy heat in Modiin.


Ashira has been preparing for our holiday by reading two books, one about going on an aeroplane and one about visiting London. I hope that everything is going to live up to her expectations!


When we arrive we will be going to London for 2 days to see my family, and then off to Manchester for 5 days with Zak’s parents. Another of his brothers is also on holiday in England for the summer from Israel so it will be especially lovely to spend time with his three kids too. The rest of our three weeks we will be back in London, where we will be seeing the sights with friends as well as spending plenty of quality time with my parents.


Whilst we are away both our flat and our car are being put to good use by our Modiin friends. One friend is borrowing our car for the summer so that he can get to work without leaving his wife and kid carless in the 38 degree heat, and one of our friends has a family simcha so her family will be staying in our empty apartment. Zak’s brother who lives in Manchester will also be staying in our flat when they go on holiday so it is being put to good use!


I am excited for our holiday, excited to shop, excited to relax, excited to spend time with Zak and Ashira, and I know at the end of all of the fun I will get to come back to the sunshine, my friends and my beautiful new apartment. What more could a girl want?!



July 2015




It’s July and I have finished working with the exception of ten or so hours of piano lessons a week. Ashira is still at gan and Zak is in Poland on his final trip of the year. Next week is moving week and we have so much to do!


The people we bought the flat from ended up moving out 2 weeks earlier than expected and they very kindly gave us the keys early. They are moving to a nearby yishuv and were keen to get settled so their kids could join the local summer camps. We were more than happy to have some extra time to get the flat sorted before moving day, and the painters are there now.


Last week Ashira declared that her favourite colour was purple, so we decided to ask the painters to paint one bedroom in her new room purple. I can’t wait to see her face when she sees it! Hopefully the painters will be finished by the end of the week and then the electrician can get started fitting ceiling fans, the dishwasher can be installed and the new kitchen unit can be delivered. Tomorrow the new sink will arrive to be installed and then all I need to do is pack all our worldly possessions!


I am counting my lucky stars that we were able to move at the end of July, whilst Ashira is still at gan and I am barely working. I have no idea how I would get this done during the year! Zak will be back in time to help pack and move and then we have a week to unpack before we set of for our summer holiday in England.


After seven years of marriage, three rented apartments including the Bnei Akiva flat in London, I am so excited to finally move into our own place. It is so exciting to be able to paint the walls our choice of colour, to be able to install ceiling fans and to buy cupboards that fit in every room so we will finally have enough space to store our things!


When we came to Modiin we had no idea whether we would like it. We came here because it was equidistant between our two brothers, then living in Jerusalem and Zichron, and because we knew a few people who had come here and were happy. We had no idea that two years later we would have acquired great friends, a thriving music education business and now a home to call our own. 


July 2015


End of Year number 2


At the start of the year I ended up taking on far too much, and I reasoned with myself that I would continue with my hectic schedule until I felt I could continue no longer. We are now at the end of the year and I am shocked to say that I have not dropped anything yet!


June marks the end of the school year, which means chugim are wrapping up as well as my English teaching high school job. University is also coming to an end for the year although I have a presentation to give, in Hebrew (!), and 4 essays to write before I can really ‘finish’ for the year. All of my piano students will be having concerts in the next few weeks as well as my choir chug girls doing a performance for friends and family. My women’s choir have opted to make an end of year recording in a studio instead of doing another concert, so we are also busy preparing for that.


This year has been full of blessings. I went from one chug to three, from 10 piano students to nearly 30, from 2 singing students to 6, and alongside all of this I have managed to continue with my masters and learn how to teach English!! I have also recently started working on a wonderful project with a women’s amateur dramatics group as their vocal coach and my women’s choir have another fantastic performance under their belt.


Ashira has really flourished at gan this year and seems more and more ready to move on to ‘big girl’ gan in September. Since we made aliyah she has been at a private, English speaking gan. She has made some wonderful friends, her English is beautiful and she has really grown in confidence. In September she will be leaving the comfort of her English environment, and with one of her friends she will be embarking on a new adventure- Trom Trom gan, meaning pre pre nursery. This is the first of three years of state funded nursery care that lead up to first grade. In September she will be in an entirely Hebrew speaking environment for the first time and her friends have been spread out amongst the various neighbourhood gamin. I am both excited and scared for her and whilst I know that this is likely to be a difficult transition, I am also confident that she will love her new gan. I am also excited for her to start learning Hebrew, I can’t wait for her to start correcting me!


Zak has established himself at work and has taken lots of trips to Poland, building his confidence and experience as a guide. I think it is fair to say that all three of us are beginning to feel like we have made roots here in Modiin, and this feeling has only been strengthened by our impending move to our new apartment.



May 2015


Pessach yh and flat


The last time I wrote it was Election Day, and I ended off by saying that I needed to start planning for Pesach. Well, this past week was Yom Ha’atzmaut so I have a lot to catch up on!


Pesach was a week full of fun family and friends.  Zak’s parents arrived the week before Pesach, just in time to help with all the preparations, and they also got to help us toilet train Ashira!


We spent Seder with my brother and his 6 kids in Ranana and had a really fun time. With 7 kids and only 4 adults at the Seder, you can imagine the kind of fun we had! From flying frogs, to finger puppet plagues and everyone acting out a skit of the Jews leaving Egypt. The last time we did Seder with my brothers family was 4 or 5 years ago in London, and the kids were all too little to participate fully so it was a real treat to be able to share this experience with them. As the two parts of the family were reunited it gave a special meaning to ‘Lshana Habaa BiYerushalayim’.


We spent chol hamoed going on a different tiyul (outing) each day with friends and family, meeting up with those we rarely get to see and generally enjoying being on holiday. The other key factor that made our pesach so great, was that we bought a gas BBQ which meant steak and chicken for dinner every night, and most importantly, no washing up! I have never eaten so well on Pesach! Zaks parents also brought us a deep fat fryer (Don’t ask) so we had freshly made chips with our steak and chicken each night. No matzah pizza at the Jeffay’s this year!


The last day of Yom Tov was my birthday, as well as being my brother in law John’s birthday. John and his wife and two teenage daughters came to stay with us, and we had a really great weekend. Having been part of the Jeffay clan for 7 years now, John and I have never been in the same city to celebrate our birthdays together so that was a first! Please God next year we will celebrate our 80th together (he will be 50 and I 30, it is going to be a great party!).


After Pesach it was back to normal life with a bump, and it is fair to say that that first week back was pretty exhausting. Luckily, the second week back was not so taxing as Yom Ha’atzmaut fell on Thursday.


Since the weather was forecast to be a littler grim, we decided to get together with friends and have a BBQ at home. We wheeled our brand new gas BBQ over the road to our friends who have a bigger apartment, and together with 7 families we enjoyed the day eating 3 rounds of meat from the BBQ! The kids had a blast, running around all day and promptly crashed into bed at 7pm, totally exhausted.  We had so much food left over that we decided to have a post BBQ BBQ on Friday lunch time!


All in all it has been a wonderful couple of months with lots of exciting events and days out to look forward to. With the temperatures rising, and summer just around the corner we are definitely preparing for the next big event in our lives-moving house.


We have bought an apartment the next street over from where we are renting and at the end of July we are moving. I need to sort out quotes for movers, buy light fittings, arrange for a carpenter to come and fit some wardrobes and a million and one other things that will need organising! We have 2 weeks between the getting the keys and going to England for a 3 week holiday, so we need to get organised.


I am so excited that we have been able to buy somewhere, and it is really special that our first house purchase is in Israel. I feel truly privileged to live at a time where I can take these things for granted. I look forward to telling you all about the next chapter of our aliyah journey. Right now I need to pack up my computer, my train is pulling in to the station and it is time to go to work. Have a good day!  


 May 2015


Election Day


One of the few things that I miss about England are Sundays and bank holidays. In Israel, all official days off are chagim and with Friday a poor replacement for Sunday, taken up with Shabbat preparation and with kids having school in the morning, with the exception of Yom Haatzmaut, there is not a day in the calendar that is a real day off for everyone.


When they announced the elections, everyone had mixed feelings about the state of the government and what this would mean for the future of Israel. But everyone was in agreement, that we were looking forward to a day off! I too was excited at this prospect, but then I realised that election day was a Tuesday-my busiest work day. On a Tuesday I teach piano lessons back to back from 1pm-8pm in a nearby yishuv. One of the downsides of self employment is that if you miss a day, you don’t get paid!


As all the kids were going to be off school for the day I managed to rearrange the lessons to be in the morning from 8am-1pm and then I was able to get home to spend the rest of the day with Zak and Ashira. We went to friends for a BBQ lunch and whiled away the afternoon in their garden chatting and relaxing whilst the kids all ran around having a great time.


We left the BBQ in the late afternoon and went to vote. Ashira was very excited to go on a ‘boat’ and was mildly disappointed when we clarified that we were not going on a boat, but rather we were going to vote. As in England, the polling stations take place in the local schools, but unlike in England, when we got there we were surrounded by people from all the parties handing out flyers, stickers and trying to grab our attention. Ashira got two stickers, one for my party of choice and one for Zak’s so she was happy!


We went in to vote and Ashira helped us to put our ballot in the box which was very exciting. It was a surreal moment. I had spent the last few weeks trying to figure out the political system, talking to friends, asking questions, reading articles on the internet, to try and figure out where I stand on the political spectrum. It is so much more complicated than in England, where as a staunch Labour supporter I had never considered all the ‘issues’ of any given election. This time there are at least 10 viable parties to choose from, and then you have to decide if you are voting on domestic issues, on security policy, on religious/secular issues or for or against a particular leader who is likely to win power.


I can honestly say that this election has opened my eyes to complexity of Israeli society. It has made me want to know more and from now on I will definitely be switched on to Israeli politics. I have opened another new chapter in my aliyah as an informed constituent.


We got home just in time for Ashira’s dinner, made our daily facetime calls to the grandparents, and got Ashira to bed so we could sit down for a quiet night in. This was such a luxury as usually I don’t get home until 8.30 on a Tuesday so do get to be home for bed time and then have a relaxing evening at home was a real treat!


Well, with only a few weeks to go until Pesach there is a lot to do and a lot to look forward to. I’d better start making those shopping lists!


April 2015




A year and a half after we first arrived, and my Hebrew is still functional at best. One of the things that helped us to get settled quickly was sending Ashira to an English speaking private gan. It was such a relief to be able to communicate with the ganenot and the other parents and because Ashira is only learning one language her speaking has come on so much. The flipside of this is that I have not had to engage with the Israeli education system yet, but that is about to change.


This week we registered Ashira for gan trom trom which she will start in September. You don’t get to choose which gan you go to, you just specify if you want religious or secular and if you require afternoon care (Which you pay extra for). From that, the local council divide up the kids amongst all the ganim and assign you the closest gan that fits your criteria. In some ways, this makes the process of applying much easier, because the decision has been taken out of my hands, but on the other hand it makes me all the more apprehensive that I have no say in the next stage of Ashira’s education.


There are 3 religious ganim nearby, two of which offer afternoon care, and since 3 of the other girls from Ashira’s current gan live on our street, I am hopeful that she will be placed with at least one of her friends!


It will be a big change for us all, as everything will be in Hebrew, from the gan whatsapp and emails, to the notes home telling us what to bring and of the course the daily interactions with the ganenet. I think that Ashira will be fine with the transition, it is me that I am worried about. Many of our friends have reassured me that the kids are fine- for the first few months they learn by watching the other kids, by Chanukah time they can understand and by Pesach they are talking freely. I hope that Ashira’s confidence with English will stand her in good stead and that she will be able to adjust to a Hebrew setting with relative ease.


I on the other hand, having been here for 18 months, completed ulpan, and started a Masters in Hebrew, still have very poor Ivrit, which is functional at best. It is fair to say that my Hebrew is far better than it was when I arrived, but I still struggle in basic every day situations. Thankfully Zak has good Hebrew and he can be in charge of all written communication! On the other hand, perhaps this is the push I need to use my Hebrew on a more daily basis.


I am quietly excited about the opportunity to practise my Hebrew and perhaps even make friends with the Israeli mums. So far, all my friends are olim, with the exception of my Israeli bilingual neighbour, my colleague at university and one mum at Ashira’s gan, and I speak English to all of them because I am too shy to speak in Hebrew. I hope that this new stage will help me to cross the bridge into a new part of Israeli society that I have so far been cut off from. I have 6 months to gear myself up for this big change, so here goes!


 March 2015




I feel like all my blogs are about milestones. I am always doing things for the ‘first’ time. Well, this week I got to the one year anniversary of one of my first teaching jobs in Israel. I started teaching at a small yishuv called Yad Binyamin, in February 2014, and I went there for the first time to teach 6 children in 3 families.


As we enter February 2015, I am blessed to teach 14 children in 9 families and I have a waiting list! The children did their first concert on Chanukah, performing to their parents and siblings, and I hope that we will all get together to perform again before Pesach. It is a long 7 hour day of teaching piano lessons back to back, but I love my day of full on lessons. The kids are great, the parents are lovely and it is such a pleasure to see them all progress from week to week.


At the end of the month, my women’s choir will give their second performance- another ‘second’! In June, when they gave their first performance, they were so worried that no one would turn up to watch them, that we didn’t even set out any chairs. Over 100 people came to listen and a wonderful time was had by all. This time, we have hired a slightly larger venue and are hoping for good numbers. Only 3 rehearsals to go and there is still lots to do. The choir, other than being a successful part of my business, have been a great forum to meet new people. Many new friendships have been formed within the 16 strong group, and when one of the members son had his bar mitzvah recently, all of the choir members were in attendance at the Kiddush to celebrate. Another of the women posted on facebook to see if anyone had any books she could borrow, and that night at choir she was presented with a pile of books! She in return, brings the spare fruit from the fruit trees in her garden- this week we were showered with oranges! We have become a little community within a community and I feel very blessed to be part of it.


This week also marks the end of my first semester at University. I now have 4 weeks off to write all my assignments and get them handed in. Well, that is not strictly true. There is no ‘deadline’ per se, as keeping in line with the laid back Israeli mentality my professor gave the traditional shoulder shrug when I asked when he wanted the work in. ‘Whenever you do it I will mark it’.  In February the new semester will start, with new classes and new assignments, so the Brit in me has decided I must get this work done now or I am destined to suffer later!


The Israeli winter is pretty much over, and the (brief) cold snap has passed. It is now positively beautiful to be outside, and one needs no more than a sweater to keep warm. The Israelis are of course still in their thick winter coats, but us immigrants are enjoying the sunshine and the breeze!


In other news, we have completed on our new apartment, and will be moving in July. Now that all the legal paper work is done, we can start thinking about what storage solutions we will invest in and what colours to paint Ashira’s bedroom. This is definitely the most exciting thing to happen in recent months, because it will be the start of a new era. The chance to own our own property for the first time, and in a place we are so very happy, is a real blessing. I didn’t know much about Modiin before we made aliyah, but I am glad that we chose this to be the next stop on our journey, it most definitely feels like home.


 February 2015

 Hebrew Presentation

This week I hit another big milestone in my aliyah journey- I gave a 10 minute presentation at university, in Hebrew! I am still somewhat in shock that I managed to do it, and not just that, but that I did it with a relative amount of confidence. My Hebrew was pretty sketchy and I’m sure there were lots of mistakes, and I slipped into English here and there, but the fact remains, that I stood up in front of a room of Israelis and made myself understood in Hebrew.


The masters I am studying for is in Music Education, and whilst the lectures are all in Hebrew, I can write my essays and give my presentations in English. The lectures are complicated and it take a lot to stay focused throughout, but each week it becomes slightly less exhausting to concentrate in Hebrew and I hope that by the end of the year I will be able to contribute and participate more fully in the classes. Thankfully a lot of the literature is in English which has really helped me to keep up in class!


For my first presentation, I paired up with an Israeli who also speaks English, but she is the only one in the class, so I really wanted to give the presentation in Hebrew. I wrote it all out in English and had my power point at the ready. I translated as I went with my cue card list of Hebrew key words at the ready! My partner spoke effortlessly and freely for 10 minutes, and then when it came to my turn, I took a deep breath and plunged in to the deep end.


Having been in class with these people for 12 weeks already and having barely spoken, I’m sure they were all intrigued to hear what I had to say. I could tell instantly that they were on my side, they were patient, they were listening and they were not put off my by mistakes. Ironically, the presentation was about the suppression of the voice, and how when in a state of anxiety once voice can fail to perform.


In the middle of the presentation, I decided to stray from my notes, and give a personal analogy to reinforce my point- that if you experience success then you become calm, and once you are calm you are able to control your voice more.


“5 minutes ago I did not know whether I would be able to stand up here and speak in Hebrew in front of you all, but now, after only 5 minutes, I can see that I can make myself understood, so I am already feeling calmer.”


 It could not have been more fitting!


In the cafeteria after the presentation a few of my class mates came up to me to congratulate me, and to say how impressed they were with my Hebrew. At least now they know that I am not just the shy English girl who doesn’t speak!


That evening at choir we had a bottle of wine to celebrate my success, and once again I was able to breathe a sigh of relief that that hurdle had been jumped. Now, onto the next challenge!


 January 2015

 Left alone at home

We made it, just. Zak went to Poland, guiding his first group, leaving Ashira and I at home alone. He has been away since we made aliyah, but this was the first time since I have started working and Ashira is that much more aware of what is going on these days (!). It was not an easy week, but with the help of an amazing babysitter and some awesome friends we made it. Zak also conquered a big hurdle on this trip, as it was his first time guiding a group alone, so it has been a big week all round!


Having got home at 3am, he was awoken to a big hug from Ashira at 7am, who was desperate to see her Daddy, and more importantly to ask for the present she had been promised! I pried her away to take her to gan, with the understanding that Daddy would pick her up today as a special treat. He is now, quite rightly, back in bed, so that he will be wide awake this afternoon to go and collect her.


I am off to university today, and I have two journal articles, in English, to read on the train and then I need to give a brief summary of what I read, in Hebrew, to the class. This will be the first time I have really spoken in class so I am more than a little nervous. Although I guess this will be a good chance to dip my toes in the water, because after Chanukah, in 3 weeks time, I will be giving a 20 minute presentation with my partner about the topic. I am hoping to give at least some of the presentation in Hebrew so that my class mates will understand but thankfully the lecturer is happy for me to speak in English if I need to.


Yesterday someone who is thinking of making aliyah and was here on her pilot trip from Texas, came by to meet me and ask me a few questions. It was a chance for me to reflect on our journey so far. The main thing that came across in our conversation was firstly I am really happy here and secondly the huge change was a lot less traumatic than I had anticipated.


If you had asked me when we got here where I wanted to be in a year, I might have said better at speaking Hebrew, or to have made some friends, or to be working, or to be studying, but to think that I have managed to do all of those things in only 16 months really blows me away! Not a week goes by when I am not challenged by something in my new life, be it Zak going away, or not being paid for school (that is story for another blog), or buying the wrong thing because I got my Hebrew mixed up, but I can honestly say that I am really happy here and it was a lot less traumatic than I had anticipated!


December 2014


Three weeks have passed since I last wrote, and I am beginning to find a rhythm in my new hectic schedule. Everything about my working life is different to how it was in the UK, most notably, that every day is different to the next.


On Sundays and Thursdays I teach English at a high school in Tel Aviv in the morning, music chugim for kids at my apartment in the afternoon, and teach singing and piano to private students in the evening. On Monday I study for my masters at University and run a women’s choir in the evening, and on Tuesday I teach piano to 14 lovely kids for 7 hours straight without a break in Yad Binyamin, a yishuv 30 minutes south of Modiin. Wednesday and Friday are my days off, to do work for my masters, do shopping and housework, and plan all my lessons and chugim for the week!  In England, I went to school everyday at the same time, taught in the same classroom and had the same boss with the same expectations. None of that is true of my new ‘job’, but in many ways, I am growing to love the independence and opportunities that this new life is giving me.


The Masters is definitely the most challenging part of my week. After a 20 minute walk to the station, followed by a train and a bus journey, I then have to try and concentrate during the five hours of lectures, which are all in Hebrew! The first class of the day is about 20th century music, a topic with which I am familiar, which makes the challenge of keeping up much easier. The second class, whilst being about the psychology of music, a topic I know little about, has all the literature in English, so whilst the lectures are a challenge I can at least read up on the topic. The final lecture, apart from being at the end of a long day, is about a topic I know nothing about, there is a lot less literature in English, and I have no idea what is going on! Thankfully, I have managed to find a friend who speaks both English and Hebrew so I hoping she will be able to help me pass this class!


It is very exciting to be back at university; learning about something that I love, developing my career opportunities and improving my Hebrew at the same time. It will take 3 years before I complete my Masters, but this is just another example of where the journey is going to be as exciting as the destination.


Zak is guiding his first group in Poland next week, my parents are coming to visit the week after that, and then I will have 14 of my students perform to each other in a Chanukah recital, so the next few weeks are sure to be full of excitement and challenges. 


 November 2014




In April I was researching my options to do a Master’s here in Israel. I was so bored at the time, and I desperately wanted to be busy. As an olah chadasha who is under thirty I am entitled to a free masters, so I thought I would check out my options.


I stumbled upon a course in Music Education at Levinsky College and arranged to meet with someone there. In May we met, and the Professor was very excited about the prospect of having me on the course. She took me down to the registration office to sign me up but there were a few issues. In order to be registered I had to pass a Hebrew proficiency test. So home I went, to register and study for the test.


However, the test proved to be a little harder than I had first anticipated. Let’s just say, that my Israeli neighbour said on more than one occasion when helping me revise, ‘I have never used that word’, or, ‘I have never heard of that word’. Great, I had no chance. Not only that, but I needed 125/150 to get on to the course!


I paid to do the exam, I paid for the revision guide book, and I paid for a few hours tutoring as well, to boost my chances. The test was on the 3rd of September, the day after we returned from our month in England. I reasoned that even though my chances of passing were slim, I should use this as an opportunity to improve my Hebrew, as it is always much easier to learn when there is a deadline.


I revised hard all summer and I went into the test knowing that the chances of me passing were small but that having come this far I might as well give it my best shot. The test was very intense, with 60 short questions in the first 60 minutes (!) and one essay question in the last 20 minutes. I left the University knowing that I had tried my best, but that I had most definitely not passed. I was ready to move on.


On the assumption that I had failed the test, I phoned the university to see if there was any chance of being accepted despite this. No one answered the phone, so I sent a couple of emails to see if I could get a response that way. Nothing. Apparently, the first week of September is not a good time to phone a university as since it is not officially ‘term time’ no one will be there to pick up the phone.


The following week, I managed to get through to the administrator in the music department, who told me that there was no wiggle room on this and that without the test score I could not be accepted.


I had done my best, and if there was no way around this, then I would look at other courses or try again next year. That was until I got a phone call from the head of the course, who had been forwarded one of my emails. She said that she didn’t care about the test, and that she would love to meet me.


Talk about an emotional rollercoaster! Having just come to terms with the fact that my dream of doing a masters was over, and having accepted the English teaching job instead because I realised I would indeed have plenty of spare time, I had been given a second chance. I arranged to go and meet her, and she explained that she was sure she could get around the test score, and that my Hebrew would surely improve over the course of the two years. She reminisced about how poor her English was when she started her PhD at Harvard and told me not to worry about the language issue. 


She excitedly took me to the registration office, as the other professor had done five months earlier, but she too was turned away- this time on the basis that I didn’t have the test score required and because I didn’t have an Israeli teaching license, something that had not come up before. She tried to persuade them but they were having none of it.


She decided that she would make it her mission to get me accepted to the course, because as far as she saw it, I was a perfect candidate; with a music degree, a teaching qualification from a very reputable university and four years teaching experience, she wanted me on her course.


Two weeks later, and much backwards and forwards between herself, the registration office, and many other levels of bureaucracy within the university I finally got the call to tell me I had been accepted. She had managed to convince them that I was suitably qualified, and on the condition that I pass the Hebrew test before I graduate they would overlook my missing ‘qualification’.


Amazing! I couldn’t be happier! I have learnt that no definitely does not mean no in Israel, and that the amount of bureaucracy can work both for and against me. It is now two days before Succot and I received the phone call confirming my place yesterday. The course starts straight after Succot. This episode has also taught me that it is never too late or too close to the deadline in Israel to expect results!


I excitedly phone Misrad Haklita (Ministry of Absorption), as I could now start the process of applying for the grant for my free Master’s. However, she only works Mondays and Wednesdays, and apparently although I was phoning on a Monday at 3pm, I was too late. She only works 9-2, and she has already finished for the day. Even worse, she won’t be working on Wednesday because it is Erev Chag, so I will have to wait until after the Chagim.


Ah, the joys of the Israeli system beats me again. It may be frustrating at times, but if my aliyah has taught me anything, it is that things will work out, one way or another. I can’t wait to start the Master’s after the Chagim, and whilst I know I have a lot more bureaucracy to deal with yet, I know that, as they say, yihiyeh beseder! (it will be ok!)




Succot, 2014


Chagim in Israel


In England I was working at a Catholic Secondary School full time. I loved my job, and for all its flaws I was very happy working there. However, in the first month of each of the four  years that I worked there, I had a significant challenge to overcome. Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Succot meant that I had to miss up to seven days in the first twenty of the school year, which was both disruptive and stressful. The school could not have been more accommodating, and because they were a religious school they were always respectful of my religious commitments. This however, did not make it any easier to find a balance between being committed and ‘present’ at school whilst also finding the emotional, mental and physical time and energy to prepare for the chagim. Either school was losing out, or my experience and enjoyment of the chagim was lessened.


I remember one year on chol hamoed succot, the rain was pouring down and I was on my way home from school erev simchat torah. I had left school at 5 so that I could do the 30 minute journey home and have a little time to shower and get ready before candle lighting. Half way home, I got a flat tire and had to call the breakdown service in the pouring rain to come and rescue me. I ended up getting home about 15 minutes before Yom Tov started. It was so stressful and really took away from the simcha of the day for me.


This year we are having our second year of chagim in Israel. We spent Rosh Hashanah at home and ate out for four of the six meals! We had so much fun and could really enjoy the chag together. On Yom Kippur, we all had the day before off to prepare which meant that by the time the fast began we were ready to focus on the meaning of the day.


On Yom Kippur, the streets are filled with people. The religious are on their way to shul, their children playing in the streets whilst they pray. Yom Kippur is a national holiday; a day off work for one and all and the roads are literally bare. Because of this, secular people have adopted Yom Kippur as a day to ride bikes in the streets. Children swarm through the streets riding their bikes, scooters and bimbas. It is quite an amazing sight, and having been here for a whole calendar year now, I can say that Yom Kippur is the noisiest night of the year!


This week is Succot, and we are lucky enough to be celebrating with all three of our brothers who live in Israel. We will spend the first day of chag in Zichron Ya’acov with Zak’s brother Nathan, first day Chol Hamoed with my brother, Sam in Ra’anana and Shabbat Chol Hamoed with Zak’s brother John, who recently made aliyah to Tel Monde. On Sunday of Chol Hamoed we are meeting with friends who have flown in for Succot from London and LA, on Tuesday we are meeting up with friends from our community in London who have also made aliyah in the last few years, and on Tuesday of Chol Hamoed Zak’s parents fly in to spend the rest of chag with us in Modiin!


Rather than Succot being something we have to ‘fit in’ around work, we are on holiday and so is everyone else! We will spend the time together as a family, exploring the country, meeting up with friends and whilst there are many things I miss about England, this is most definitely a time of year where I love being in Israel!




October 2014


Funny How Things Work Out


Today is quite possibly my last day at home alone, my last day off, for quite some time. Having spent the last year complaining that I am bored and don’t know how to fill my time, I am about to experience the opposite extreme.


I have been fortunate to acquire 17 private students, 3 children’s music classes and my women’s choir and you would think that that would keep me busy enough. Many months ago, just after Pesach, I had an interview at a school in Tel Aviv to teach English. I bluffed my way through the interview in Hebrew, smiling and nodding a lot and when at the end of the interview I asked, (in English) if I could come back and watch a lesson, they said ‘of course’.


The next week I returned, and when I asked the teacher if I should sit at the back, she looked at me blankly. ‘Why would you sit at the back?’, she said, and then it dawned on me- at some point in the interview he must have asked me to teach a lesson, and here I was, expected to teach this very class! I was totally unprepared, and started to explain what had been lost in translation. The head of English came to ‘watch’ my lesson and I had to explain the problem to her. She said not to worry, and she apologised for the confusion.


I had come all this way, and since the teacher had no lesson planned, I offered to teach the class anyway- after all, I am an experienced teacher, how difficult can twenty Eighth Grade girls be? So I asked the teacher how their English is, and she said, ‘terrible, don’t talk to them in English’, a great start given my Hebrew!


Don’t ask me how, but I managed to teach a lesson for 30 minutes, I kept the girls focused and under control, we did a few activities using basic English phrases and with no resources or preparation at all, I had managed to pull off the impossible!


I went home in a bit of a haze and when they phoned me the next week I had a very confusing conversation in Hebrew with the secretary. As soon as I got off the phone I knew that I had agreed to do something but I didn’t know what. Help! Note to self- do not pretend to understand when you don’t. I phoned Zak in a blind panic and he told me to phone back and ask her to clarify in English. Only problem is, I don’t know who I spoke to and the person who picked up the phone had no idea who had called me. I decided to leave it, reasoning that someone would be in touch when they realised I hadn’t don’t what I had agreed to do (a risky strategy I know!)


The next day I got a text from the head of English congratulating me on my new position. I had accepted the job without knowing. Zak couldn’t stop laughing when I told him. Then followed a number of trips to Misrad HaChinuch (Ministry of Education) to get my paper work in order, and by the time the summer holidays rolled around I had decided that I didn’t really want to take on a commitment to teach so many hours, in Tel Aviv which is far away, for an undisclosed amount of money, when I had never taught English as a foreign language before. Added to that, I still didn’t know if I had been accepted to the masters programme and I reasoned that I could not take on both and I would rather do the masters.


Time to try and backtrack. I managed to get hold of the relevant person, and explained to her that I was sorry to let them down but I was not in a position to take on the role. Perhaps if they could offer me something for less hours and teaching only the English speakers that could work? She left it that she would call me in September once I knew about the masters and we would see what we could work out then.


September came and I still didn’t know about the masters, but I was pretty sure I had failed the Hebrew entrance exam, so decided to try my luck and call the school. They were delighted that I was still interested and asked if I could start tomorrow! They had one class of nine, Seventh Grade girls, all English speakers, who had been enrolled in a special programme for English speakers in the school. Only problem, they didn’t have an English teacher. They needed me for 4 hours a week to teach this one class and they were open to negotiating on salary and would pay for my transport. Once again, another piece of the puzzle fell into place. I quickly called my friend and my sister in law who are both experienced English teachers, and recruited their expertise for ideas and advice.


Three weeks in and it is going well. The girls are great and I am loving being back in the classroom. The masters programme is still up in the air, and the head of the programme is trying to pull some strings to get me in even though I failed the exam and I don’t have an Israeli teaching licence.


I can’t explain it, but things keep falling into place. Things keep just working out. It is as if there is someone up there, watching out for me.   Who knows if the masters programme will accept me, hopefully I will know in the next week or two, but either way, I have learnt never to underestimate myself, and that no, never really means no in Israel.





September 2014


A New Year


We escaped the heat by going to England for nearly a month and have come back to the start of a brand new year. We had so much fun visiting family and friends in London and Manchester, did plenty of touristy activities and filled three suitcases with goodies galore.


Whilst we were away we lent our car to some friends and our apartment to another friend whose parents needed somewhere to stay whilst they visited. This meant that not only did we get picked up from the airport but we also arrived home to find freshly cooked dinner in the fridge! It felt great to be home and it was reassuring to know that we are surrounded by great people.


This past Shabbat was our first since we got back, and as usual we went to the park on Shabbat afternoon. There is one particular park where all the anglos tend to congregate at about 5pm and it is a great opportunity to meet people. This week were really excited to go because although we had seen some friends at shul in the morning and had a lovely Shabbat lunch with friends it was a nice chance to catch up with those we hadn’t yet had the chance to see.


We also met quite a few new olim that had arrived over the summer and I was struck by how overwhelmed they seemed. One couple had arrived 6 weeks earlier with three young kids from Australia. I remember that feeling of not knowing, of feeling lost, of feeling unsure. But seeing this couple made me realise, that I don’t feel like that anymore. Yes, there are plenty of things that are still difficult but my overall sense is of belonging and feeling calm and safe. If I had a problem this time last year I didn’t know how to deal with that. Now I know who to call, or at the very least I know who to call to ask who to call!


It was a hard year, and we put a lot of effort into making friends, into finding work, into learning Hebrew, well, into pretty much everything! And whilst the journey is far from over, I can say that this Shabbat in the park I could see that It had paid off. Stage one complete, now on to stage two!


September 2014


In England


‘How are you? How is Israel?’ this is a conversation I have had countless times in the last week. We have come back to England for the summer to escape the August heat and soaring temperatures and tomorrow is our aliyah anniversary. It is hard to believe it has been a whole year already and being in England on ‘holiday’ makes it all the more surreal. Since Ashira has no gan in August, I have no students and Zak can work from London we have been lucky enough to come over for almost a month-plenty of time to see friends and family. Or so you would think! We have spent our first week here running around trying to fit in seeing people before they fly off on their summer holidays, or relocate to Hong Kong in one instance! My parents are so excited to have us staying and Ashira loves all the attention and has so far been a star. On the plane here there were so many children and no one batted an eye lid at Ashira’s singing and shouting as she enjoyed her journey through the skies.


Next weekend we are going away to Hereford with some friends for a few days. We will be 8 adults, 3 toddlers and 2 babies- and no doubt a lot of luggage and food! After that we are off to Manchester for a week to spend time with Zak’s family and then back to London for the final leg of our travels.


Being away for so long is giving us time to think about just how far we have come. This year has been such a whirlwind, and I am not sure at what point it stopped feeling like so much work but now that I look back I realise just how settled I am.


When I left England one of the hardest things to leave was my job. I was working full time as a music and performing arts teacher at a local high school and I loved my work. It was a real struggle to leave my form group just one year before their GCSE’s and to leave my AS level class knowing I would not be able to see them through to the end of their qualification. Not only that, but I had no idea what I would do for work in Israel. Everyone says, ‘don’t worry, it will be ok, you will find work’ and I didn’t really believe them, but I have been blessed with so many opportunities this year. One thing led to another and now I have an official business with a whole host of private students, after school music classes for kids and a women’s choir with one performance under their belt.  My work has been a blessing not only from a financial point of view but because it has helped me to meet people, make friends and feel part of the community.


When we get back to Israel I will be going to Yad Binyamin, a yishuv 25 minutes south of Modiin, where I will continue to teach the 5 students I started teaching in January and I will also give trial lessons to a further 6 students. What an opportunity! One person heard about me in Modiin and this has grown into something amazing.


Other than work, the most difficult thing about making aliyah was leaving friends and family. Both Zak and I are lucky enough to have brothers living in Israel but my sister is in London, Zak has one brother in Manchester and both of our parents are firmly settled in England. Throughout the year, both family and friends have been out to Israel and we have had so many fun shabbatot and outings with them, but being back in England there has been time to really catch up and enjoy each other.


The icing on the cake of our holiday will be Ashira’s early 2nd birthday party on our penultimate day here. Having missed Ashira’s first birthday, as we had just made Aliyah, both our parents were excited at the prospect of being able to celebrate with her. There will be cake, there will be candles, and we are working hard on teaching Ashira the number two!


So from a wet and cold England, happy aliya-anniversary to us, and I look forward to starting the next chapter in our aliyah journey!



August 2014


Ups and Downs


Nothing can prepare you for living through a war.


I cannot fall asleep at night, because I cannot put my phone down. I am constantly checking Facebook and the news websites for updates. I don’t want to fall asleep too soon in case there is a siren and I need to move to the safe room (which luckily for us is our spare room).  I make calculated decisions when I plan my day. I don’t go on long drives with Ashira, and I try to avoid being in open spaces far from a shelter when I am with her. I will go to the park, but not alone. Zak is away with work, and his flight back has been cancelled. He is stuck in Poland and he has to pay for a replacement ElAl flight, because his airline cancelled the flight because of ‘the war’ and therefore he may not get his money back.  This war is unprecedented in so many ways.


What makes it so weird is that most of the time, things carry on as ‘normal’. My students come, Ashira goes to gan, I do the weekly shop at the supermarket, I even braved taking Ashira to the local swimming pool this week. However, there is this constant feeling of nervous tension under the surface. We are all waiting; waiting for a siren, waiting for news of loved ones, waiting to see what will happen next. And that is not normal. It is not normal to not be able to fall asleep at night, and to have to plan your day around where the nearest bomb shelter is. There is something about continuing with my normal routine that feels distinctly un-normal.


Last night my friend came round so we could decorate a cake for her son’s first birthday.  She had been planning a small gathering of friends in the park this afternoon, and despite the fact that the park is not as close to a shelter as we would like, we decided to do it anyway. That was until, covered in icing sugar, rolling pin in hand, the siren went at 9pm last night. We looked at each other, and went quickly to the safe room. My neighbour downstairs was home alone with her two 4-year-old boys, whom I knew were awake. Her husband is on the Gaza border and obviously it isn’t easy. I decided to leave my friend with a sleeping Ashira in our safe room and go downstairs to see if they were ok. It was a calculated risk, but I am glad that I went because she was very shaken by the episode. I stayed until she was calm and the boys were close to sleep.


Upon returning to the mundane and joyous activity of decorating a one year old’s birthday cake, we discussed whether we should go ahead and have the party in the park or if given the situation, it was in fact too risky. It was such a sad conversation to have, and such a strange juxtaposition of emotions.


Today, life continued as normal. I went to Jerusalem to do some paper work at the Ministry of Absorption. ‘Oh it will take hours’ everyone told me, so I braced myself with plenty of reading material as I prepared for the long wait. I was back in my car before I could even thank the women for being so efficient! I then decided to go to the supermarket on the way home, which would turn out to be a giant mistake. The queues were three trolleys long, there were two people next to me having a full blown fight about who was next in the queue. But I had chosen this particular supermarket, on this particular day for a specific reason. The owner of the supermarket chain, Rami Levi is a known philanthropist, and yesterday it was announced that the store would offer customers the option to ‘buy’ at ridiculously low prices a bundle of toiletries or a bundle of under garments for soldiers fighting in the south. At the till, you request which bundle you want, they add it to your bill, and they take care of delivering the goods to where they are needed. That morning my mum had asked me if I could buy some things to send to the soldiers, and that is why I had gone to Rami Levi.


Whilst this war has been pretty horrible in all respects, there has been one aspect of it that continues to bring me close to tears a number of times a day. People are pulling together to help in any way they can; by collecting toiletries and underwear for soldiers on the front, sending pizza or paying for babysitting for mums left at home whilst their husbands are drafted, by supporting businesses in the south who are struggling- the list goes on.


My friend baked 500 cookies to send to soldiers on a base living near her and when they were at the supermarket buying 20 bags of flour and copious amounts of eggs, the lady at the checkout asked her what she was doing. She explained the idea and the lady offered to contribute to the cost of the ingredients. The women behind them in the queue overheard the story, and also offered to contribute. People are truly amazing and I am constantly overwhelmed by the acts of generosity I am witnessing each day.


There is an iron dome interceptor base in Modiin, and the team of 12-15 soldiers that work on the base have been showered with pizza, ice coffee, ice cream, snacks and other provisions by the local community. At one point they asked people to stop bringing food as they had so much! When asked how else people could help, they sheepishly replied that they would love a shower, or to have some laundry done. Within hours, there was a rota arranged to take each soldier to someone’s house for a shower and to collect and return their clothes freshly laundered.


Zak is in Poland with work, and has been for nearly 2 weeks. He was due back on Friday morning first thing, but his flight has been canceled. Hopefully he will get booked onto an ElAl flight and make it home before Shabbat. I hope that next time I write I will have more jovial stories to tell, but in the mean time, let us pray for peace.


July 28th, 2014


Another week of firsts


Another week of firsts; tomorrow Zak goes away with work for his longest trip yet, for nearly two weeks, and last night we had our first ‘red alert’ in Modiin.


Just hours earlier, we had been sitting in the park on Shabbat afternoon discussing how lucky we were to have not had to endure the sirens and rockets of practically every major city in Israel thus far. Whilst we had been on edge all week, the reality was the day-to-day life had continued as normal for us.


People suggested that maybe it was because we are so close to Ramallah, but at 10pm on Saturday night, just as our Shabbat guests were leaving, the sirens wailed across our sleepy city and we all ran to our safe rooms. It was such a surreal experience, my heart jumped into my mouth, adrenaline pumping with only 90 seconds to spare, I ran to my room and grabbed Ashira, sleeping soundly, and into the ‘mamad’ we went. I managed to keep her asleep but as my heart pounded in my chest I took deep breaths and tried to check the time on my phone so I could work out the 10 minutes that we had to stay in the safe room.


The strangest thing was after the siren. None of us knew what to do. We put Ashira back in her cot, our guests settled their children to sleep again, and the four of us sat in the lounge- unable to go to bed and yet not knowing what to do with ourselves. Our guests decided to stay another night rather than driving back so late with their three small children and risking having to get out on the roadside if there was another ‘red alert’. It turned out this was a wise decision because just 30 minutes later there was a second siren.


Today we were awoken by the siren at 6am, and I can’t help but think that Hamas knew that they would be waking up a lot of babies and young kids who would be too awake to go back to sleep but too tired to tackle the day head on.  


I found myself unable to get things done today. I procrastinated going to the shops because I truthfully didn’t feel confident to leave the house. When I eventually did go out, the streets were eerily quiet and the shops were practically deserted. I struggled to focus on my work and had to stop myself from checking the news constantly.


Before Zak went to work we decided to move Ashira’s cot into the ‘mamad’ so that if there were sirens in the middle of the night we would not have to risk waking her up to move her. When she came home from gan at lunch time she was very excited about this new change because the mamad, which on a regular day I the spare room/office is usually out of bounds to her!


Live goes on as normal, people go to work and gan and kaytana, but there is an undertone of fear in everyone’s faces. You make calculated decisions; if I go out where is there on route to stop if there is a siren and I need to run? If I have a shower now, will I hear the siren?  The ganenet breathed a sigh of relief when she handed over Ashira at lunch time today and I could sense her doing a quick headcount; one less child to heard into the mamad. It is a big responsibility and I am so grateful that I have a safe room in my apartment and that we don’t have to run downstairs to a communal basement.

I pray that there is a peaceful solution soon and that we can all once again sleep soundly and deeply in our beds. 


June 25th, 2014


Converting my driving license




Another day of aliyah bureaucracy which started off with tears of frustration, but has got me home in time to sit back and relax before Ashira comes home from gan to her paddling pool play date.


In order to convert your foreign driving license to an Israeli one you have a year to go through a number of processes and then sit a short test. Doesn’t sound too complicated I hear you say. That is where you are wrong. By this point in my aliyah, I am pretty sure that nothing can surprise me, but today I was proven wrong.


Having been to the opticians and had one form stamped, and then to the doctor for another, today we set off to visit misrad harishui (Department of Licensing) to get the final stamp so that we can book a driving test. The ‘local’ branch is in Holon, about a half an hour drive from Modiin, so Zak took the day off work and off we went at 8am this morning hoping to be home for lunch. We arrived at the offices only to be told by a very rude and unhelpful man that the office was not open to do license conversions today. We both look at him confused, as we looked into the main room to see hundreds of people waiting in line. There are plenty of people working here today so what could the problem be? Surely one of them could process our forms? After all, all we need is a stamp. However, the people who know how to stamp the driving license conversion form are off on a training day so he reliably informs us we will have to come back next Monday. Having tried our best to convince them that there MUST be someone in the building who can help, we gave in and left.


The unhelpful man at reception had suggested that we go to the Haifa office, which seemed quite frankly a ridiculous suggestion. We phoned an Olim’s helpline to ask if they could advice us on a closer alternative and they informed us that the Jerusalem office was open, so off we set, on Phase 2 of our journey.


Not wanting to get caught out again, we phoned Zak’s office and asked his co worker if she could kindly call Misrad Harishui in Jerusalem to check that the person we needed to see was indeed there. She kindly obliged, and after 10 minutes on hold she phoned us back to recount her findings. First of all, the woman at Misrad Harishui was surprised to learn that the Holon office was not offering this service today. She then went on to tell Zak’s colleague that their Jerusalem office was open but that she didn’t know if the person we needed was there. When asked if she could phone and check, she told her that it wouldn’t be possible because...they do not have phones!


The tears of frustration I had cried 10 minutes earlier when we got into the car were replaced with howls of laughter. We thanked Zak’s colleague and decided to press on with our journey, given that half the morning had now disappeared we rationalised that we might as well try and get this done today.


It seems that at this point our luck began to change. As we pulled up outside the Jerusalem office, there was a parking space right outside. We went in, took our ticket, and prepared to sit and wait. We were number 776 and the screen flashing on the wall read 730. We sighed and took out our books resigned to the long wait.  However, the numbers were moving at so rapid a pace we began to worry we would miss our call! Thirty minutes later we were back in the car, forms in hand, stamps and all, and we decided to go out for lunch to celebrate.


Everyone always says that aliyah is an emotional rollercoaster, and that is exactly how I feel today. I went from tears to laughter in one morning and I’m sure this will not be the last day of its kind!


June 15th, 2014




Today I had to put petrol in the car for the first time since making aliyah nine months ago. A seemingly mundane activity, but as I discovered today, it is more complicated than one might think.


Zak has the car everyday to get to work so he always fills up, but this week he is away and he forgot to put petrol in before he left (note from Zak: I did put petrol i, just not enough for all her driving!) so off I go to the petrol station to do what I have done hundreds of times in the UK. However, as with so many things when moving country, it is the little things that can throw you the most.


I couldn’t understand all the instructions on the machine at the pump, and with no one around to ask I went into the shop and the lady offered to help me through the process via the intercom. Already feeling a little stupid having to ask for help to put petrol in my car, I then could not understand her speedy Hebrew instructions and sensing my confusion, she came out to the car to do it for me. Apart from being somewhat humiliated and feeling like a true immigrant, I thanked her and off I went on the rest of my day.


I had stopped at the petrol station on my way to teach for the afternoon and the fiasco at the pump had made my 5 minutes late. Having been on time if not early every week for the last 5 months, the mother of my first student was worried and called the mother of my second student to see if she had heard from me. When I arrived, feeling down and slightly embarrassed by my ordeal I put on a smile and brushed off her enquiries as to whether everything was ok. Her two kids had a great lesson and at the end of the hour I was feeling much more positive.


At the second house, when the mother enquired if I was ok (due to my lateness and the worried phone call of the first mother) I sheepishly confessed that I had had trouble filling up my car with petrol. She replied with a wave of her hand, that this is one of the things on her ‘aliyah list’ to warn people about, as she too had had trouble many a time understanding the process. With a huge sigh of relief, know feeling both vindicated and relieved that I was not the first poor soul to be caught out by this tricky and yet most basic of tasks, I was able to hold my head high and continue with my day, with a genuine smile.


There are so many things I have learnt about Israel and how things work here, and I really do feel more settled than I could have imagined after only nine months, but when you find out that you can’t negotiate a basic situation like filling a car with petrol it can really set you back. And then as soon as you start to feel down, you meet someone who turns it around, by saying the smallest of things.


For every low there is a high and this journey has been full of them, big ones and small ones. Everyday presents new challenges and whilst that can be daunting and scary it also means that there are endless possibilities.



May 30th, 2014



Now that Pesach is over, and ulpan is finished the days are feeling longer and I am becoming more acutely aware of the loneliness that is felt from being unemployed and alone in a quiet city six days a week. Shabbat is a beacon of socialising- from the children’s services at shul, long relaxing Shabbat lunches, and the inevitable gathering in the ‘shabbat park’ which takes us to bed time (or sometimes beyond!).


The house is clean and tidy, the washing machine is on its second load, 50 cupcakes have been baked for the gan family day out and its only 10am. Having worked full time in London this amount of free time is proving to be a challenge!  At times like this, sitting on my couch deciding which ‘chore’ to tackle next, I ‘wish’ I was back in London, where I could go and visit my Mum, or see my friends, or go shopping in my beloved Sainsbury’s, but then I am reminded of yesterday.


Yesterday was Yom Ha’atzmaut. We celebrated by having a BBQ with three other couples, one of whom we knew from London and two of whom we have met since making aliyah. With seven girls between us it wasn’t a quiet affair, and there was food in abundance. With the men bbqing on one balcony and the kids playing on the other, the four women were left inside to chat and enjoy the day. I have always celebrated Yom Ha’atzmaut, but usually we do so in the evening because in the day we have to go to work. There was something very special about spending the whole 24 hours in the ‘holiday mood’. In the evening a friend and I went into the centre of Modiin where there was a huge concert/festival with tens of thousands of people gathering to celebrate together. The atmosphere was electric and when we left at 10.30pm the part was only just getting started!


There are many things about my London life that I genuinely miss, and sometimes even pine after, but ultimately my future is here. I love that my celebrations can be shared with everyone around me and that I am part of something bigger than myself.


The day to day is still hard, and building a new circle of friends and being self employed are both big challenges, but days like yesterday certainly help to realise what we are a part of and what we are building making the whole process that little bit easier.


 May 15th, 2014




It’s my favorite time of year; the sun is shining, the trees and flowers are blossoming, it’s my birthday and Pesach is around the corner. Filled with happy memories of family time, chol hamoed outings and sing along seders. To me, Pesach is a week of pure nostalgia. The same plates and mugs that we have had every year for just one week come out of hiding. The cinnamon balls and macaroons that are saved for this chag are made in abundance, we sing the same songs, have the same discussions and I wouldn’t change it for the world.


This will be only the second time in 28 years that I have not celebrated Pesach in South Woodford, in my parents’ home, with the familiar sights and smells I love so much. I was more than a little upset in the run up to Pesach, and couldn’t believe that I would enjoy having only one seder, and that my humble table of eight would not be able to create the same lively atmosphere of the thirty people celebrating at my parents’ seder table.


We cleaned and shopped and baked and cooked and as the weather got warmer and the date approached I was more apprehensive than ever. Everything was different. Our plastic plates were not living up to my memories of mother’s mismatched pesach plates, we were struggling to find many products kosher for pesach without kitniyot and all in all I was starting to dread the chag.


On reflection, now that it is all done and my kitchen is almost back to its normal self, I can honestly say, that my fears were unfounded. Yes, my macaroons weren’t as good as my mums, and yes the tunes were different at the seder, but this was the start of something knew. Just as my parents did, and their parents before them, we began this year to create our own Pesach traditions. We shared our seder with Zak’s parents, brother, sister in law and their two children. We sang each others tunes, each had our own vegetable for karpas and shared storied of how ‘we’ did it. Instead of Aunty Debbie’s chocolate ice cream cake I made chocolate roulade, and instead of my mum’s salt beef by brother in law made roast beef. And instead of second day yom tov we went on a tiyul in the sunshine!


I can gladly say that my Israeli Pesach experience far outweighed my expectations, and not only that but there was something that just felt right about being here, as if I was part of a bigger story, a bigger picture. Everyone around me was celebrating, the weather reflected the mood so aptly, and we were truly able to enjoy our time together as a family and explore the land of Israel. I am so glad that I experienced a different kind of Pesach, and I can’t wait to see what new experiences next Pesach will bring.


April 10th, 2014


The Litmus Test


This week has been the litmus test of how settled we feel in our new ‘home’. Zak has been away with work and Ashira and I are home alone for the week, and with Ashira getting an ear infection the day before Zak’s departure things were not looking good. The day he flew I had my ulpan test, so the week started off in an antibiotic, revision filled haze. Having got through that hurdle, we then got to Shabbat. We were lucky enough to know a few people in Kaiser from London, and once again these lovely friends stepped in, just as my Mum and sister had when ever Zak had to go away with work in London. There is definitely truth in the saying ‘friends are the family you choose’. With no family nearby, olim have to rely on friends and neighbours so much more, and it is a comfort to know you are not alone.


It is now Monday and there are two days until Zak’s return, and I have to say that after my neighbour stepping in to babysit on Thursday whilst I taught, a lovely Shabbat where we felt well looked after and catered for, having friends round this afternoon with their kids to play, and a great choir rehearsal tonight, I think the results of the test are looking positive.


On Sunday we went on a trip to Yad Vashem with our ulpan class, as is mandatory for all ulpanim. Having been there a number of times before, quite a few people in the class decided not to go, but with Zak in Poland teaching a group of American teenagers about the holocaust, I felt it was an appropriate way to spend my Sunday morning. 


I too have been to Yad Vashem many times, and initially I wasn’t sure what I would get out of it, but this visit was different. We all got our audio guides and went round on our own at our own pace, and for those of you who have been to the newly remodelled yad vashem, at the end of the ‘museum’ you come out overlooking the Jerusalem hills, a truly stunning view.


Having spent almost three hours learning about the horrors of the Shoah, I was left with a sense of pride and wonderment that I was so privileged to be living in a generation that for whom aliyah is a real possibility. Yes there are sacrifices, no it doesn’t make the day to day easier, but the experience of going to Yad Vashem was transformed for me with the knowledge that I would be going back to my new home in Israel.


I had done it, I had squared the circle, in some small way I had started to right the wrong that was done to us. I am part of a generation who have the choice to stay or to go, and to live out my Judaism however I see fit. I felt proud on Sunday of what I have achieved, together with Zak and Ashira, in the last 6 months. Every day is a challenge, but a worthwhile one. Just as getting married and having children changed my perspective on things I had seen and experienced before, so did making aliyah, and for those who decided not to go because ‘they had seen it all before’ I think you should reconsider.


March 11th, 2014


Feeling down


I have been feeling a bit low in the last few weeks. The euphoria has passed and the reality has set in. My family and friends are far away, the end of ulpan is drawing closer and I am still struggling with my Hebrew and with no advance on students I am not sure how to move my ‘work’ forward.


However, in the last few days things have started to look up, on all fronts, and I can honestly say I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. They have decided to extend our ulpan programme for an extra six weeks, which is exciting on two fronts. Firstly, it will provide a much needed opportunity to keep using and developing my Hebrew, and secondly it delays the inevitable challenge of keeping busy and productive in the mornings when my work opportunities are more limited.


I have decided that after Ulpan I want to formalise my business as a Music Teacher, and I have set about organising this now so that I am ready to hit the ground running for the next academic year. I have met with an accountant so that I can open my Business File, I have someone designing a logo for ‘Miri’s Music’ and yesterday I met with someone from Mati, a consulting agency for small business. They are offering free consultation for olim wanted to set up new businesses, but the most exciting thing about the meeting was that I managed to conduct the whole thing in Hebrew. I am usually very quick to assume that I can’t express myself in Hebrew and tend to give in and switch to English, but yesterday I proved myself wrong. In the 45 minute meeting I managed to explain my business idea and discuss how to move it forward using mostly Hebrew, and this is most definitely progress!


One of my recent worries has been not knowing how to market my business to get more pupils. Sitting in Ulpan today, I picked up my phone to see I had received an email (I know, I should have been concentrating on the class work!). The email was about teaching piano lessons in a nearby Yishuv, called Yad Binyamin, and funnily enough it was from the husband of the person sitting next to me in class! He didn’t know that I’m studying with his wife, or that I am from London and he has worked with my husband, but he wanted to know if I would come to the yishuv to teach some of his daughters and some other neighbours children. He had seen my advert on the ‘Modiin List’ (an email advertiser like Edgwar K) a few weeks ago. Having been worrying all week about how to find more students, here someone is asking me to take on 6 students at once!


I know I can do it, and that I have the will and the skills to make this work, but sometimes it is difficult to believe. With my Hebrew improving every day and work opportunities popping up from the most random places, I am feeling really positive about the next chapter in our aliyah.  



March 6th, 2014


Nursery & Work


Two of the things I was most nervous about when making aliyah was finding a nursery for my daughter that I was happy with, and finding work. We had the most amazing childminder in London, who my daughter loved, and with a ratio of 1:3 she was undoubtedly well looked after. In Israel, the ratios tend to be much higher in childcare, and it is not uncommon for under 3 year olds to be 6 children to 1 adult. When we arrived in Modiin we looked into a few childcare options and came across an English speaking gan which a number of people we know send their children to. Ashira has been going there for 3 months now and she couldn’t be happier. My fears about her not getting the attention and care she needed have been very much allayed, and the gannenet (nursery teacher) couldn’t be more caring. Yesterday Ashira was not feeling well at Gan and her gannenet texted me to say that she was concerned about her, because she had napped for an unusually long time and had unusually refused to eat her lunch (and anyone who knows my daughter will know how rare an occurrence that is!). This kind of personal attention and ‘knowing’ is what I was hoping to find in a nursery in Israel and I have been lucky enough to do so.


My second concern was work. I had a full time job as a secondary school music teacher in London, and I loved my job. If I hadn’t wanted to make aliyah I would have happily continued in my career as a teacher for many years to come. I found it fulfilling and energising and I wouldn’t have changed it for anything. However, the school system here is very different and ‘formal’ music lessons are not so common place. Second to that, my Hebrew is not yet good enough to work in a school and the wages are far less than a teacher would earn in the UK. So when we made aliyah I was prepared to explore other options. With a little facebook publicity and word of mouth, I have managed to acquire 5 private students of piano and voice, a chug for 4/5 year olds and a women’s choir, in the 4 short months we have been here. In no way does this replace the full time work and salary I left behind, but it has given me confidence that there are other ways I can use my skills to provide for my family and to give myself the sense of job satisfaction that I had in England.


So, so far so good. The next major challenge will come when I finish ulpan and then I have my mornings to fill with work and other endeavours! I am apprehensive about this challenge but also looking forward to starting the next phase in our aliyah.


February 25th, 2014


Moving on


I thought that I would do ulpan so that I could learnt to speak Hebrew and then I would be start to ‘start my life’ in Israel. Now half way through the 5 month programme provided for free by the government, I have realised that rather than being the end point, ulpan is just the beginning. It is not easy to learn a new language, especially when outside of the classroom my life exists largely in English. At ulpan I have learnt the basics of Hebrew grammar and have increased my confidence when speaking. I have learnt a lot of new words and phrases and I can read, write and understand better than I could 2 months ago. However, when I finish ulpan in 2 months time, I will not be ‘fluent’, far from it. I will however have the confidence and basic skills to go out and perhaps find work in Ivrit, and begin to understand society around me. This is just the beginning .To become fluent I need to keep practising, by finding opportunities to speak Hebrew-in the park, in the shops, by teaching in Hebrew etc. Having come to this understanding I am enjoying ulpan so much more, and I am able to make myself concentrate through the 4 hour lessons each morning, and do my homework at night once my Ashira has gone to bed.


Yesterday in class we were charged with making a list of the main characteristics of Israelis. When the teacher announced the topic I don’t think I was alone in thinking that this was going to be an opportunity to vent about Israeli society and all the things we find frustrating and ‘foreign’. However, when we sat in our group the things that came out were almost exclusively positive- Israelis love children. For example, when a child is waiting in a queue with their parent, in England the complaints of the child might be scoffed at by those waiting in line, On the contrary, Israelis are often enchanted by the child and will talk to them to try and distract them.


Perhaps it’s due to their impending army experience, or perhaps due to the education system, but Israeli children seem to be much more ‘responsible’. For example, you will often see a 10 year old walking his/her 5 year old sibling to school, or helping them pay in the shop.


When we were making our list I realised that not only were we coming up with mostly positive things, but when we did come across a negative, for example, that Israeli children talk to adults as if they equals, we realised that this is as a direct result of the positive we have just noted. Israeli children having more of a sense of responsibility to themselves, others and society at large, means that they are also more forthright and confident and therefore speak to adults in this way. The fact that Israelis give advice to you about how to bring up your children is the flipside of the fact that they love children and think of them and you as family. In England, strangers do not feel any connection with you and would not necessarily think of it as their business to tell you that your child’s feet might be cold without socks. The random Israeli on the street or in the park doesn’t think twice about giving this friendly advice, and whilst my gut reaction might be to recoil and ignore them, I am starting to understand their intentions.


Starting to understand Israeli society is as much a process of integration as learning the language. In order to feel really at home here, we need to put the time and thought into understanding and respecting the culture of ‘Israelis’. After all, isn’t my daughter going to be one?!

 January 20th, 2014


Bitter Cold


In my last bog I was writing about how unusually warm a November Israel was having. Everyone had told us that the winter here would come suddenly and that our apartment would be plunged into coldness overnight, and with temperatures in the high 20’s at the end of November it seemed that that day would never come! But all good things come to an end, and the last day of Chanukah, when my family came to visit our new home for the first time, was to be the day. The heavens opened and the once the rain had started it had no intention of stopping. Caught by surprise, we abandoned our plans to explore the parks and headed to the mall for lunch and a treasure hunt, before returning to the flat for more games and Chanukah celebrations. Unlike in England, when it rains here the inconvenience is balanced out by knowing that the rain is so needed here.


A week later and the temperatures had dropped to just above freezing, as Israel prepared to experience the worse storms in 60 years. NOBODY was prepared  as Jerusalem and the surrounding areas got pounded with snow causing the city to be snowed in for 4 days! Cars abandoned on major roads, shops unable to receive deliveries, doctors and nurses unable to get to work- the country was more than a bit chaotic. In Modiin we were saved the snow, but on Thursday 12th December there was a storm that lasted all day. The sky was black, the wind was intense and the lashing rain did not let up until late into the night. The roads were flooded and electricity supplies were uncertain. Our apartment was freezing, and with no insulation, no carpets, no curtains and no central heating we were really feeling the effects of winter. Being British it was strange to be so cold, but having just about gotten used to the Israeli heat, it was certainly a shock to the system to be plunged into winter so suddenly!


Three days after the storm and the sun is shining once again over Modiin. The temperatures are at a more comfortable 10/11 degrees and with the air conditioning units switched to heating we are getting used to the new temperatures. In Jerusalem, many roads are still shut, schools are closed and life is far from back to normal, but it has only been winter for a week- who knows what the next few months will bring!




 December 23rd, 2013




By rights, December should be freezing cold, possibly even snowy. There should be twinkly lights up, adverts on TV for every toy imaginable and cranberries and Christmas puddings on the supermarket shelves. One of the biggest differences (and the nicest differences) between living in London and in Israel, is that now our cultural and religious calendar is that of society. The supermarkets are filled with donuts, the twinkly lights are of chanukiot not Christmas trees and unusually even for Israel, the temperatures are as high as 26/27 degrees! It is remarkably reassuring that you are doing the same as everyone around you, and when erev Chanukah you realise you forgot to buy oil for your chanukiah you know that every shop will have bottles stacked high!


Chanukah is chofesh (holiday) here, so the schools are off for the week and the malls and bowling alleys are full! My parents are visiting this week, we have been on outings with Ashira’s cousins from Zichron Ya’acov and eaten our fill of sufganiot (donuts). Tomorrow my brother, his wife, their six kids and my parents are coming up to Modiin for the first time to see our new home. I’m hoping the weather will be as beautiful as it has been so we can explore the lovely parks in the area, and no doubt there will be plenty of food consumed!


It will be strange on December 25th when we have to go to work and ulpan as on any other day, but it is a stark reminder that we are living in the Jewish homeland. For so many generations this was just a dream but for us it is a reality, and it is a privilege to be living in this generation.



December 18th, 2013


Zak is on his first trip and Ashira and I are home alone. After my sister’s visit last week and Zak’s parents being here for the weekend, it is going to be strange to be on our own. Many people struggle to find work in Israel and we were blessed that Zak secured his job before we got here. He will be away for a week every month so Ashira and I will have to get used to entertaining ourselves!


We are keeping busy, with ulpan and gan taking up our mornings, a mum’s baby’s rhyme time one afternoon, and an appointment at tipat chalav for Ashira’s MMR jabs another afternoon I’m sure the week will fly by! One of my concerns about making aliyah was what would I do for Shabbat when Zak is away with work? Whenever this happened in London I would stay at my parents, my sister, or my best friend, but without any of those options I was anxious to say the least. However, we are out for both meals on Shabbat and I have had numerous texts from friends here reminding me that they are around if we need anything I needn’t have worried it seems!


In other news, I have inadvertently started a women’s choir! Someone posted on the Kaiser (our neighbourhood) facebook group, would anybody be interested in running/going to a women’s singing group, and when almost 20 people said they would be interested in joining such a group, I offered to organise and lead it. As a music teacher when I taught in a secondary school in London, running the choir was one of my favourite activities, so I didn’t have to think twice about taking this on. Ten women came to the first session and after the first few tentative notes they started to let down their guards and the hour flew by. There was a lovely atmosphere and a great way to meet new people.


As I mentioned above, we are going to tipat chalav for Ashira’s 12 month jabs tomorrow. They phoned me to arrange the appointment last week and I was in the car (as a passenger) so I didn’t have my diary with me. The conversation was a combination of Hebrew and English, but the salient information was all exchanged in Hebrew. However, I didn’t have anywhere to write down the date and time that she had said (and I hoped I had translated correctly!) so all week I have been worrying about missing the appointment. At the end of the phone call, I asked (in Hebrew) if they could text me the date and time, and when she said yes, I just hoped that I had indeed asked for a text and not asked for something else! I have been waiting anxiously for the text all week and decided if it had not come by today then I would phone back. Thankfully, at 9am I received a text confirming that the appointment is in fact tomorrow at 1.30: just as I had thought! So it seems that negotiating the medical system here can be done even in my broken Hebrew!





 December 10th, 2013


Where has the time gone?



Where has the time gone? We have been here for 3 months and I can’t quite believe it. Zak is settled at work, Ashira has started gan and I have done one full week of ulpan. It is great to have a routine again and the challenge of trying to learn Hebrew is one I am more than ready to take head on. Ashira’s gannenot have been great with her and have really reassured me that this is the right place for her. She brought home her first piece of art work at the end of the week which now has pride of place on our fridge.


The first day of ulpan was an experience. Much like our arrival at Ben Gurion, and our experience at the Misrad Haklita in Jerusalem, the first day of ulpan was not the most well organised affair. Having taken a test to determine which class to put us in, in a room full of chattering people with teachers walking in and out, it was decided that there would only be two classes; one for those who are really beginners and a second for everyone. Since I can read and write in Ivrit and have basic conversational skills I was put in the second group. The next day the lessons started in earnest and the teacher was able o keep all 30 of us on task for the 4 hour session, which is no mean feat! We are now a week and a half in and I can honestly say that I have learnt a lot and am gaining confidence each day. 


When we decided on our aliyah date I was on maternity leave, and I decided to do an intense ulpan programme in London for 10 days. For 3 hours each day I learnt one-to-one with an amazing ulpan teacher, and she really gave me the basics of grammar and helped me to overcome my fear of speaking in Hebrew.  As I sat in my new ulpan class with 30 plus people,  all at different stages, I realised just how much I had learnt in those 10 days. The more preparation you can do with your Hebrew before you come the more you will get out of the ulpan whilst you are here. It is a real gift to be able to sit and learn the language every day for 5 months (for free!) and the better your level when you begin the course the more you will progress.


These first few months have been a whirlwind and in such a short time we have achieved so much. We have met so many new people, got to spend time with our family who live in Israel and have now started settling into our daily routines.  We have a long way to go, and there are many things that are challenging; from the trivial things like worrying about when our stock of Weetabix will run out, to missing friends engagement parties and contemplating whether we can afford to fly back for their weddings, but in the grand scheme of things I am so pleased to be here, living the dream.


On Friday my friend in London sent me a picture of her son in the park in his winter coat and woolly hat, and I responded with a picture of Ashira in her swimming costume at the beach.  I know where I’d rather be!  





 November 29th, 2013


One month has gone by


We have passed the one month mark and I have to say everything is going swimmingly. I was expecting to find the upheaval more stressful and perhaps emotional than I have, and have been pleasantly surprised at how this move has felt. Although we are still in the chagim season so ‘real life’ hasn’t really kicked in yet, we are really getting settled into life here. Zak has been at work for 2 weeks and now with a phone and a car he is really enjoying this new challenge. Ashira and I have explored all the shops and all the parks that Kaiser (our neighbourhood) has to offer, and every evening since we got the car last week, when Zak gets home from work, we drive out to the nearby supermarket or mall and explore what they have to offer.


In London we were blessed with an amazing childminder and it was always going to be a challenge to find somewhere here that matched up. The ratio of children to adults tends to be much higher in childcare here whether at a childminder or nursery, as there are no government guidelines stipulating how many adults can legally look after any given number of children. We got recommendations from friends and looked around at a few places, some more ‘Israeli’ than others. We have settled on a gan (nursery) that is English speaking and has a ratio of 1:4 for the babies and 1:5 for the toddlers. It is clean and well equipped and the ganenanot seem very caring. Having spent every day of the last month with me, Ashira is itching to be somewhere with more people (and more entertainment!) and when we went to visit the gan yesterday when they were doing their morning circle time with davening and songs she was enchanted and keen to watch what was going on. The final song was about giving tzedaka (charity) and every child got called up in the song to put a coin in the tzedaka box. They kindly added Ashira at the end of the song, and to everyone’s surprise she put the coin in the box (I was ready to stop her putting it in her mouth!).


It was Ashira’s first birthday last week and we had a small party for her (Well, as an excuse for me baking a cake really!)  and looking around the room it was clear to me that we had made the right decision and chosen the right place to start our aliyah journey. The 4 or 5 families that we know here are all so lovely and friendly and I am excited to build on these friendships as well as start new ones in the coming months.





November 13th, 2013


Culture Shock


We have been here for 3 weeks now and there are so many things that have been a real culture shock, although it is fair to say that some are more significant than others.


There are the trivial things, such as the fact that the fruit and veg all come straight from the ground, dirt and all unlike the washed and neatly packaged produce we are used to in the UK. And that all produced baby food here contains sugar, as do most ‘child friendly’ products. In the UK, everyone is looking for the healthiest options for their kids, but in Israel the marketing comes first and the nutrition second. These are, as I said, trivial things that we can and will get used to and learn to live with. However, there are other more significant things that I think will take a little longer to adjust to.


The most obvious example is the weather, which has its pluses and minuses.  On the positive, we can hang out our laundry to dry rather than relying on the tumble dryer, we go to the park everyday (even though we have to wait until 5pm for the sun to lose its intensity!) and the open air pool in Modiin is a huge bonus!


On the down side however, it has been a tough adjustment learning to live with the intensity of the heat here. Compared to Jerusalem for example, Modiin is a much more aggressive heat which begins at 8am and doesn’t cool off until late into the evening. It is as if the air is hot. We are working our way through the suncream and drinking lots of water but I think this is something that will take much longer to adjust to.


We brought most of our furniture with us on our shipment, but we didn’t own any couches so a week after we arrived we went shopping in Tel Aviv. A friend told us that there was a particular street in Tel Aviv that has a lot of furniture shops so we headed up there on the train, in the heat of the day, ready to bargain our way to some comfy sofas. The first thing to note, is that there was no prices on anything, so when you ask in your terrible Hebrew accent, ‘cama ze ole?’ (how much is this?) you can safely assume that the price they tell you is the inflated ‘olim’s’ price. A good friend of ours refers to this as a ‘hidden olim’s tax’, because whenever someone realises you are an oleh they add a certain percentage to the price of the goods/service! Well, that’s what it feels like, as it is hard to know what is good value for anything from a bag of flour costing 4 shekel to couches costing 3000 shekels.  Another thing to note about this shopping ‘experience’ is that like the vegetables, nothing is cleaned and packaged. Everything is crammed into the shop and there are chairs and coffee tables spilling out onto the pavement. It was not like a visit to John Lewis! Having visited a number of furniture shops, schmoozed with all the owners and tried to bargain down the prices we settled on a couch and having knocked 500 shekels off the price we didn’t feel too hard done by.


From this strange shopping excursion we come to one of the nicest things about living in Israel; my culture is everyone’s culture. In the UK, the chagim of Tishrei (Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Succot) are a huge stress especially when they coincide with the first weeks of the school term. As a teacher in a non Jewish school, this meant taking up to 7 days off school as well as all the cooking and cleaning required to prepare. All in all, it was always an exhausting month. However, this year could not have been more different. Erev Rosh Hashanah was a half day for everyone so that teachers and pupils alike could get home in time to prepare and there is a different feeling in the air as everyone knows that the new year is approaching. We spent Rosh Hashanah in Jerusalem with my brother and his family who made Aliyah last year, and it was so lovely to be with family and for Ashira to play with her cousins. I am know eagerly anticipated the rest of the chagim and am especially looking forward to spending the first part of Succot in the beautiful town of Zichron Ya’acov with Zak’s brother and his family.





October 30th, 2013 


The Shipment arrives


It is Thursday afternoon and we have been in our flat in Modiin eating off plastic plates and sitting on deck chairs we have borrowed from friends for nearly two weeks now. Zak has started work , Ashira and I have found our way around all the local shops and parks and we are now waiting for the arrival of all our treasured possessions. We received an email from the shipping company saying that our shipment has docked but due to the impending chagim (Rosh Hashanah is the following Wednesday night) he is concerned that we may get held up at the port and not get our container until after the new year. Although disappointed, we agree that there could be worse problems and resign ourselves to another week doing washing at various friends houses and eating more takeout.

Just a few hours later Zak receives a phone call and the guy is speaking very quickly in Hebrew. Zak is ready to hang up when he hears the name of the shipping company and the word ‘machar’ (tomorrow) and he stops the guy and asks him to repeat what he has said in English. Sure enough, our shipment would be arriving tomorrow morning (Friday) at 9am! Excitement mixed with relief, we started organising the flat in preparation, as our 8 suitcases worth of clothes and toys seemed to be all over the place.


I can not describe the excitement we felt when we saw the truck pull up outside our window, and as the boxes started coming off the container and up to the flat I started to become slightly overwhelmed by the amount of ‘stuff’ we had. My job was to tick off each box as it came up (they were numbered 1-121) so that we could ensure we received everything, whilst Zak unpacked as much as he could so that the delivery men could take away some empty boxes. When we had received about half of the boxes, I looked around and could not believe how much we had accumulated in our 5 years of marriage. Thank goodness we made the move now, I thought to myself, or we would have had even more to bring! Ashira slept through the first 100 boxes coming up the stairs, and woke up in time to see the big ticket items arrive; the washing machine and tumble dryer, the new piano, and most excitingly the 5ft rocking horse that her paternal grandfather, a carpenter by trade, had made for her.


Until now, everything had fitted in the lift, even the piano! The 5 ft rocking horse, in it’s crate however, was not going to make it. They asked Zak is they could unpack it in the lobby to get it to fit in the lift, but worried that this precious item would get damaged Zak said no, and asked if they could possibly carry it up the 2 flights of stairs instead.  They obliged and then unpacked it from it’s wooden crate to reveal the most beautiful piece of furniture that will surely become a family heirloom.


By 11am the empty container was on its way and we were left with the daunting task of unpacking our lives into our new home. With the pressure of Shabbat just 7 hours away the race was on to do as much as possible. We arranged for Ashira to play at a friend’s house and we raced the sun, managing to unpack the kitchen, lounge and Ashira’s bedroom before Shabbat. We also assembled our new beds, but I would have to wait to play my piano until Sunday.


I think it is safe to say that this had been the most exciting day of our aliyah so far, and I think the excitement was not just about being reunited with our things again, but more because this meant we could really start feeling at home. Surrounded by our own furniture and familiar things, the flat was starting to really feel like our own.


We had been invited to our neighbours upstairs for Friday night dinner, an elderly couple who had made aliya in the 70’s. As they told us of their experience arriving in Israel over 40 years ago, without electricity and running water, to a one room apartment in a Merkaz Klita (Absorption Centre) I reflected on the day we had had. We were so lucky to be able to bring all of our thing with us, and to arrive in a lovely apartment with all the modern amenities, with our biggest concern being who we could borrow internet from! What a different, and privileged, experience we were having in 2013… 




October 16th, 2013


One week in, and we are starting to feel more at home. We moved to our flat in Modiin on Thursday, and I for one was relieved that it was as nice as it looked in the pictures. After a good clean we were able to start unpacking and apart from the obvious lack of furniture, I could sit back and relax as I reflected on the huge journey we had embarked upon. Having talked about it since going on my gap year 8 years ago, it feels great to finally be here.


The neighbours knocked on from across the hall to introduce themselves and asked if there was anything they could do. Zak immediately asked if we could borrow their wifi code until we got our own set up. I was very impressed with his Israeli levels of Chutzpah; he would never have done that in Hendon! They were only too happy to help.


We had been invited out for Friday night dinner and Shabbat lunch by people we knew from London and Manchester which made our first Shabbat a truly relaxing experience. It is reassuring to be in a place with people that you know, which is one of the reasons we chose Modiin. In Kaiser (the name of our neighbourhood) there is park known as the ‘Shabbat Park’ where people congregate at 5pm when the sun starts to release it’s grip, so we headed round their at the allotted time. To our dismay, as we walked through the park we couldn’t see anyone we knew. Perhaps we had the wrong park, perhaps the wrong time, and then on a bench in front of me an old friend from home who didn’t even know we had arrived! Having spent a good hour or two in the park meeting old friends and being introduced to new ones, we wandered home to put the baby to bed.


It is refreshing being in a community of Olim. Everyone says, but aren’t you worried you won’t integrate? The thing it, everyone here knows what you are going through, because they have been through it themselves, and that is so reassuring.




Sept. 13th, 2013


Today is the day 

Today is the day. We have packed our 8 suitcases, the hand luggage is bulging with food and toys for the baby and we are ready to go. My parents drive with us to the airport to say goodbye and whilst I was expecting to feel sad, I feel slightly numb, as if this is happening to someone else whilst I stand by and watch. Saying goodbye is hard, but it doesn’t seem as final as I had anticipated, as my parents have already booked to come out for Chanukah.  And I know that we will see them on face time every day!


The plane journey is comfortable, we are lucky enough to get the leg room seats and thankfully the baby sleeps the whole way. When we arrive we are greeted by a friendly middle aged man with a sign with our name spelt wrongly. This is something we should get used to as Jeffay does not translate particularly well from English to Hebrew! We and one other family (who of course we happened to know!) were escorted to get our visas, which due to the recently ended strike we had still not received. It’s all going very smoothly, until our escort informs us that we have to wait for an incoming flight of 50 French olim before we can go to the old terminal to get our teudot oleh and teudot zehut. Take a deep breath, and prepare to be delayed. ‘Welcome to Israel’, where nothing is quite as straight forward as it might be. Five and a half hours later, papers in hand, and we finally get into our taxi to stay with my brother and his family in Jerusalem for two days. They made Aliyah last summer so they are an invaluable source of information and support during this tumultuous time. When we arrive we are greeted by balloons and welcome signs made by my six nieces and nephews who have been waiting all year for us to join them, never satisfied with the countdown even when I spoke to them last week and said we were coming in just a week. ‘It’s not soon enough!’ my 8 year old niece complains. Now we are here, and we have a few hours to rest before the kids get home from summer camp.


Those first two days are a blur, as we tried to adjust to the heat and enjoyed spending time with the family. Last time they saw Ashira she was 3 months old, so now at 11 months she is much more fun. My 4 year old niece is so excited when she realises that Ashira will copy her if she claps or blows kisses!


Now we are here, we have to visit a whole host of places before we can settled into daily life, from organising our health insurance, opening a bank account, buying a fridge/freezer and oven and considering our options with regards to a car. But for today, we will just relax and enjoy being looked after. Chocolate chip pancakes? Don’t mind if I do!





 August 6th, 2013


How much stuff do you have? The question which olim ask, not from an existential or even a charitable point of view. The simple equation, is how much stuff can I fit in to the smallest space? Will it cost me more to buy this pen again in Israel or should it spend six to eight weeks in a shipping container and meet us again on the other side.


That was today, as we moved from our flat into our parents (or in-laws or grandparents depending who is really writing!) for three weeks before we actually fly.


We realised that possessions fall into two main categories


Those things you want, need and use regularly to be known as ‘shipping’. E.g. photo albums, microwave & bed.


Those things you don’t want, you don’t need and never use to be known as ‘rubbish’. Rail Ticket Discount Card from 1997, seven boxes of icing sugar & anything on VHS.


Then there are all the things in between.


The challenge of aliyah is not the two main categories, but moving things from the middle into either shipping or rubbish. It makes you very sensitive to what you actually need, asking yourself ‘if this were to go down at sea would I bother replacing it?’


As the packers moved out an eerie quiet descended on the flat as it became pretty real that we were actually leaving. Six suitcases and a lot of stuff in carrier bags later we arrived in South Woodford which is to be our temporary home for the next few weeks.






July 25th, 2013



Welcome to our blog cataloguing the adventure that is Zak, Miri and Ashira’s aliyah. We will each do some of the writing (10 month old Ashira’s contributions will be slightly shorter!) and hopefully it may entertain and inform as we go.


Nine months after telling work that we were leaving, the aliyah process is well underway. As we stumble, trip and stagger through the process of leaving, arriving and eventually settling we’ll keep track of our progress right here.


You might have heard that there’s some striking going on at the Foreign Ministry meaning that there are no visas to be had. It’s nail-biting stuff but eventually we have our flights booked and we will be on our way visa-less British passports in hand.


As we sat worrying about when our shipment might go, when we could book flights, when to go and buy all the things we need from John Lewis we couldn’t help but feel a little bit self involved.


As good Brits the obvious thing seemed to be to write a stern but polite letter of complaint to somebody. As the draft took shape in my mind it struck me that my letter would have to be addressed to the most senior person I could think of. Having been dealing with the Jewish Agency for Israel throughout the process, the chariman was the obvious address.


A series of complaints found their way onto the page, and eventually the recipient’s name needed inserting at the top. Discovering that Natan Sharansky was to receive my moan put things into a sudden and very sharp perspective and the letter promptly found its way to the bin.


In a generation when we’re worrying about which kettle to bring to Israel it is somewhat refreshing to be slightly inconvenienced.


 I’m sure that the good natured idealism will be short lived but let’s hope that it sees us on to the ground in Tel Aviv.


In any event it seems that whilst the consulate might have put down their pens (or rubber stamps) ElAl are still taking bookings and a few forms later we are one step closer to making it happen.


Onwards and upwards!


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