Archive for the 'My Aliyah' Category

The big day- back to school

Jonnah and Sami at SchoolAs we approached the beginning of the school year, there was a feeling of excitement in the air. For about a week prior to school starting, whenever you met another parent, the conversation always started with – it’s almost time for school to start. Hooray!!!!

Gan started on September 1st, Jonah’s 5th birthday. So it was a good day in general! He is in Gan Chova this year which is the equivalent of Kindergarten. He also switched from the 3-4 year old gan to the 4-5 year old Gan.

The Big Day

Jonah was mostly looking forward to his new Gan and we had gone to an Orientation the week before. We met the teachers and saw the Gan and the yard (complete with basketball net). Although as we got closer, he was a bit more hesitant and as we passed his old Gan he said, “I don’t think I want to go to a new Gan”. But he put on a brave front and we arrived at the Gan. The teachers greeted him warmly and he sat down at a table to play with the other kids. I stuck around for a few minutes, taking pictures, and chatting with him and some of the other parents. Every once in awhile he would glance at me and give me a shy smile. He was fine with me leaving…..I was the one who was having a harder time. Well, Sammy (my 2 year old) was really excited to go to Ma’on (daycare) and kept pulling on me, “Let’s goooo”. I waved goodbye to Jonah and off we went.

I cannot begin to compare the difference between leaving him last year and leaving him this year. And I am NOT envious at all of the new Olim going through this with their own kids. I remember the tears, the emotion, and the heartbreak. In fact, one day I too left in tears. I kept wondering, what did I do to my kid??? How could I take him away from a Gan he loved going to every day and put him somewhere that he doesn’t know the kids, doesn’t speak the language, and is in tears as I leave. Those were a rough couple of weeks in the beginning.

But now I look at him and listen to him talk about Gan and I want to burst with pride. Because not only does he enjoy going (and his teachers seem to love him) but he is helping out the 2 other Olim boys that are in his Gan. Whether it’s translating between them and the teacher or showing them different toys, or playing with them in the yard, he is helping them fit in and feel comfortable. And next year, those boys can help the next batch of Olim. It’s a good cycle we have going here. And a fantastic community. Baruch Hashem, Baruch Hashem, Thank G-d!!! Life is good. 🙂

Natalie Zacks


Aliyah Tales of Ariel


There are a few experiences in life – that you just get to have once. For better or for worse. They are the kinds of experiences that make you say, “Woah, is this happening to me?” The ones that can make you feel drunk on life. The major ones are “Lifecycle Events”. Births, Marriage, and Death.


I was privileged to add a Bonus Event to my Lifecycle this week, to my chain of events. I added Aliyah – I elevated my life, my family’s life, as we moved up to Israel.

I was not prepared for this experience. Even though I have been working for it and wanting it for 11 years. The week or so leading up to our departure, people kept asking, are you excited? Every other time I’ve gone to Israel, the adrenaline starts kicking up about that time. I get on the plane and my heart is pounding. This time, it wasn’t like that. I was just Ready. Emotionally. It was Time.

I expected the sad and tearful goodbyes. For the past 6 months or so, when I even thought of saying goodbye, I got choked up. I expected tears as we took off, but they didn’t come. I expected more tears as we landed – but there were just a few. Happy tears. Happy and thankful to be coming home for good.

And I was right, goodbyes were rough. And as we landed in Israel, I did get teary-eyed. I looked across the plane at My Shauli (we were each sitting with a kid at opposite window seats) and I longed to be able to hold his hand – as we landed in our new home. Our new country. And I fell in love all over again because he made this possible. He helped me realize my dream.

We landed, we clapped, we cheered. I cried – but just a little. We got off the plane and headed down the steps, waited for the bus and sped away to the terminal. As I looked out the window and saw the palm trees, I remembered my first view of the land. The palm trees, and the feeling of that blast of hot air. And my heart was overflowing. With love for Shu, Jonah, Sammy, and for coming home. FInally. My eyes started overflowing too at that point… The director of Nefesh B Nefesh, or the Rabbi who started it, Rabbi Yehoshua Fass, was on our bus with us. And he saw me crying. He told me, “Don’t do that, now you are going to get me started all over again!” It’s cool that he still gets emotional with each new landing. I pulled myself together and we pulled up to the terminal. And no matter how many live or taped landings I had seen – no way was I prepared for what came next. For how I felt.

The shuttle doors opened and all of a sudden, there was Israeli music blasting. “Havaynu Shalom Aleichem, Havaynu Shalom Aleichem…..” Music blasting, people cheering, everyone waving and smiling. Cameras here, there, everywhere. Everyone welcoming us Home.

I gasped and the tears started flowing. There are no words that can begin to describe how I felt at that moment. No way to capture it. And I just stood there for a second, taking it all in. A random army lady saw me, she looked overjoyed to see me and told me, Welcome home. She gave me a little Israel flag and a hug, holding me tight. There were tons of cameras and video cameras in my face. Taking pictures of the boys in the stroller, Jonah almost asleep. 🙂 We walked along, through the aisle created by the masses of people and all I could see were smiles and tears of joy. I’m the one who came home – yet I can see the excitement in their eyes! I stopped, I covered my eyes, I was sobbing. This is my dream come true. Better even because I’m here with my incredible husband and 2 (and a ½) amazing children. We are home.

Well, if I was that emotional seeing strangers, you can only imagine how I felt when I saw the Zacks crew there to greet us! I saw Nava first and I just started yelling and waving wildly, “It’s Nava, it’s Nava! Shu, do you see her?” Then I saw Naphtali, Daniel, Aviva, Shevy – and I couldn’t get there fast enough!! I couldn’t get past the crowd but I just wanted to get over to them – to hug them. To thank them for paving the way for us! As soon as I got there, I wanted to hug everyone, I held onto Aviva for dear life. The crowd controller was trying to move us along, telling us we were holding up the line. Then Shlomo appeared and I followed him to get inside. Our friend Inbar for Sheirut Leumi in Detroit is there and I hug her – the crying starts again.

At that point, I’m about to faint. It’s almost too much to handle. Physical and emotional overload. Someone hands me a bottle of much needed cold water. Of course, then I notice my head scarf is practically off- woops and so I slip on the handy Nefesh b’ Nefesh hat they gave out. Now I know what those are for. Golda and Sarra arrive and more hugs, I don’t want to let go. Then Arye is there and Simmy and we are surrounded.

Avi Z. and the Ariel gang is there to meet us and I’m so grateful. I can’t wait to move there! We picked a good spot. We take a huge group picture. Go Zacks!

And on that note, since it’s almost 2:30 am and I’m running out of scrap paper to write on, I’ll bid you adieu. Or Shalom. Lehitraot. And for those in America, come soon! There is always room.

My Life By Donuts Mom

Behind the Scenes: Letter to the Jewish Agency

Jewish Agency

As I’m sure our readers know by now, our Ariel Aliyah program has a very good relationship with all of the organizations involved in North American aliyah.  Recently the Jewish Agency shared with me an insightful letter that an olah chadashah wrote them.

Guess why I mention this – that’s right! Because I’m about to share that letter with you…

Of course, the name of the olah and the name of the “involved city” have been removed. The purpose of this post is not to single-out a person rather to highlight a phenomenon, not to disparage a city in the Land of Israel – G-d forbid – but to give people practical decision making tools.

Here we go: 

Dear —,

My name is — and my family made aliyah to — through the Communal Aliyah Program in May of 2007. We have truly appreciated all of the additional help that we received through the program, however we will be leaving — shortly, and we felt the Jewish Agency should be aware of the reason why.

When we arrived in —, we were able to find a 4 room apartment that was conveniently located for 2800 NIS per month. When the time came to renew our lease, our landlord demanded 3800 NIS per month, a 30% increase. A brief search of the real estate listings shows that the lowest rent available for even a 3 room apartment in — is 3200 NIS. If the point of the Communal Aliyah program is to build communities, instead of just giving olim an Anglo destination to crash land into for a year before benefits like sal klita and arnona reduction end, perhaps there should be a different approach to choosing the participating cities, such as someplace more affordable.

We visited Ariel and they seem to have the right idea. It’s a very Israeli city with a small Anglo population that really needs assistance, versus —‘s large Anglo population that can afford the rising prices with or without the addtional benefits.

Thanks for your time,

I can’t say that I personally agree with the terminology used in the letter. It’s not that where there are Anglos there’s less of a need and where there are Israelis there’s more of a need. HOWEVER – the bottom line is perfectly clear: Ariel continues to develop an ideal location for Anglo olim. It’s not about an attractive benefits package, leaving you high and dry when it runs out. It’s about a REAL place you can call home, afford, enjoy and be part of a community.

 Simply put, Ariel works for those who choose to live in Israel, work in Israel and love life in Israel.

Cry for Help

Fear of AliyahOur Ariel Aliyah members and fans really pitched in for this one. Last week I recieved the following letter from a family that’s considering aliyah:

no word… I am on the verge of a crash too much… going on… my wife made a list yesterday.. basically minimal living in this country is 14,500 shekels per month schools… the killer is the car… what insurance and reg. are sick… she is freaking out big time……mix the cost with ulpan … sure disaster… G-d help us…. i will keep you posted……. she is really worried

I asked the family for permission to post their letter on our facebook group , and they gave me the go ahead.

Some people responded with words of encouragement, others with practical advice. Some spoke of teamwork and communication between spouses and others of faith in G-d. [To see the discussion group and the responses click here].

Several things seemed to stand out:

1. People really wanted to help this family in whatever way they could.

2. The letter seemed to hit a vaguely cord in the hearts of olim, drawing on their personal experiences and evoking genuine responses.  

3. The resounding chorus seemed to be that as long as both parents are committed to aliyah they will manage to make it into a reality.

In my mind the letter written was a microcosmic representation of the “pro-aliyah but not quite there yet” aspect of Diaspora Judaism. The responses were, on the other hand, a microcosmic representation of the spirit and dedication of successful Aliyah-Judaism.

“Pro-aliyah-but-not-quite-there-yet Diaspora Judaism” is in a tight spot. It wants to see Israel as a place to live, but finds the practical side of things either daunting or difficult to fathom.

“Successful Aliyah-Judaism” has been there, seen it, done it, lived through it and is ready to tell its story. Noone said it was easy, and yet noone said that it couldn’t be done. Each person, with his own tools, his personal commitments and his belief system managed to make it – and continues to do so.

The pre-aliyah narrative is, at least in some way, about concerns, fears and stress. The post-aliyah narrative is about commitment. Decide to make it happen, and it will.


Response to Mom

Recently one of our potential aliyah families recieved a “letter from Mom”. “Mom” was trying to convince her children not to take her granchildren to “the war torn” Land of Israel.

The members of our Facebook discussion group responded to the letter. Here’s one of the responses, written by Jerry and Sylvia (New York-Ariel, 1996):

Dear Mom and Dad,

I understand your love and concern for our welfare living here in Israel. I know that the reports you get in the States make Israel seem like a dangerous place to live but that is not the reality of life here. There are so many families our age with young children who have made Israel their home. Living in Israel is a vigorous and challenging experience which offers the opportunity to give meaning to your life that outweighs the negatives that confront us here.

Some times one has to make decisions that are not easy but are the right ones. I feel that a lot depends on what one’s values in life are. Our values are not based only on material success that leads to a life of comfort and ease. Therefore, we feel that our decision to live here is the right one for us.

Contrary to the reports in the media, Israel is a safe place to live and to bring up your children with Jewish values. In Israel, children are extremely important, not only to their parents, but to the people of Israel in general. They are a cherished possession. Schools are very good, education is high, and it is combined with religious education as well that enables them to understand the meaning of their Jewishness.

As to your concern for employment, there are many opportunities here that one can take advantage of. Eventually, one finds their place in the workforce just like in any other location one finds themselves in. Mom, as far as health care in Israel is concerned, here it is socialized medicine and for not a lot of money, one receives excellent care. By the way Mom, Israel is in the forefront of modern medical advances and achievements that are acknowledged worldwide. Health care in Israel is so much more affordable than it is in the States that one cannot begin to compare to the exorbitant cost of health care in the States.

We feel we have made the right decision – it really feels good to live here in a Jewish country — and know that we are contributing to the growth and wellbeing of Israel by living here. Of course, we will miss you and the whole family and we understand your fear of coming here to spend time with us but hope and pray that over time you will see that this is a safe place to visit. By the way, Mom, tourism in general is flourishing. And don’t forget that we can also spend vacation time with you in the States.

Mom, I really hope you will come to understand that Israel is not the dangerous country you think it is. Daily life here is safer than in the States and is far more rewarding. I understand your fear for us but it is based on reports that only give one side of the picture. We do not live in fear, we live with the knowledge that this is where we belong and that our children will grow up in a Jewish country with a full Jewish life and values. This is our land; we are not just here to live the “comfortable life” but to have our lives have meaning and to have our children value their heritage and to know what it means to live a complete Jewish life in your own country.

Mom and Dad, I love you and hope that in time you will come to understand the decision we have made.

The Inspiration of Simplicity

aliyah shoppingI won’t mention names. I won’t mention when. Not only to avoid disclosing the identity of the Inspiring Olah, but also because it doesn’t really matter when she came to Ariel, who she spoke to or what her age may be. All that matters is what lies at the core of her desire to make aliyah.

Upon discussing the practical considerations and challenges involved in making aliyah, the Inspiring Olah made her plans perfectly clear. She spoke not of the size of her dream-home, nor of the size of her paycheck. She did not make reference to “standard of living”, “keeping up with the Cohen’s” or “comfortable lifestyle”. What she said was far more simple, far more inspiring: “We want to live in Israel, in a situation where we can buy groceries for the children”. She went a bit further, explaining the basis for such a proposition: “I believe that all Jews belong in Israel”. Simple, and straight to the point.

Many of us tend to theorize. Many of us tend to dream. Our prospects of life in general and life in Israel in particular are often romanticized by our healthy imaginations. And yet, if we take a step back for a moment, if we challenge ourselves a bit, we should be wondering if our imaginations should be leading us down the path to aliyah. Is that the sort of thinking that will make our aliyah a success? Is that the sort of approach that will make our lives more meaningful?

More and more I’ve been meeting people, Jews, who are not looking for a high standard of material circumstance here in Israel. All they want is to make aliyah successfully, to put food on the table, to have a supportive community, and to live life in the Land and with the People that they were meant to be a part of.

There is no greater service, no greater call, than the responsibility to create such opportunities for Jews who wish to Return Home. Affordable housing, healthy community life, employment options and a positive world view are each necessary components in developing an environment conducive to aliyah absorption. These are the qualities to be sought by new olim in their search for an appropriate community. In turn, olim who seek such qualities should be sought by the communities which offer them.