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From Passaic to the Promised Land: 7 Surprises about Living in Israel

April 12, 2018 | by Michelle Fruchter

There is no other land in the world we would want to call home.

Four and a half years ago our family made the life-altering decision to move to Israel. We thoroughly researched and investigated everything – community, schooling, job opportunities – before making the big move.

Amongst tears and excitement we left family and friends behind, and boarded the plane taking us to the vast unknown. Our years here have been filled with accomplishments and defeats, beautiful moments and challenges. Each day comes with its own adventures, learning moments and humility. Above all we feel privileged to be “living the dream.”

Although friends and family tried to prepare us for life in Israel, we found many surprises along the way. Here are the top 7.

7. There are so many fun and exciting things to do in Israel that are free.

Some of our best memories are hiking rugged rock terrain, walking near an idyllic pond, climbing into caves and taking leisurely walks on the promenade near the sea. The vast beauty of the land makes simple scenic outings so enjoyable and memorable. Local parks similarly provide hours of entertainment and can be found in abundance across the country. In my own community of Bet Shemesh, it would take several days to enjoy each park fully. Additionally, during holiday season many museums, of varying interests, are free of charge.

6. How easily we acclimated to Israeli society.

Having grown up in a very patriotic American family, I always felt as American as could be. My Hebrew language was passable but my mindset was strongly American, so I was quite surprised at how quickly we all acclimated into Israeli society. You know that you have made it as an oleh (immigrant) when you start to think in Hebrew and speak in Hebrish (combination of Hebrew and English)

5. Life can go on without Target.

On our aliyah flight, I was afraid we were dangerously overloading the plane with our overstuffed luggage bursting with essentials from Target. Fearing a future without our precious deodorant and toothpaste, we brought enough to last us at least half a century. We’ve subsequently found out that Israel is not a third-world country and does carry an impressive array of toiletries and plastic ware.

The author’s sons at the Kotel.

4. The excitement of the first rain cannot compare to the excitement of winning the Super Bowl.

The first time we experienced rain in Israel, we carefully bundled up, put on our boots, grabbed our umbrellas and gingerly stepped outside. We were greeted by children and adults alike singing joyously and dancing, water pouring over their flimsy clothing with nothing but pure joy and happiness in their eyes. Water here is not taken for granted, it is savored and cherished. On the positive side, there is no line for the shower: two minutes for everyone!

3. Shabbat is truly a day of tranquility

Come sunset Friday afternoon, the hustle and bustle of the week comes to a peaceful close. I was truly surprised by how different Shabbat in Israel was from Shabbat in America. Previously, we were the outsiders having to experience the holiness of Shabbat amidst the routine activity of the rest of the world around us. In my community in Israel, Shabbat permeates every fiber of the air we breathe. The peace and tranquility is almost tangible, and the only sounds to be heard for 25 hours are the laughter of children playing and soft sounds of the birds chirping.

2. The Israeli People are like family

I loved the expression and heard it many times, but could not imagine total strangers becoming like family to me. The 34th time I heard from a sweet Israeli lady to please put a hat on my 3-month-old daughter so she doesn’t get sick, I truly felt like family. I realized that this woman viewed herself as my mother, my sister, my aunt. She loves my daughter as much as me because we are one nation, one family. She may yell at me one minute, and risk her life for me the next because that’s what family does.

1. Living here has brought out the best in us.

Over the past four and a half years we have had to assess priorities. We’ve had to struggle with cultural and language barriers. We experienced terror. We have survived missile attacks. We have even survived the Israeli bureaucratic system. Despite everything, we did not run. Instead, we have dug our roots deeper and developed a commitment and loyalty that even surprised us. We have rose to the challenges and our lives have been irrevocably enhanced for the better. It is no wonder that there is no other land in the world we would want to call home.

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