Here’s the truth that nobody is going to tell you: you may just be in for the worst 6 months (or so) of your life.
That’s the side of aliyah that you don’t see in the ads, or the videos, or the posters or the shots of smiling, happy families at the airport.
My family’s not in those shots.
You won’t see my son, lying kicking and wailing on the floor of the airport.
You won’t see my daughter, weeping because she misses our family in Canada.
You won’t see me in our apartment at the merkaz klitah, screaming and crying in the middle of the night because my husband cannot make the cruddy Israeli beach karaoke – literally the loudest music I’d ever heard, and I’ve been to more than a few concerts – go away at 3 a.m. on Shabbos morning until I finally fell asleep with a pillow over my head.
Or the kids lying in bed calling out, “Juke! Juke!” (cockroach, cockroach)
I don’t know if I’d call it the worst six months, but it was definitely a difficult period. A very difficult period.
Friends of ours spent 6 months in Israel a year or so before we came. They'd just had a baby, so he had parental leave, and they’d always wanted to spend time here. Everything went wrong - absolutely everything.
Their apartment was horrible, filthy and the supposedly religious people they’d rented from were charlatans. The kids caught... well, everything. They came back to Canada earlier than I’d expected and I wasn’t sure if they’d ever want to see Israel again.
“We were very disillusioned by the people, more than the lice and worms and such,” my friend said, when I asked her this week about that time. “It was shocking to deal with dishonest, amoral, extremely religious Jews, and lose so much money to them.”
Ultimately, she says, “we were just waiting until we could leave.”
To me, that’s why the experience was so rotten. They were only here temporarily, and they knew it. They knew they could leave early, head back to Canada if (when) things got too bad.
If you’re not making aliyah, there’s no "through" to get through because there’s no happy ending in Israel waiting for you on the other side.
Even before we came, I knew that the first six months of aliyah are absolutely the hardest… and that was the only part our friends were going to experience.
I’ve heard from so many people who are grateful to get "back home" after a year in Israel. Yet if you talk to olim, you’ll find out that that’s when many finally start being relaxed and happy… right about at the same one-year point.
The way I see it, it all depends on what you think of as the finish line: successful aliyah and klitah, absorption in the land, or “making it” to a certain date when you'll be able to get out and get back to your normal life in chu”l (chutz la’aretz = outside of Israel).
Yes, you may well be in for the worst 6 months of your life. Things are going to be tough and hectic and weird and crazy-making. But they will also, sooner than you think, be as normal as anything.
Tell me about YOUR first 6 months (or year) in Israel! What gave you the strength to “tough it out” and make it on through?