Even with the ongoing military action between Israel and Hamas, two Philadelphia-area women who recently made aliyah are happy with their decisions.
“I love Israel, and there’s nowhere else I’d rather be,” said Aleeza Ben Shalom, who arrived in the Holy Land in February. “I hope for all of us there will be a time when it’s peaceful always.”
“I definitely don’t regret the decision,” said Candice Nemoff, who arrived in September 2020.
Both women are fortunate to live in areas outside the most-targeted zones, but have heard warning sirens at times.
Ben Shalom, who lives in Pardes Hanna with her husband and five children, has her two oldest children enrolled in boarding schools to the south. They were forced into bomb shelters the first day of fighting, May 11, so the family arranged rides for them to return home the next day. It’s uncertain when they’ll be sent back.
That same day, Ben Shalom, who owns a dating and relationship coaching business, was in Netanya for a work meeting held on the beach, leaving only a couple hours before the sirens sounded.
For Nemoff, who lives in Netanya, the sirens have only sounded three times. While she had visited Israel many times before, she had never heard the sirens.
“It sounds like a tornado siren — but Israel doesn’t have tornadoes,” she said.
Both Nemoff and Ben Shalom said the Israelis take the uncertainty in stride.
“The way the Israelis work, when things are quiet, there’s normal life,” Ben Shalom said, noting that public sentiment seems to be that a ceasefire is likely soon. “When something’s going on, they adapt. … In America, people would probably be freaking out.”
“Everyone just gathers in the bottom of the staircase” when the sirens sound, Nemoff said. “For the most part, everyone was calm and chatty.”
While neither woman regrets the decision to make aliyah, they noted that things aren’t always easy, in part because of pandemic-mandated requirements.
“It’s been a tremendous transition,” Ben Shalom said. “It’s been one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. Child birth may be easier than this — and I have five children.”
Aside from a mandatory two weeks of quarantining, the Ben Shalom family had to find a new rental house when their initial plans fell through.
Nemoff, who’s been in Israel for eight months, noted that it’s taken a while to get used to nearly everything being closed on Shabbat. With buses not running, it can be hard to get around.
Still, both said they’re adapting and feel welcomed by Israelis.
“Everyone celebrates all the holidays together,” Nemoff said, detailing a May 16 Shavuot barbecue she attended with her boyfriend’s family. “That’s the community I was searching for.”
Nemoff is working remotely for a company that teaches English and makes worksheets used in teaching the language. She hopes to be teaching English herself soon, all while she’s taking Hebrew instruction part time.
That fact that Israeli society is opening up since the country has vaccinated so many residents helps. Both are fully vaccinated and have “green passports” that allow them to sit inside at restaurants, among other privileges.
“Corona’s been hard, but it’s been hard everywhere,” Nemoff said.
Technology also is valuable, making it easy to stay in touch with loved ones back in
the United States.
That was part of Nemoff’s recruiting pitch for other U.S. residents to join her, and interest in making aliyah apparently remains high.
Nefesh B’Nefesh, an organization that facilitates immigration to Israel by North Americans in conjunction with The Jewish Agency for Israel, Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael and JNF-USA, said that Israel could expect 90,000 olim by the end of 2021, compared to just 35,463 in 2019, JTA reported in June.
“I’m really happy with making aliyah,” Nemoff. “I hope everyone who wants to do so is able.”
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