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September 15, 2006: Shalom Kita Aleph

.Last year, my wife and I watched with a great deal of nervousness as our children got on their buses for their first day of school since making Aliyah. Although we knew that this was the only way, and that many, many kids had successfully managed to integrate, we were still worried that they would not be able to breathe after being “submerged” in Hebrew.

This year, Stella and I said good-bye to the kids and to be quite honest, our hearts were not heavy at all. In fact, I was quite happy to see the end of the summer. Yes, of course it was nice to get our house back. But more than that, the fact that our kids now were going back to friends, teachers, and lessons that they could understand better made a huge difference. No kid will ever admit to liking school, but I think they were glad to be “moving up.” Now they have Olim Chadashim in their schools, and they can give the new kids some help. (Max is very good at showing olim kids how to spend their money).

We were proudest of Rivka who started Kita Alef this year. Now, maybe I’m just sensitive to it because of her, but it seems that Israel treats Kita Alef as if it’s the start of medical school. Everyone gets so excited about the thought of Kita Alef. I even heard a song on the radio “Shalom Kita Alef. L’Itriot M’Gan.” (Yes, I did know what the words meant, “Hello First Grade, Noodles to the Gan.”)

Every Ole family has at least one child who is just completely overwhelmed by the first year. I can certainly understand that. “Here kid, we are going to send you to a new school where you won’t be able to understand anything. You won’t have any friends, and for lunch you get some crushed chick peas on bread. You will see lots of guys with guns walking around, but that’s o.k. because they are protecting you from the other guys with guns who live one hill over. You will be woken up at 4:30 every morning by a dreadful sound that is the Arabs praying for the destruction of our new country. And remember, we love living in Israel, it’s a dream come true!.”

Of course, once they realize that mom and dad are insane and there’s little they can do to change it, they start to adjust at their own pace. They learn to have fun with the new language, like yelling “Die!” to their younger siblings and teaching their father rude words without him knowing. They learn that they can have much more freedom than they ever had in America and can work together to build enormous outdoor fires. In America, the Gan had an exciting “truck day” where construction vehicles and army trucks would be parked by the school for a day. In Neve Daniel, every day is “truck day!”

So now, Rivka and her brothers and sister are fully engaged in the new term. They have all picked out chugim and have quite busy schedules. (Max is taking Karate. I’m still not sure if teaching him how to fight more effectively is my finest idea.)

And Stella and I have also moved on. We may not be V’tikin Israelis, but we are no longer taking baby steps in the Maon. With the Aliyah business booming, there is no shortage of new friends to have for meals and help navigate through the bureaucracy. Our Hebrew has improved to the point where Stella can converse with our neighbors, and I can pay the right amount for pita bread.

We can’t determine the fate of the nation of Israel. We are not government ministers, diplomats, or Army officers. But by raising children to love this precious, G-D given land that we now call home, maybe we are having an impact.

Shabbat Shalom from our blessed nation.

This column dedicated in the memory of Beverly Markman Zitelman. May her family be comforted among those who mourn for Zion and Jerusalem.

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