The best thing since sliced… pita?
On a recent Saturday night, I was preparing my three-year- old son’s sandwich for the next morning for school – yes, in Israel there is school and work on Sundays. I opened my freezer and found I was out of sliced bread and only had pita. I nervously explained to my picky child that we are out of the normal bread, would he be willing to take pita instead? His response was, “Yes! Then I will be like everybody else!”
I laughed and realized that I was now the immigrant parent who didn’t know what the other parents were sending in their school lunches – well, not lunch per se. The sandwiches are eaten as a mid-morning snack, “aruchat eser” meaning “10:00 meal.” This is followed by a hot meat lunch in the afternoon provided by the school – a meal structure unfamiliar to most Americans who are used to having their big meal at dinnertime.
Why don’t you try some peanut butter and jelly?
An Olah mother shared that the moment she realized she really wasn’t “in Kansas anymore” was when her daughter asked her for a chummus and silan (date honey) sandwich. What ever happened to good old peanut butter and jelly? (Which, by the way, my chummus-loving Israeli son refuses to eat.)
“In the beginning of the year when my daughter began Israeli gan, her teacher suggested that she might need speech therapy for the Hebrew sound ‘resh.’ She was home with me until then, and thanks to having two Anglo parents, it was a sound she had just never used. From then on, we practiced the ‘resh’ sound at home frequently, and her little sister has been able to say it perfectly since the beginning!”
Lost in Translation
“My son was in English daycare until he began gan at age three. He picked up a lot of Hebrew very quickly, but there were still a lot of words he didn’t know, but they were new things to him, so he also didn’t have English words for them! One day he came home from gan and told me about something he ate that was green and sweet. It took about three days for me to understand and I asked him, ‘afunah?’ which means ‘peas.’ He was so excited that I cracked the puzzle!”
Something in the water
“My wife’s Hebrew wasn’t great, and I was confident enough in my Hebrew abilities to try to decipher the gan Whatsapp messages by myself. I understood it said something about a ‘water day’ and bringing a change of clothes. I brought my daughter to her Orthodox kindergarten in Beit Shemesh wearing a bikini bottom and a swim top – all the other girls were dressed in their usual skirts and long sleeves. She was so embarrassed!”
Here comes the bride
“I used to put all of our gan messages into Google Translate, and could usually get by. I was completely confused when Google Translate told me that I was supposed to send my four-year-old to nursery in wedding clothes for a party! Did this mean Shabbat clothes? Luckily, I was friendly enough with some other moms in the class to ask them what it really meant, which was white shirts!”
It’s all fun and games
“In our first year in Israel, my September baby’s birthday fell right at the beginning of gan. It was the first birthday of the year, and I hadn’t quite learned the ropes of Israeli parties yet. The teachers asked me to send him with a game to play for his birthday and suggested ‘chavila overet’ – known in English as ‘pass the parcel.’ I wrapped one toy in layers upon layers of newspaper and sent it with my son to gan. When I asked him later on how it went, he said that the game was terrible. Apparently, I was supposed to put a toy or ‘messimah’ (task) in each layer of newspaper! They passed it from kid to kid and only the last one got a prize.”
Being an immigrant is hard, and new things come up at every stage of life to remind us that although we feel at home here in Israel, we are still not fully culturally integrated. That is why Nefesh B’Nefesh offers ongoing support to all Olim, no matter how long they have been here. You could have made Aliyah when your oldest child was five years old but navigating the army system when they are 18 will still be new to you. We are here for you, every step of the way, as you navigate your life in Israel.