Old Olim help new Olim!
Single, I arrived in Israel in 1988. I went straight to the absorption center in Raanana with a group of other singles for the 6 month program. It was always my intention to move north to Haifa. I loved the mountains, the sea, the forests and the way of life. Close to the end of my ulpan, on weekends, I would go up to Haifa, scour the local papers in search of accommodation. I knew that living in a house in Israel was the ultimate but at the same time I didn’t know anything about the different suburbs. I saw a lot of apartments, none of which really appealed to me, so when I heard about the availability a small cottage, I jumped at the opportunity. The cottage was in the Neve Yosef neighborhood, nestled between the Hadar and Yizreela / Neve Shaanan. I quickly signed the rental contract and moved in. I wasn’t fazed by the mattress on the floor, the canary yellow kitchen that had almost no cupboards, the bathroom painted in bottle green enamel, or the partly broken furniture that came as part of the deal – I had a house. I was a Zionist and I was living my dream. Now that I had a roof over my head, I could think about the rest of my life. A year later I got married and settled down. I managed to get a job for a large construction company earning 600 shekels a month. This seemed fine to me, even though I was paying almost half my salary to rent and utilities. I had oleh benefits and somehow we managed to come out.
My wife was attending ulpan at the Abba Houshy absorption center in Kiryat Eliezer. As part of a program to absorb the huge wave of immigrants from the FSU and Ethiopia at that time, families in Haifa were urged to adopt a new immigrant family and help through their integration and absorption.
Once we received the details of our adoptive family we were invited to meet them at a special ceremony at the Sportan Country Club near the southern entrance of Haifa. We were introduced to Yossi and Betty. Originally from Argentina, they had been in Israel for many years. They both immigrated with their families as teenagers. Betty was an English teacher so communicating with her was no problem Yossi on the other hand, was an Engineer, and spoke hardly any English so we were forced to communicate in Hebrew. We needed to learn Hebrew and they could help us.
Betty and Yossi helped us with everything: reading bills, welcoming us in their home, introducing us to people and allowing us to be part of their family. We soon learned that Neve Yosef was not a neighborhood we wanted to live in and when we found a new apartment they helped us understand our rental contract.
Five years later when the time came for us to buy an apartment of our own, Betty and Yossi guaranteed our mortgage. With Betty’s connections as a school teacher, she helped to get our kids into a better school out of our district. They did so much for us and we were very appreciative. We promised we would never let them down.
Ten years into our Aliyah, we felt that we were sufficiently integrated and could now take our turn to help new olim. We have adopted many olim and international students over the years. They learned from us and we have learned so much from them. Take someone under you wing. Giving to others will help you reflect and realize how far you have actually come.
Fast forward 27 years. After a long illness, Betty passed away a few years ago. Yossi and the children still remain part of our lives. We were delighted to attend their weddings and have enjoyed the celebrations when they welcomed their own children. We miss Betty very much, her lust for life, her smile, her laughter, her crazy Spanish expressions and most of all her loving and caring way. Had it not been for their interest in us, we might not have made it through those first critical few years.
33 years after our Aliyah, Yossi’s life is a struggle as he now also fights cancer.