A first-hand account from a Telfed tenant

Dean, Shirley, Mia and Eliana Cohen celebrate their first Sukkot in Israel.

By Dean Cohen

We made Aliyah from Johannesburg in November 2021, having first secured a ‘stop-gap’ rental before moving into our apartment in the Ra’anana Telfed building in January 2022. 

Whilst waiting for our container to arrive, we moved into our apartment with just the bare bones — our suitcases and some fresh tuna sandwiches. Over the next few months, living a spartan existence, we experienced first-hand the amazing camaraderie and open-door policy of our fellow Telfed residents, many of whom we now genuinely count as friends. 

Late nights of washing cycles in ‘strangers’’ apartments led to the fresh fragrance of meaningful conversation, a sympathetic ear, and comforting words at a time when we needed it most. From being invited to a Telfed tenants’ Yom Ha’atzmaut braai to having a resident willing to fit our dishwasher and washing machine, the degree of support, care and concern shown to us has been revelatory. 

As the school year drew to a close, we began to anticipate the two-month chofesh gadol (summer holiday) with a degree of trepidation as we had no concrete plans, other than a two-week Chabad Camp. Much to our delight we discovered that Telfed was offering summer activities in the downstairs Moadon L’Olim (Olim clubhouse) with PRAS students*. For two weeks, our daughters enjoyed fun morning activities with other South African Olim children — a welcome respite for parents. 

In addition to the Ra’anana apartments, Telfed has two buildings in Tel Aviv where residents enjoy a community garden, an annual summer picnic and other community get-togethers. While planning a seder with neighbours, Telfed’s Tel Aviv tenants decided to extend an invitation to other South African and Australian Olim in Tel Aviv who would be alone for the holiday. Following the success of their communal seder, the initiative was repeated on Rosh Hashanah.

Tenants go about their busy daily lives, bumping into neighbours along the way but seldom getting the opportunity to socialise. Chaggim give us an opportunity to get together  — prior to Rosh Hashanah, Telfed arranged a Pizza Party for Ra’anana tenants, where some tenants had the opportunity to meet new neighbours for the first time; and ahead of Sukkot we met to build and decorate a community sukkah together. 

As we approach our one-year Aliyah anniversary, we have come to appreciate that our apartment in the Telfed building is more than just a home — it’s a unique community and much-needed support network for newcomers, parents and kids alike.

* Telfed scholarship recipients who volunteer in the Olim community.

Telfed www.telfed.org.il Email: info@telfed.org.il

• Published in the November 2022 Digital Edition – Click here to read it.

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