Israel: one big, messy family

Josie (2nd from the left) pictured with Telfed’s welcome crew at Ben Gurion Airport

South African Olah, Josie Lutrin, made Aliyah with her family in August 2021. Josie recently participated in the Israel Centre’s Aliyah Prep Seminar in South Africa, where she shared practical advice for those considering Aliyah based on her own recent experiences. 

Her top tips: be kind to yourself, keep realistic expectations of yourself and the process, and do what you can while you’re still in South Africa to prepare for your new life in Israel.

“You’re so busy moving and worrying about what to take and what to leave, dismantling your life in South Africa, that you may overlook the fact that you’re actually emigrating and you have to think about starting your life in a new country, adopting a new culture, raising children in an unfamiliar school system, and living your life in a foreign language!”

Josie laughs about the language barrier. “As ridiculous as it sounds, I underestimated the importance of Hebrew. There’s a big difference between ordering a coffee as a tourist in Jerusalem and dealing with the bank as a new Olah. You might know a lot of South Africans living in Raanana,” she adds, “but that doesn’t mean everything in Raanana is in English. It isn’t!”

Josie and Dean participated in the Telfed Klita Webinars from their quarantine hotel when they first arrived. “Nowadays, you don’t have to be in Israel to meet the Telfed team. Schedule meetings, look at their website, check out their cost of living index, contact their regional volunteers and ask questions on their Facebook page. There is so much you can do while you’re still in South Africa – don’t procrastinate and think you can do it all when you get here.”

At the November Aliyah Seminar, Telfed CEO Dorron Kline spoke about adjusting to a new standard of living, but an improved quality of life. “I totally agree with Dorron on this,” says Josie. “We have less but we need less. My kids started babysitting to earn their own money but they’re walking to babysit alone at night. They’re learning the value of hard work (which includes household chores) while enjoying the independence that life in Israel brings.” 

Josie has been a part of a new Telfed initiative welcoming Olim as they land in Israel. “It’s hard to describe the feeling of being on the other side. I love seeing familiar faces and smiles as they enter the arrivals hall. They’re home! We didn’t make Aliyah because we didn’t want to live in South Africa. We made Aliyah because we wanted to be in Israel and its so exciting to see others realise their dream of living in Israel.”

Josie knows how painful it is to leave friends and family and that there’s no replacement for that, “but where in the world does a taxi driver give you his cell number when he hears you have no family? And there’s no Saturday in Israel,” adds Josie, “its Shabbat. For everyone. Whether you’re going to shul or the beach, and that’s ok. We’re now a part of one big, messy family, but it’s our family.”

If you would like to start planning your Klita (absorption), please be in touch with Daniela Shapira, Telfed’s Klita Advisor: 

Telfed Email:

• Published in the December 2022/January 2023 Digital Edition – Click here to read it.

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