Reading Corner: “Becoming Israeli: The Hysterical, Inspiring and Challenging Sides of Making Aliyah” by Akiva Gersh

Two years ago, Becoming Israeli was the first book I was able to find about the Aliyah experience. At the time, I was preparing to make Aliyah myself and desperate to hear stories from more people about what they went through moving to Israel. I was terrified of having a “failed” Aliyah (moving back to the States), and so I was determined to figure out the secret of a successful Aliyah.

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Changing My Name

Since I was a child, I knew I wanted to be called by my Hebrew name, Rachel. But as is often the case, life kept getting in the way. I told myself that I would change my name legally when I became an adult. While researching, I discovered that changing your name in the US can be a drawn-out process and a bit pricey, with a court hearing and all. I decided that I would save up money to then be able to change my name.

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How to Choose a Place to Live in Israel

Getting approval, saying goodbye to family and friends, and stepping off the plane is only half the battle in making Aliyah. The other half is creating a new life here for yourself and your family. One of the first things you’ll need to do is find a place to live. It is preferable to know where you’ll be living beforehand, especially if you’re bringing a lift (shipping container). But if you don’t know where you’ll be living pre-Aliyah, don’t panic. My husband and I thought we knew where we would be living and well, things changed (for the better). We stayed at an Airbnb in Jerusalem for a couple of weeks while we scoured yad2 for apartments in Yehuda & Shomron. My parents did the same thing when they made Aliyah and put their lift in storage (expensive, not ideal). That said, here are some things to look for in a community:

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Buying Our First Car in Israel

Needless to say, as olim chadashim living in the center of the Shomron without a car, life has been pretty difficult getting around and going to government appointments, the bank, etc. Add to that the fact that we’re newlyweds, and because of our busy schedules and having to bus anywhere we go, we hadn’t been able to go on a honeymoon (or even so much as a tiyul). Thus, our search for a car began.

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Obtaining an Israeli Driver’s License

To state the obvious: driving in Israel as a tourist or as an oleh chadash is scary. Mix middle eastern driving, middle eastern roads, and good ole Israeli chutzpah, and you’ve got the perfect storm for disaster. Unfortunately, you can’t take a bus everywhere. And sometimes it’s just more practical to take a car for a long-distance trip or to schlep all of your groceries from Rami Levy/Osher Ad. You can drive on your foreign license for one year from the day you entered Israel (as long as it isn’t expired). After the first year, you’ll need to have converted your driver’s license or face taking driving tests from Israeli driving instructors.

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