Moms Talk: One Woman’s Cultural Transition From India To Israel
By Jacqueline Solomon, writing from Israel
When returning to school from the summer vacations in India, everyone used to narrate their stories from the trip to their native village and the experiences they had, I always answered with pride, “My native place is in “foreign”!” “Foreign?” my friends would say while looking at each other. “Yes, My native place is Israel.” I would rap on about this place and my relatives here and how I wanted to settle there when I grew up.
At the tender age of 10, I had made a decision to live and settle in the holy land. My relatives visiting us from Israel, their interesting stories and the beautiful gifts that I received from them, only made my decision more firm. At the age of 14, after my matriculation exams, I came to Israel on an educational trip – which was to strengthen the Jewish identity and connection to the Jewish people. Landing in Jerusalem the holy land, living in the Jewish quarter, near the western wall amongst the spiritual jewish people and touring the whole of Israel from Metulla (north) to Eilat (southernmost city of Israel) strengthend not only my jewish identity but also the decision I made at age 10.
I called my parents from Israel and informed them that I would not be returning home. I told them that I wanted to live here and will pursue my further studies here in Israel. Well, the mysterious teenage, Zionism, the prospect of living alone, the ultra-modern Israeli lifestyle kind of did take its toll and pulled me to stay back. For obvious reasons my parents didn’t accept my decision…asked me to return and promised to discuss the matter back home.
After a successful trip, I returned to India highly motivated. My parents agreed to send me back to Israel after my graduation. I completed my B.A in Economics and parallel to the same completed Masters Diploma in Software Engineering. In 1997 one month after my graduation, I landed in Israel.I had started my immigration process from the first year of the B.A. and was ready with the migration by the end of the same.
When I put the first step on the flight to Israel, leaving my loved ones behind, did I actually realise the impact of the decision I had made years ago? It was at that moment I realized I was going to step into a new world, unknown, without knowledge of the language, without friends and a few very supportive relatives who indeed gave me a lot of moral support during my first year of stay in the new country.
When in India, it was always said, it’s not important if you are a Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Jewish or Sikh, you are an Indian. Suddenly you come to a country like Israel where people have come from diaspora of countries like Egypt, Poland, Iran, Iraq, America, England, India –it was the first lesson I learned as an immigrant: It does not matter which country you come from, you are “Jewish”. Welcome to a new life.
Graduation was done, but without the local language you are no where in this country and within a month, I started going to school to learn the Hebrew with other immigrants from different parts of the world. This was a great time to learn not only the language but the culture and lifestyle of the people. It was not easy to accept the culture and more importantly, the food of Israel but I slowly adapted to the same and now can’t get along a day without the local food like pita or hummus. However, nothing beats the Indian kitchen. With cooking being my passion, I just love making and experimenting with new and different Indian dishes every week.
Within a year after migrating to Israel, I met my husband Michael. We got engaged in 6 months after our first date and married after about 2 years. In the mean time we both concenterated on our respective careers. I started as an import co-coordinator in a bank and switched over to computer programming until I found another passion, softwares and since then am a System Analyst, analysing and implementing different softwares of the organisation.
Today am living a fulfilling life with my 2 lovely daughters Noa and Naama who have completely imbibed in the Israeli society, living a traditional Jewish life, but at the same time, they also have a strong bond with India. My aim is to reduce the cultural confusion as much as possible, I want them to understand and learn about where their parents have come from and their lifestyle they had back in India.
This is the reason; I celebrate, though in a small way, Diwali and Christmas in my home with a symbolic rangoli/diya and a small Christmas tree respectively. Today my 8 year old knows about Janmashtami, holi, raksha bandhan almost like she knows the different Jewish festivals that are celebrated. This for example is not so common in Indian Jewish households in Israel.
Adjusting to the new country was not easy and the transition did have its ups and downs. Strong will power to make it in the new country, support of loved ones and their belief in me helped me over come the hurdles. My best way of overcoming the problems is to talk it out. Even if the other person is not having a solution, talking about it not only makes you feel lighter, but more than once I found the answers hidden in between the sentences that I uttered. So all you have to do is talk your heart out to a dear one! It certainly helps me.
The language which was one of the major hurdle for adjusting was overcome by making a major decision, studying MBA in Hebrew…yes even I did not believe I am doing it, to give my papers, assignments and projects in Hebrew, but with continuous support from my husband I completed my MBA a couple of years ago.
Was it a risk? Well may be, but a calculated one where I knew that I had to put in extra efforts, and would need tremendous support from family. I knew it was time to take the leap, not looking back and holding on to the vision. College life was so much fun and it not only enhanced my C.V but was one of the best ways of networking and getting to know and meet people of different backgrounds and age groups.
Though still a long way to go to achive the goals and purposes of life and still being on the road far less travelled…life is beautiful and the thing that makes me truly happy are the basics- close relationships, my lovley extended family and friends, satisfying and enjoyable work and a truly meaningful life.