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Danita Aziza in Israeli Supermarket


By Danita Dubinsky Aziza (Winnipegger in Israel)

You never stop learning no matter how old you are. I have learned so many things in the 18 months since I arrived in Israel from Winnipeg, including some very basic life skills.

I decided to write to share with you-- those who dream of being here, those who would never want to live here and those who have never given it much thought- some of what I have gained through this awesome, intense and challenging experience. Israel is a land full of many lessons to be learned.
One of the first  Hebrew  phrases I picked-up upon arrival was “leh-at, leh-at” or “slowly, slowly.”  It seemed that everywhere I went and everyone I met always would end a conversation they had with me with that phrase, slowly slowly.  I soon began to realize that these strangers I encountered had a better sense of my struggles than I could have ever imagined.  Slowly, slowly has actually become my mantra and something I mutter under my breath at least a half dozen times a day.

From the moment I landed at Ben Gurion airport on August 4, 2008 I wanted to feel a part of the country.  I couldn’t wait to know my way around, speak the language, have many Israeli friends and feel that Israel could truly be my home.  It had always felt so comfortable on each visit here so I had the expectation that everything would fall into place quickly.  Nothing could have been further from the truth.

It didn’t taken more than 48 hours to realize that everything was to be an adjustment and that living here was simply not the same as being here on vacation.  While I had been to Israel numerous times, I realized that I never really had gone grocery shopping before and suddenly I found myself totally overwhelmed standing at the dairy section of the local supermarket.  The vastness and variety was shocking especially when compared to the two kosher cheese selection at Safeway in Winnipeg.  I hadn’t a clue which brand of cheese was best or what the Hebrew labeling meant not to mention that I had to challenge my mathematical abilities to figure out prices in Canadian dollars. 

A year and a half later I still don’t love going to the grocery store and I do get particularly nervous when I need to speak face to face with the butcher who is used to me being the butcher (of language that is) when it comes to ordering ground beef in Hebrew.  How is it that a one letter mispronunciation can change the whole context of a word and the cut of meat that you get?  A particular grocery store thrill came my way last week when I handed the cashier my “moadon” or discount card. After she punched the number into her computer she proceeded to wish me a happy birthday.  Fortunately I have enough vocabulary to know what she was wishing me and to thank her with the appropriate pleasantries.  Where else would a complete stranger wish you Mazel Tov as she weighs the avocados?

Just like I had to learn  when it came to learning Hebrew, so it is also with finding a synagogue to attend.  The irony of ironies is that here I am in Israel, and I can’t find a synagogue where I feel comfortable attending on Shabbat.  We’ve sourced out many ranging from reform to orthodox and nothing as of yet feels quite right.  Every time we attend Beit Knesset  (synagogue) I return home depressed longing for the Herzlia Synagogue in Winnipeg where I felt so at home and comfortable.  I shall continue in my quest and slowly, slowly hope to find a good fit both socially and religiously.

Leh-at, leh-at I have gotten to know my way around the country.  It seems ridiculous, but you can’t imagine the sense of accomplishment I feel because I get to the Old City without a wrong turn when I drive from Even Yehuda in Central Israel (where we live) to Jerusalem.  I can also find my way in Tel Aviv and this past week I was sporting a particularly wide grin thinking of how I had driven to the Galil (the Northern part of the country) like I was on Route 90. Slowly, slowly I relinquished my fear of driving here and one of my proudest moments was driving from Jerusalem to Ein Geidi in the Negev, something I never imagined a fear laden individual like me would ever be able to tackle.

Leh-at, leh-at, I am beginning to learn the true value and meaning of slowly, slowly.  It is a bit of a paradox when I think how widely that phrase is used here especially in terms of how quickly Israel has developed and how much has been accomplished in a country just shy of its 62nd birthday.  Nothing about Israel reflects the sentiment of slowly, slowly but maybe upon contemplation leh-at, leh-at is the secret of its success.

Leh-at, leh-at is not so much about time or pace, but rather more about optimism and possibility. That’s been a huge lesson to learn …slowly, slowly. 

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.