Before we made aliyah, we were warned by olim vatikim (experienced olim) about several key challenges in the initial klita (absorption) process: the difficult bureaucracy, the unhelpful customer service, and the ever-present sicknesses that follow around new immigrants.
Like kids entering daycare for the first time, new olim find themselves exposed to a whole host of new germs that they have not yet built up immunity to. Olim thus often find themselves punctuating their first year in Israel with doctor’s visits for ever-present sniffles, stomachaches, and fevers. And as a result, olim chadashim (new immigrants) are often referred to as “cholim chadashim” (new sick patients) or “olim cholim” (sick immigrants).
The upside of making aliyah during a pandemic is that we have been super careful about germs. Thank G-d, eight months of constant hand washing, obsessive use of alcogel, and being stuck indoors all day has kept us all pretty healthy. Unfortunately, toddlers are not quite as obsessive about hygiene.
It came as little surprise, therefore, that just a couple of weeks after gans (daycare centers) opened up and my daughter Lani returned to school, she came home cranky and sick. In a strange turn of events, we were relieved that night to notice spots on her hands and feet – tell-tale signs of a childhood illness we had encountered multiple times before: hand, foot, and mouth disease. While scary looking, it is nothing that some rest and large supply of ices and pain relievers can’t heal.
Of course, having a sick kid in Israel is a very different experience than the experience we had nursing sick kids in New York. In America, we had a pediatrician’s office that we could call all hours of the night. In Israel, we found ourselves perusing our healthcare app on our phones to request an appointment with a doctor the next day.
Unfamiliar with other parents in my daughter’s gan, we also didn’t have anyone to commiserate with during the long sleepless nights of my daughter’s illness.
Of course, when it rains it pours – in this case literally. As Israel welcomed its first blessed rains last week, my daughter recovered from her virus, only to come down with another one as she developed an awful case of the croup. This too was a virus we have encountered many times, but which we were unprepared to handle here in Israel.
In the States we normally ran a hot shower that usually helped my kids breath through the cough, but that was simply impossible to do here. Following a long day of rain, we simply had no hot water at 11:00 p.m. The 10-20 minutes it would take for the dud shemesh (solar boiler) to heat up the water seemed like an eternity that we did not have as my daughter struggled to breath.
With a vague recollection that even cold air could help with the croup, I threw my daughter into the stroller and took her outside. As I walked through the flooded streets in the pouring rain, it occurred to me that I had no idea if it was safe to walk around so late at night. (To be fair, between quarantine and lockdowns, we haven’t had many opportunities to go out.) While we certainly have learned a lot over our time here, clearly there are some basic elements still lacking in our klita education.
Baruch Hashem, we made it through the week and my daughter is healthy again. I even managed to successfully navigate our healthcare app to request the necessary doctor’s note to allow my daughter to return to gan once more. I am also trying to take advantage of this time to pick my fellow Modi’in moms’ brains so that we are prepared with all the medical information and resources we may need should we chas v’shalom find ourselves olim cholim again.
As a side note, I want to take a moment to address the readers who e-mailed when they noticed my column missing last week. When I began writing this column, I never imagined that many beyond my family and close friends would actually read it. I have drawn such amazing chizuk (and help) from the network of Jewish Press readers who reached out.
While I have fallen a bit behind in responding to messages (see above for explanation), I want you to know that I have read and appreciate all of them. Im yirtzah Hashem, we should all stay healthy and be able to continue to share our adventures in Israel for many weeks to come.