5. I know everyone says this but it’s so easy to forget: as hard as all the transition is on you, it’s ten times harder on your kids. They WILL act up. They WILL be monsters. And as much as you want to scream at them, “Why are you doing this to me when you see what I’m trying to deal with right now?” they are saying to you, “I need you to reassure me that some things are still the same.”
6. At least half the details you thought were worked out will fall through. For us, it was schools and school transportation. We arrived thinking all three boys had schools and workable ways to get there; in the end, only Avtalyon did. It was really, really hard to let go of the plans we had that obviously weren’t happening, and even harder to start from scratch the day before school started for Barak. In the end, it was really truly for the best: they are both in fantastic schools, both, I think, much better for them than the places we’d chosen from the States. But it was hard, hard, hard.
7. If you don’t speak Hebrew, start working on it as soon as you decide you’re making aliya. For us, it was hiring an Israeli babysitter and asking her to only speak Hebrew with the kids and, as much as possible, with me. I can’t even begin to say how much this helped. I still speak Hebrew like a caveman, but I can function in Hebrew: I can mostly say what I need to and I mostly understand what people say to me. This is about 90% because of Asnat. Also, get a copy of “The First Thousand Words in Hebrew.” It’s cute, it’s not taxing, and it’s a good thing to look at while you’re nursing a baby, sitting on the couch on Shabbos, or between things.
8. Don’t believe the people who say your kids will speak Hebrew by Chanuka. Yes there are kids like that but they are not the majority and your kids will probably not be among them. Find out exactly what help your kids are entitled to, and insist on it. Call again and again and again. This is not rude; it’s expected. Get the teacher’s home phone number and check in regularly. Again: expected. The more the administration sees you involved, the more they will pay attention to your kid. Israeli classrooms are big and if your kid isn’t acting up, the teacher will not see a problem—even if one is there. Barak, for example, is not picking up Hebrew quickly. He is now getting 10 hours a week of 1:1 tutoring at no cost to me. If I hadn’t hocked the principal mercilessly for four months straight, he’d be getting exactly 0.