We Live in Israel

When we stepped off the airplane in Tel Aviv, we immediately felt the warm air rush over us. It was pretty cold in London, so it felt nice to shed our winter jackets right out of the gate! We were met by a service that quickly ushered us through customs, helped us collect all of our bags and got us to our van that would take us into the city. We rented an airbnb for our first couple of weeks after trying and trying to find a permanent place from NYC, but kept coming up empty-handed. It was near the “Lincoln Center of Tel Aviv” and about a 15 minute walk to the beach. Most of the buildings here were built in the 60’s and have only been refurbished on their interiors. Our building looked a little run-down on the outside, but it was pretty nice inside and perfect for what we needed. We got right to work exploring around us with a yummy shawarma dinner and walk to the beach to put our toes in the sand and water! So good. The sand was like walking through piles of flour- the softest I’ve ever felt. And, there was a playground right there, which the kids loved! We all put our toes in the salty water and got so excited for our new home by the beach.

Brian took the first weekend off of work, so we could get set up with phones, a car, food, and other details that go along with moving to a new place. It was so nice to have him around! Because he’s traveled here so much, he already knew a lot about how to get around. And, because things are NEVER easy when you move, Tessa threw in what we thought was a broken arm on day 3. After two long trips to the ER, we were told it was just a contusion…phew! There is something about going to the hospital in a foreign country that just throws you right into the mix of things!

Brian took us to the local Carmel Market on the first Friday we were there- which, turns out, is the worst day to go because its hours before Shabbat begins and it is totally nuts! We were shoulder-to-shoulder the entire time and it was super hot out. Little did I know, this place would become my main grocery store over the next couple of weeks and I soon realized that you do not ever venture there on a Friday! Despite all of that, we found the best place to grab a late lunch at M25 Meat Market, as recommended by Ottolenghi. I had the most interesting basil and cilantro Asian salad that I already cannot wait to go back and get again. It was all soooo good! The food here tastes super fresh and the combinations are always so interesting that it makes for the most delicious experience.

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 This is the area we lived in at first, near Rothschild. See how run-down the buildings are? You’d never guess how nice (and how crazy expensive!!) they are.

This is the area we lived in at first, near Rothschild. See how run-down the buildings are? You’d never guess how nice (and how crazy expensive!!) they are.

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Our first Shabbat in Tel Aviv, church was supposed to consist of us watching Conference from our homes, which was so nice. We had only seen one session so far and it was great to catch up. I was in a totally different place and state of mind versus when it actually aired and I’m positive I gained far more than I would have otherwise, because life was feeling pretty tough right then. More on that later…

The next Saturday was district conference at BYU Jerusalem! We were so looking forward to taking our kids here for the first time…the campus and the setting are so beautiful! We had a short women’s session that me and my girls got to go to and then they fed us the yummiest lasagna for lunch while we sat downstairs right off of the lawn. This place is seriously so special.

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Some shots overlooking the Old City.

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We made the most of our trip to Jerusalem and took the girls to explore after conference. We walked through the old market, grabbed dinner and some gummies, stopped at the Western Wall and ventured over to a view of the Garden of Gethsemane. I know we are going to make a lot of memories in this amazing place.

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After feeling extremely overwhelmed with the grocery situation here, Brian asked one of his coworkers, Hilla, to take us to the market and show us how/where to shop. I want to back up a little so I remember all of this though.

The grocery stores in Tel Aviv are tiiiiny and the food is so different from what I’m used to back in the States. It’s hard to find good produce there and the stuff on the shelves is in a totally different language, along with looking mostly unfamiliar and being crazy expensive. To say the least, I was having anxiety about feeding a family of 6 under these conditions. I would have to ask for language help any time I went shopping and because the ingredients were so different, my meals would have to be very simple. In our first week, our branch president’s wife, Sarah, generously offered to take me to a huge, nice grocery store about 40 minutes north of the city one day. I was so grateful for her help- she literally spent the entire day showing me what was what and then took us to her home and to their beach (they live about 30 minutes north of us in a suburb) and then fed our family dinner! It was a massive help and I was so grateful.

When Hilla heard about our grocery dilemma, she offered to show us the ropes here in Tel Aviv as well. She spent a couple of hours showing us her favorite places to buy chicken, beef (all from butchers that cut or grind up your meat right on the spot) and vegetables as well as flowers, fruit, cheese and bread. I realized how massive Carmel Market is and how much this place would help me save a ton of money and be the foundation for getting most of what I need. Ah, I cannot tell you how helpful this was! She took us to one of her favorite brunch spots at the end and we had one of the best breakfasts I’ve ever eaten…sweet potato topped with sautéed mushrooms, a fried egg, and chimichurri. Sounds crazy, but it was incredible!

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Hilla showing us how to find the best stuff and avoid getting overcharged. I’ve been back a bunch since and I totally feel like I’ve got this down for now. Although hauling a week’s worth of food to our home walking for 15 minutes is something I’d still like to solve- wow!

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Brian took us to a nature reserve on a Sunday night and even though we could not for the life of us find the beach entrance, we watched the sun set from atop these gorgeous cliffs while listening to the water lap below us. The sunsets here are unreal. We followed that by a trip to Ikea, which sounds crazy, but I have a new appreciation and love for that place!

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After about a week and a half of being here and working with a local realtor, we began to get nervous about actually finding a permanent place to live. We kept coming up short— stuff was either too small, too expensive or too far from work. Finally, something brand new popped up and I rushed to check it out one morning. After spending HOURS looking at places online, I was hopeful this would work out and not just because it was right on the beach ;) Brian wasn’t able to come, so I just took the little girls with me. I was so glad we held out because this apartment was like hitting the jackpot! It was perfect for us and I couldn’t wait to tell Brian!

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This is the view of the beach from our terrace- isn’t it amazing? We feel so blessed to have found a place like this. Its brand new and just absolutely perfect for what we need. We want visitors!! :)

Because of homeschool, our schedules are very flexible. Which mostly means that we get to go to the beach every single day. The weather is unusually warm (in the 80’s), so we make sure we cool off in this beautiful water. There has been a lot of sand castle building and book reading (by me) going on too! Tessa was so nervous about leaving her floaties behind, but she has become the best little swimmer since being here. The sea is really shallow and the waves are small, so its kind of like a giant swimming pool- perfect for learning to swim well.

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While we all feel like we are getting into the groove of life here, there have definitely been some really tough parts. Its easy to gloss over it and just talk about whats great- which is a lot, but I want to remember all of it because its been so stretching. For one, you just cannot get everything you need at the stores. They don’t sell products I’m used to, so I modify a lot and only cook recipes that I know I can get ingredients for. Another is the language barrier- English is not spoken on the streets or to me (until I ask if they know it and most of the time they do), which can feel really isolating most of the time. I hesitate to strike up conversations and even the depth can only go so far when there is that divide. There aren’t people from our branch here in Tel Aviv (they mostly live in the suburbs) so we don’t have a lot of friends, and we spend every waking moment with just each other for company (which can be really really good and sometimes really bad). We feel really far from family- which is a big thing. It is often lonely. I’ve had some low moments (just keeping it real!) and I ask myself at least once per day what the heck we are doing here! But, I also really see the value in seeking the good in hard situations and the growth that happens when you’re constantly challenged. I already feel like my mind is getting sharper because I am navigating issues all of the time. I love Tel Aviv, but it doesn’t feel like home yet. I know it will work its way into our hearts in a way that London and NYC have, but it hasn’t been without its challenges. I am grateful for this experience though, and I know it is going to continue to be life-changing for our family.