Tag Archives: hope

What a difference a decade makes

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Ten years ago today I said good-bye to my family and friends and boarded a plane for the Holy Land. I was about to embark on a journey of life, of discovery, of fear, loathing and love. Ten years on, 3 children, 3 conflicts, 3 homes and a lot poorer I can honestly say that I have some of the best friends I could have ever imagined, I have tasted a life I never would have imagined and I am certainly not the naive small town girl I was back then.

In December 2004 I had been married just 4 months and had lived as a married woman with my husband for 1 week before his visa required he returned to his native land. We had spent the 7 years previous working towards the end goal; marriage, family and a life together in one of our countries.

I arrived to blue skies and bright sunshine, a far cry from the grey, damp, drizzle of the UK and was filled with hope and dreams for our new life together. I was still at the stages of checking my wedding ring finger and admiring the shiny rings. I was excited, but also I was scared. What if I never spoke the language, what if I couldn’t find a job? What if this place was just. too. foreign? It was, not so much now.

Our first few weeks were spent at the apartment of very generous and welcoming friends, sleeping in their spare room and seeing each other every now and then. Husband was, at the time, working as a pastry chef in a newly opened restaurant and that meant long hours, day and night. I was on my own. Luckily our friends lived near Tel Aviv’s large and luscious park and I spent many an afternoon with a book or a journal, marvelling at the sunshine and the parrots and acclimatizing myself to the Middle East. Each morning I rode our friend’s bike to the Ulpan, the Hebrew school for new immigrants (you may remember the comedy of errors that experience was). I met people from around the globe, 1 of which has become a great friend and ally here.

In lieu of my husband the weekends were spent with his friends, one in particular who became my regular date for nights out, coffee shop meetings and cinema trips. Seems like as good a time as any to say thank you, your friendship was and still is invaluable.

We finally found an apartment to rent, close to my newly beloved park and I set about setting up home as a not so smug married. We got a dog, my adored Jesse. We bought furniture and unpacked our belongings from their shipping crates and the first of our UK visitors came to see us in our new life. Once Husband changed jobs his hours became easier and we spent time exploring Tel Aviv, the beach and the benefits of year round sunshine.

There were ups and downs. The language was so hard and the people so aggressive. Many a visit to the supermarket or post office saw me seeking refuge on our balcony, sobbing into Jesse’s fur. But on the up side, Husband and I were finally together, permanently, after our long and international journey. We had a ready-made set of friends from his early army days and I could manage one or two words in Hebrew. We had money in the bank and we wanted to start a family.

A long period of ill-health put paid to the family for a few years but eventually and due to the incredible health system and amazing Doctors here, 4 years later at full health, we welcomed our first child. By this time I was working back in television where I had worked for many years in the UK. Things were on the up. We had a bigger apartment and a wider network of friends including my gorgeous British girlfriends who continue to provide me with laughter and wine and a shoulder to cry on.

By 2010 we were a family of 5. The arrival of twins sent us packing to the suburbs and a child friendly home which is where we reside now. The TV career took a back seat as I faced the challenges of motherhood and three very small people. So now what?

As 2014 comes to a close and I look back on this year and the ten years I have spent here I see that we are on the edge of a new chapter. What that will be, we still don’t know but it seems a fitting time to take stock and count our blessings; our friends, our children, our health and our love for each other that has carried us through the upheaval of moving countries and facing the challenges that a life in Israel brings.

Thank you for your loyal following of my ramblings through 2014 and I’ll see you on the other side, hungover and ready to begin the next stage of the journey.

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It’s life Kate, but not as you knew it

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My friend is a teacher back home and her Remembrance Day assembly this year is how wars affect families.  She asked me to write about my family’s experiences, she actually suggested I make a video to which I snorted and said no, although seeing as she is an English teacher I am a bit scared about the grammar mistakes I have made.  Anyway, here’s what I wrote.

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Until 9 years ago war was something that happened on the news, to people in the army and in history.  Then 9 years ago I moved to Israel and war, or at least the constant threat of it has quickly become a part of everyday life. Now I am the not so proud owner of my own gas mask and my home has a bomb proof safe room.

The first time I experienced war first hand was 18 months into living here when the 2nd Lebanon war broke out between Israel and the Hezbollah in Lebanon.  My husband as a serving member of the Israel Defence Force was called up to fight.  In Israel all able men from the age of 18 to around 40 are either serving in the army or are reservists and so despite my husband being a chef and more attuned to baking on a daily basis he also has to be trained and ready to fight as a combat soldier.  When war broke out we knew there was a chance he would go, we thought as a reservist he would be needed to take over from the positions of the career soldiers whilst they went into Lebanon.  Not so.  He called me from the barracks after a week and told me in code he was going in.  That was the last I heard from him, or about him for over a week.  It was my first taste of the real fear that it really could happen to us, that it wasn’t just news and it was truly terrifying.  Life continued as normal in Tel Aviv and if you ignored the fighter jets and choppers flying overhead you wouldn’t know there was a real war going on just an hour’s drive North.  They called Tel Aviv the bubble, a bubble that on his return from whatever he experienced seem unreal and difficult to comprehend.

We now have 3 children and this time last year when the Gaza conflict broke out and the sirens were sounding throughout the middle and south of the country it affected us in a different way.  This time we heard the explosions, saw the soldiers and tanks on route to the South and had to prepare for possible missile attack.  We are lucky enough (so far) to live in the centre of Israel so a few hours from the North and South borders where, in my experience, the missiles fall.  One day during last November my kid’s play park was full of young female soldiers handing out leaflets of what to do to prepare and how to react if the siren sounded.  It also gave clear guidelines on how long each area of Israel had from the alarm sounding to detonation.  We had 2 and a half minutes.

Our children are still very young so were seemingly unaware, although my eldest did ask me why ‘they’ wanted to throw rockets at us.  Tricky to explain the intricacies of war to a 4 year old especially as there are always 2 sides, not always one right and one wrong.  The conflict was mercifully short but the ‘bubble’ that Tel Aviv had lived in was well and truly popped.  We are not really safe anywhere.

This summer’s tensions in Syria brought a new wave of panic as the real threat of chemical attack once again reared its ugly head. We were advised to buy bottled water, to ready the safe room and to make sure our gas masks were in date but for now, that threat has lessened and I hope never becomes a reality.

Since 2004 when I moved to Israel the terrifying terrorist war has quietened down, the bus bombs and unexpected attacks on the general public not so common.  But there is always the fear and you are never far away from armed security and army personnel, nor from those whose friends and family have been injured or killed.  We are vigilant and we try not to panic.  I choose not to talk to my children about it, others tell theirs everything. For me, as a Briton, it is something that I didn’t have to deal with growing up and I want to protect my little ones from the fear for as long as possible.  If we stay here then it will all too soon become part of their everyday life anyway.  My children, like all Israelis will join the army at 18; the boys for 3 years and my daughter for 2.

Although not strictly speaking a war-zone at present, life here is tough; the threat and fear is real and constant.  When the sun is shining and the Mediterranean sparkling it’s hard to envision the ugliness of war.  I cannot imagine how it must have felt to be a mother in Gaza city or Beirut, Iraq or Afghanistan in recent years.  I hope for my family’s sake that we and all families affected by war around the world experience some peace.

Nice People

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Would it be weird if I said I had a crush on Barack Obama? I’m not American so it’s nothing to do with his politics (although if he were a Republican I probably wouldn’t like him so much), it’s mostly because he seems like such a nice person. If he’s really a nasty piece of work, unfriendly and mean then his PR team have done a sterling job because I’m sold.

Nice people are underrated, especially in business and politics and as we lose the ability to speak to each other in person, only in tweets and status updates, we could well find ourselves in 30 years not remembering what a genuinely nice person is. There’s a scary thought.

Nice people inspire me, they make me want to be nicer. I mean, have you ever thought, ‘I wish I was as a mean as them’? I do however meet people all the time who remind me of my shortcomings on the niceness front.  I’d like to think I am a nice person but possibly I would score ‘could do better’ if I was tested.   I have been known to be downright horrible.  Once I left a piece of paper with the word MURDERER written on a co-workers desk with my dead goldfish laying underneath.  I was his manager and he was in charge of Nemo’s well-being whilst I was out, was that workplace bullying? It wasn’t very nice.

In recent days I have been touched by the amount of nice people I know or have known.  I have been genuinely amazed by the amount of goodwill in phone calls and emails, my parents have been inundated with calls of support and concern, regardless of opinions and politics, people have been overwhelming lovely. I have also come across some not so nice stuff which has angered and upset me in equal measures. It’s my own silly fault for paying attention to it. I live in a country that just about everyone has an opinion on and after many years of being connected to Israel even before we moved here I should be used to it. I’m not.  I don’t personally represent Israel so please stop trying to goad me into arguing with you because I won’t.

I will however endeavor to be a nicer person and take heart in the nice people I meet, perhaps the leaders and politicians should take note and do the same, in the immortal words of the Beach Boys, ‘wouldn’t it be nice’.

Thanks Pops.

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Don’t tell him I said this, but sometimes it takes someone older and wiser to put things in perspective and to look forward and not back.

I have long understood that turning 40 was no big thing but for some reason it knocked me for six when at 39 I realised I only had a year of ‘youth’ left.  Obviously this is nonsense; you’re as young as you feel, age is just a number bla bla bla.  Rightly or wrongly I have spent way too long thinking about the passing of time and nostalgia is all very well but what about the present and the future?

My light bulb moment arrived in the form of an extraordinary email from my 74-year-old Dad. I have long thought my dad is a bit of a genius, and as a scientist he is all about the facts, but in my opinion there is a creative soul gagging to get out.  I think he (not so) secretly pooh poohs all this blog stuff so I asked him to write his memories of turning 40 to see whether he would catch the ‘what’s all this writing for’ bug.  See for yourself, I think he did.

I can’t really remember being 40 it’s so long ago. I do remember not wanting to be 40 as it seemed I was at the top of the hill and the only way was down. It was like a watershed; drifting around in the clouds of youth was now definitely over and from now on it would be a rush downstream to a sluggish old river.

Actually, it hasn’t been like that at all. Life in some ways got better and more interesting if, at times, more worrying; watching you three grow up, sometimes succeeding sometimes failing.

If you think being 40 is a shock wait till your kids are 40! Then the real shock is how old you are. You don’t like what you see in the mirror so you don’t look. Your hair has gone, your teeth are brown, you’re going deaf, you need new glasses, your knees/hips/back are painful but all your friends are also so smitten except, of course , those who didn’t make it this far.

But look at it this way. Yesterday we went a strenuous walk in the Peak District. The sky was cloudless, the views glorious, spectacular. So we were out of breath and the knees ached but it was so good to be alive.

Nothing more need be said.