Early on a Monday morning, before 6.30, I received an email from Susan, the woman I rented my flat from, giving me three month’s notice to leave. Only a week earlier she’d told me I could stay as long as I wanted, but she’d changed her mind, I suppose. I’d been very happy living in Belsize Park for over five years, but I was going to have to move in early October.
That same day I had an appointment, made a month earlier, to talk to someone about moving to Israel, something that had been on my mind for a few years. It’s funny when the world works like this, when unrelated events coincide and push you in a direction. There’s probably no meaning to be drawn, it’s not even a coincidence, really, but you draw it, anyway.
I drove to the Holiday Inn in Finchley, by the North Circular, and met Dov, a representative of Nefesh B’Nefesh, an agency that helps new immigrants to Israel.
Fortyish, slimish, darkish, he sat at a desk at the far end of the lobby, finished what he was doing on his laptop, turned to me, and began talking. He reeled off benefits and grants the government of Israel gives to newcomers. It took him ten minutes, without interruption. He told me they would help me find work with international clients, at international rates. Thinking back, this was important to my decision to move. It is a shame it never came to pass, there were no clients, and no work, and no rates, international or otherwise.
Finally, he said the whole move usually takes around three months, but can be arranged in six weeks. He looked up and asked if I had any questions.
I suppose he’s had this conversation, a monologue, really, it was hardly two-sided, many times. I’d guess that, mostly, it is fruitless. People nod, and smile, say oh yes, but rarely go further.
I drove home, spinning from it all. The Israeli government provides language lessons and pays for your flight. There are concessions and rebates for years. They hand you, I swear, a new SIM card when you arrive at Ben Gurion airport, and there will be a taxi waiting to take you to your new home. There is a public holiday in celebration of immigrants.
I left with his card and a brochure. I thought it was worth starting the process. I hadn’t made a decision to emigrate, and I didn’t have to go through with it if I decided not to. I opened my computer and sent an email saying I wanted to go to the next stage.
They make the move easy as. If only they could have done the same for my emotions. I was as nervous as a whippet. Leaving London, leaving England, filled me with fear. I’ve never lived anywhere else. I have never fallen out of love with London. But maybe a move would be good for me, and soon I might be too old for such a change. Tel Aviv is a modern, thriving and vibrant city. I wondered, could I live there? Will I be able to call it Home?
Today’s word: yom rishon – first day – יום רישון (also means Sunday)