Absolutely Sandal-ous--The Israel Sandal and making Aliyah when you are retired
Yehuda Lave, Spiritual Advisor and Counselor
Purchase a little HAPPINESS NOTEBOOK and write down three things a day for which you are truly grateful - toilet paper, eyesight, flowers - it doesn't matter what. Allow the feeling of gratitude to fill your heart for 2 seconds.
Notice the "little" miracles - you were not run over by the speeding car or got a seat on the bus. Write it down.
Encourage others to make their own decisions or ask if they want your interference before giving advice. Be proud that you are empowering others.
Each time you do one of these little 2-second or 2-minute acts, you are announcing to the universe, 'I want to grow spiritually! Help me!" The universe will ALWAYS respond to your intention! Love Yehuda Lave
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Every morning, RickiLieberman wakes up to the sound of the Mediterranean lapping against the seawalloutside her apartment in the old port city of Jaffa. Then she pops down to a boardwalk café to meet English- and Hebrew-speaking friends for coffee.
"I knew the bustling, trendy Tel Aviv-Jaffa area would be right for me when I made the decision eight years ago to retire here," says Lieberman, 70, a former consultant to New York City nonprofits who says her move fulfilled a long-held Zionist dream to make aliyah.
Lieberman says she is "extremely pleased" with her life inIsrael, except for being 6,000 miles away from her film-editor son in New York. "I love the weather but I miss my kid."
Lieberman is one of an increasing number of retirees and other mature adults making aliyah in recent years from North America. "Many of these individuals make aliyah to be closer to family, for the incredible Israeli health care system, the warm spirit of the country and, of course, the awesome weather," says Marc Rosenberg, director of pre-aliyah at Nefesh B'Nefesh, the nonprofit organization that promotes, encourages and facilitates Jewish immigration to Israel from North America and the United Kingdom.
According to Tani Kramer, Nefesh B'Nefesh's senior public relations and marketing manager, 563olimages 60to 90 moved to Israel in 2017 from these countries, an increase of nearly 15 percent from 2014. The average age among this group was 69. (Thetotal number of new immigrants fromthe United States, Canada and theUnited Kingdom in 2017 was 3,640.)
Retiring to Israel, however, has its share of challenges.
"Retirees go through two changes, both of which require adjustment and involve lots of gains and losses," says Batya Ludman, a psychologist who counsels many olderolimin her practice in Ra'anana, northeast of Tel Aviv. "They must adjust to a new stage in life, and also reinvent themselves in a new language and a new culture." This includes adapting to Israelis' assertiveness, she notes. Indeed, when it comes to dealing with aggressive Israeli driving habits, many American-born retirees stick to public transportation; only the brave drive cars.
"You've got to keep a sense of humor about things," says Anne Rothenberg, 69, a former day school teacher and president of Hadassah's English-speaking Tamar-Nechama chapter in Jerusalem. (There are 2,000 Hadassah members throughout the country in 20 chapters that are under Hadassah-Israel's umbrella.) She and her husband, Jeff, a patent attorney, made aliyah from Albany, N.Y., last year.
While most people spend years, even decades, planning their retirement to Israel, Lieberman spontaneously decided to move toJaffa while on a 2009 visit to the city,where she had lived for three years in the mid-1970s. "I had the good fortune of coming across a 500-year-old building in the early stages ofrestoration and decided then and thereto buy one of the apartments, with its impressive Arab-style vaulted ceilings and arched windows," she explains.Gentrified Jaffa has recently attractedmany retired Israelis as well.
Despite her relatively quick decision, Lieberman had to do careful financial planning before her move. Israel has a high cost of living, which can pose a challenge for retirees on a fixed income that is vulnerable to fluctuating currency exchange rates. Housing is expensive, too. The price of a two-bedroom apartment in a desirable neighborhood in metropolitan Tel Aviv or Jerusalem can begin at around $1 million; a rental is about $2,500 a month—and food and gasoline prices are high.
"Whereas years ago it was possible to come to Israel with relatively few resources," Lieberman says, "I quickly realized that now I could have expenditures similar to those I would have had back in New York."
Settling in Israel often means downsizing, fewer creature comforts and eating out less often. But with good planning, retirees can live a comfortable life. Many manage to take vacations outside the country and almost all enjoy traveling around Israel on their own or in organized groups.
Retirees need to think carefully about where to make their home base. Josie Arbel,director of absorption services for the Association for Americans and Canadians in Israel (AACI), an organization that supports English-speakingimmigrants, warns against automatically assuming it's best to move near children and grandchildren.
Dorraine Gilbert Weiss. Photo by Renee Ghert-Zand.
"We've seen numerous retirees who didn't consider locations otherthan the suburban town or settlementwhere their children were," Arbelrelates, only to realize months or yearslater that "the area was too youngand they wanted to live among peers."
Many older immigrants prefermoving to cities with a large English-speaking population and an active social and cultural scene, such as Netanya and Ra'anana. Modern Orthodox families often choose neighborhoods in south-central Jerusalem, such as Rehavia, Baka, the German Colony and Arnona; the ultra-Orthodox tend to move to Har Nof or the nearby city of Beit Shemesh. Both Modi'in and Ra'anana have a mix of religious and secular populations.
Dorraine Gilbert Weiss, 72, loves living in Jerusalem's Abu Tor neighborhood, which is only a 20-minutedrive from her married son and grandchildren, who live in the Beitar Illit settlement south of the capital. She and her 85-year-old husband, Barry,made aliyah from Los Angeles in 2008 and are enjoying a busy life among a large circle of friends made up almostentirely of English speakers.
"One friend leads to another friend to another friend," Weiss says as she sits in the living room of her light-filled duplex apartment. "It feels like a village. We are all involved in our families' births, b'nei mitzvah, marriages—and shivas." A life member of Hadassah, she has chaired two major gift events for the organization since her move to Israel.
According to Kramer of Nefesh B'Nefesh, 68 percent of families who have made aliyah over the past several years identify as Orthodox, and like the Weisses, many late-in-lifeolimhave Orthodox children already living in Israel.
Unlike Dorraine Weiss, Terry Mischel is not a city person, so when she and her husband, Howie, made aliyah in their late 50s from Teaneck, N.J., they settled in Modi'in, a sprawling bedroom community halfway between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. "Modi'in's suburban vibe felt right to us," she says. They arrived with their teenaged daughter, the youngest of their four children. Two of their older children had made aliyah ahead of them; a fourth still lives in the United States. A Hadassah life member, Mischel says she always wanted to make aliyah.
"We wanted to live within a short drive of our kids and grandchildren," says Mischel. "However, at the time, Howie was not yet retired and was seeking employment in Israel, and we wanted a central location." Howie did, in fact, find a job and worked for seven years in Israel before retiring. In 2006, the couple, now in their mid-60s, bought "on paper" a semi-detached four-bedroom house with a private entrance and garden and waited for it to be built in Modi'in's Buchman neighborhood before immigrating in 2009. "It turns out that a lot of young retirees have moved into Buchman since we've been here," Mischel notes. "And although Modi'in overall is about 15 percent Anglo, our neighborhood is 60 percent English speakers."
Terry and Howie Mischel.
Finding the right balance between remaining in the Anglo "bubble" and pushing oneself to learn Hebrew can be tough for those coming without fluency in the language. Almost all retirees take advantage of ulpan, the Hebrew lessons initially provided free for new immigrants by the government. Some stick with the intensive classes for the long term; others give up more quickly.
Weiss was unable to study in ulpan when she settled in Israel 10 years ago because she was caring for her frail father and her husband's mother, both of whom the Weisses brought with them to Israel. Since then, she has had to deal with her own breast cancer. Today, her Hebrew is limited, so Weiss asks her son for help with bureaucratic paperwork and strangers in the supermarket to read food labels for her. "I'm a member of the health club at Ramat Rachel"—a kibbutz just south of Jerusalem—"and I have to admit that I do miss being able to understand the gossip in the hot tub," Weiss jokes.
In contrast, Rose Faber, 75, continues to improve her Hebrew nine years after making aliyah to Jerusalem from London with her husband, Sydney, who is now 76. She takes Hebrew lessons and listens to Hebrew-language radio and television programs. "You miss out on so much if you can't speak to people," says Faber, a retired nurse who volunteers two evenings a week with newborns at Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem.
For Ron and Shelley Sommer, living in Karmiel, a city in northern Galilee, has forced them to learn Hebrew. When they moved from the Queens section of New York at age 62 in 2013—their daughter still lives in the States—they chose Israel's periphery over the country's crowded center. "It's really integrated and relaxed up here," says Shelley Sommer. "There's an active Anglo community, but we also have contact and interaction with everyone: Israeli-born Jews, Arabs, Druze and Bedouin."
Many new immigrantsfind the socialized, universal medical system to be excellent and affordable, but it has fewer bells and whistles than Americans are used to. Patients need to get their own referrals and pre-authorizations from their Kupat Cholim (health plan) for procedures and visits to specialists. Family doctors, who have heavy workloads and often cover multiple clinics, can be less proactive in managing a patient's care. But when it comes to emergency care, surgery and treatment for major illnesses, the retirees interviewed for this article gave Israel's health care system glowing reviews.
Weiss, who wears a scarf covering her balding head, is currently undergoing chemotherapy for metastatic breast cancer at Hadassah Hospital in Ein Kerem. "The medical care is better and more caring in Israel than in the U.S.," she says. "The nurses and doctors are amazing. They've given me their cellphone numbers, and I can call them at any time."
Herb and Barbara Greenberg. Photo by Renee Ghert-Zand.
Barbara Greenberg, 73, has had two knee replacements at Hadassah Hospital on Mount Scopus, where she said she received "outstanding care." Greenberg and her husband, Herb, 76, lived in Westbury, N.Y., where they both worked as special education teachers in public schools. They also founded and led Camp Ramah's Tikvah program for children with disabilities. In 1999, they retired early to fulfill a lifelong dream of making aliyah, settling in Ra'anana, where their married son and daughter live with 11 grandchildren, nine of them born in Israel.
"Israel was always in my soul," says Herb Greenberg, who together with his wife started a pre-aliyah preparation group years before the establishment of Nefesh B'Nefesh. However, he warns, "you will have trouble adjusting if Israel is not central to your identity."
For her part, Rothenberg, the Hadassah chapter president whose two children and six grandchildren live in Israel, finds it inspiring to regularly see the medical center in action and raise funds for specific research projects. "In the U.S., Hadassah was about being social with other Jewish women, Zionism and raising money," she says. "Here in Jerusalem, Hadassah is literally our local hospital."
When it comes to housing, Ludman, the psychologist, often encourages olderolimto think about senior residences and assisted-living options, of which there are many good choices for those who can no longer live independently. Every city has one or more upscale, full-service, private senior living building or village, on a par with such residences in the United States. For retirees who have family on a kibbutz that has a communal dining room and laundry, they may be able to live there as long as they are still mobile. Seniors in need of assistance or nursing care can get limited home care from the government or pay privately for supplemental care.
After housing and health care, one might imagine that these new Israelis would be concerned about safety issues, yet many say those fears are not front and center. They say they appreciate the security checks in public places and don't feel personally threatened on a day-to-day basis. They are especially pleased about how safe they feel walking outside after dark.
"We can walk around at night here.That's not something we could do in London," says Sydney Faber. But his wife, Rose, acknowledges that she has moments of anxiety during tenseperiods, such as the wave of stabbingsthat followed the 2014 Gaza War.
Shelley and Ron Sommer volunteer with Sar-El.
Rothenberg also worries about the threats from Iran. "Sure, the Iran situation is a little nerve-racking, but if anything bad were to happen, I'd rather be here close to our kids and grandkids," she says as she gazes out the window of her art-filled penthouse apartment in Jerusalem's Arnona neighborhood.
Indeed, many retirees' days are filled not with worry but with volunteer work and other enriching activities. Lieberman supports Rana, a Jaffa choir of Jewish and Arab women who sing together. She is active in left-wing Israeli politics and with the Democrats Abroad chapter in Israel. Recently, she started volunteering with the children of African asylum seekers and refugees in south Tel Aviv. She often hosts meetings and social gatherings in her beautifully furnished apartment.
"I consider myself a traditional Zionist," Lieberman says, "therefore I am committed to working for social justice, pluralism and progressive politics in service of a democratic and Jewish Israel."
For their part, the Sommers and Mischels volunteer with Sar-El, the National Project for Volunteers for Israel; they regularly suit up in olive-green Israel Defense Forces uniforms and help out on army bases. Howie Mischel, who loves hiking as well as uncovering layers of history, also volunteers with the Israel Antiquities Authority at digs around Modi'in. His wife, Terry, is part of a group of local women who make quilts for wounded IDF soldiers.
Barbara and Herb Greenberg volunteer as English tutors at a local high school. Barbara has taken up acrylic and watercolor painting, hanging her creations among family photos on their apartment walls. Sydney Faber has begun taking art lessons for the first time in his life. In addition, he volunteers once a week at the information desk at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, plays tennis and sings in the choir at Jerusalem's Great Synagogue.
According to Rose Faber, getting out of the house, meeting people and giving back to Israeli society is what makes retirement to Israel so meaningful. "There's so much to do, you could be busy all day every day," she says. "The key is to get out and not sit at home."
Even Jackie Schmidt, 98, leaves her home in Kibbutz Ketura in the hot Arava region of southern Israel three times a week to attend a golden age club at neighboring Kibbutz Yotvata.
Schmidt made aliyah from Seattle in 2016 with her husband, Bill, who passed away at age 100 soon after. The Schmidts had moved from Baltimore to the West Coast to be near their sons and their families, and took trips to Israel to visit their daughter and grandchildren on Ketura. Another daughter, who died at age 30, was a founder of the kibbutz.
Schmidt, who has a caregiver, is the perfect example that it's never too late to make aliyah.
"I'm just sorry" she says, "that we didn't do it earlier."
"English speakers are a force in volunteerism in Israel," says Josie Arbel, director of absorption services for theAssociation for Americans and Canadians in Israel. AACI enlists volunteers to greet newolimat the airport, staff English-language libraries, chair committees, and more. Other organizations seeking volunteers include:
It was a ritual for anyone traveling to Israel in the '50s, '60s, '70s — even on through the '80s. No sooner had one's feet touched the tarmac of what was then called Lod Airport, then those very same feet trotted straight to 185 Dizengoff Street to buy Nimrod sandals.
And once those sandals were on, they stayed on for the duration of the summer, a sign that one was well and truly becoming Israeli.
The conflation of Israeliness and sandals – specifically the style known as Bible sandal made by the Nimrod company — is the subject of a new exhibit at the Eretz Israel Museum Tel-Aviv.
Nimrod's popularity was at its peak in the 1960 and '70s, with styles influenced by other cultures and histories. Photo by Yaki Halperin/Nimrod archive
"The Sandal – Anthropology of a Local Style" is an exhibit that "seeks to celebrate an object that has become identified with a place, look at the artisans who make them and the people who wear them, and learn how two horizontal strips of leather became a clear and distinct form that has circulated among manufacturers for over ninety years. This, despite the constant change of technologies, consumers, and tastes."
Curator Tamar El Or, professor of anthropology at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, has done extensive research on the topic as author of the book (in Hebrew) Sandals – An Ethnography of Israeli Style. Her paper (in English), published in American Anthropologist entitled, "The Soul of the Biblical Sandal: On Anthropology and Style," focuses on Nimrod and serves as the basis for the current exhibition.
From the 1930s onwards, the iconic Bible sandal was already being worn by kibbutz members, as in this photo from the War of Independence. Photo: GPO
El Or writes, "Zvi Rosenbluth was a shoemaker in Eastern Poland (Galicia) at the beginning of the 20th century. His son Kalman fled Poland during World War I and found shelter (but not citizenship) in Holland near The Hague, where he married Feige and had four sons and two daughters. Kalman worked repairing shoes. In 1933 he immigrated to Palestine with his family and in 1935 settled in Tel Aviv, where he continued his shoe repair business.
"In 1937 the family rented a two-story building on Dizengoff Street and lived above the workshop. For a while, Kalman Rosenbluth and his sons tried to produce shoes as well as repair them. When the oldest brother Josef took over the business, he changed his last name from Rosenbluth to Ben Artzi (son of my land) and soon became known as just Artzi (my land). In 1944, with one brother serving in the British Army's Jewish Brigade and the other training with the local militias, Artzi registered a shoe company, Nimrod Ltd."
Photo by Yaki Halperin/Nimrod archive
In 1960 and 1961, El Or notes, Israelis were captivated by the archaeological discoveries in what came to be known as the Cave of Letters, near the Dead Sea. Archeologist Yigael Yadin discovered a leather pouch containing documents dating from 96 to 134 CE, which had belonged to an upper-middle-class Jewish woman named Babatha (also Bavta). In addition to the cache – comprising legal contracts concerning marriage, property transfers and guardianship – were personal effects that included a pair of leather sandals.
The footwear – two millennia old but with a modern look — inspired Tel Aviv shoemaker Artzi (Josef Rosenbluth) to fashion a new model he called "Bavta" and feature it on the cover of the Nimrod summer 1965 catalogue.
El Or writes, "The promotional story ended with these words: 'In any case, one must admit the resemblance between this ancient sandal and those worn by the style-conscious young Israeli sabra.'"
The Bavta sandal, inspired by a two-millennia-old archeological find, was introduced in the 1965 Nimrod catalog. Photo (right): Gabi Laron for the Hebrew University of Jerusalem Institute of Archeology; (left): Nimrod publicity
Rosenbluth didn't invent the classic "biblical" sandal. That model – two buckled horizontal straps made of brown or black leather – was already worn widely by kibbutz members from the 1930s on.
However, adulation of the proletariat among city-dwellers transformed the simple sandal into part of a national identity, maintains El Or. "The sandal, then, became an object of the admired… The esthetic of the two brown straps stood for the ethics of the worthy locals."
Indeed Srulik, the beloved Israeli sabra created by cartoonist Dosh to symbolize the brash young country, was never without his shorts, kova tembel and, of course, sandals.
Cartoon character Srulik, who symbolized the brash young country, was never without sandals. Photo via Wikipedia
However, El Or believes that the sandal's deep association with "Israeliness" was Rosenbluth's brainchild. "Artzi connected the sandal to the past, or to a number of specific pasts. The texts he wrote for the catalogues speak of the Land of Israel as the land of the sandal. He drew a direct line from Bavta of the Judean Desert across 2,000 years to the feet of his urban customers."
"Between the early 1960s and mid-1970s, Nimrod was synonymous with Israeli sandals, which were synonymous with biblical sandals, which were an Israeli thing."
Nimrod sold its wares exclusively at its shop on Dizengoff and also through catalog sales. The latter was an unusual marketing tool for an Israeli company at that time but, El Or points out, Artzi was a canny businessman who knew foreign tourists made up a good part of his clientele.
Nimrod sold sandals exclusively at its Dizengoff shop and through catalog sales. Image: Nimrod archive
Over the years, Nimrod created other styles influenced by other cultures and histories: ancient Rome, ancient Egypt, India, Mexico and more. Their sandals were not cheap but one pair lasted forever. Up until the late 1970s, there were few companies that could compete with Nimrod in terms of quality. When the Likud party came to power in 1977, the Israeli market gradually opened to foreign exports, and Nimrod's popularity waned.
El Or: "The most reliable of Nimrod's customers, the youngsters, wanted sneakers. Gali, another family-owned company, created designs like the old Nimrods but with newer technologies, and produced local versions of the U.S. sneaker. Now, both the masses and the upper-middle class had alternatives."
"Health sandals" were another alternative with imported brands like Birkenstock and Teva, and local manufacturer Teva-Naot gained both popularity and market share.
After a decade of flagging sales, in the 1990s, Nimrod signed a contract with German children's shoe brand Elefanten and opened the first of a chain of stores, which today are found all over Israel. Nimrod also represents the British brand Clarks in Israel.
In 2016, riding a wave of renewed interest in Israeliana, Nimrod launched a capsule collection of 1960s-inspired models, produced at its factory in Beersheva. The reproductions were almost exact, aside from one technological change for the better: sweat-absorbing padding in the soles. The "retro" designs are available via the Nimrod website.
In 2016, Nimrod launched a capsule collection of 1960s-inspired models. Photo by Galit Levinksy
Today, Israelis wear both locally manufactured and imported sandals but, as El Or points out, the iconic shape remains. "The value may change, the manufacturers may change, but there is something in the form that stays, and Israelis, or certain Israelis (including Arabs and Bedouins), will look for that form—two horizontal straps and much exposure of the foot."
Today the Nimrod chain has stores across Israel. Photo: Nimrod publicity
As for the original Babatha's sandal — as it's come to be known – it is on display at the Shrine of the Book at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.