Today was our Rechovot day. We visited two schools and met with a realtor to look at housing options.
The first school we visited was Noam of Rechovot. Noam has many schools around the country (in fact, we went to one yesterday in Ramot). We had tried to call for an appointment, but were not successful, so we just showed up. Despite our lack of appointment, the secretary at the school was very friendly and let us just walk about the school and peek into classrooms. The girls in the hallways seemed nice and the classes were not so large. We returned to the office, and met a nice woman completing her sherut leumi at the school. She sat down and answered our questions. She told us about a teacher that pulls out the students to assist them with learning Hebrew and explained the overall hashkafa of the school to be a torani and tziyoni school. She told us that the classes only have 25 students in them, which is small for Israeli standards. And as a graduate of the school, she described how much she loved the school personally. We went to the first and second grade classrooms and asked the students who speak English at home to meet us outside the classroom. With smiling faces, two girls from most of the classrooms came out. We asked the girls if they would be willing to assist our children with making friends and understanding the teacher when they first get to school. All the girls were sweet and answered that they would definitely help. We wrote down their names and classes so we can tell our girls who we met and request that they be placed together next year.
When we finished out tour, we went back to the office and the staff brought us cold drinks and explained the registration process. Since we need an address in order to apply, we would need to wait until we rent an apartment and then bring a form with our address to the school. The office staff was warm and friendly and very supportive of our plans to make aliyah. We walked out of the school with smiles on our faces. It seemed like a very real and positive option for our girls if we decide to move to Rechovot.
Next we drove to a dati leumi public school called Tachkimoni. We were met at the gate by a very nice guidance counselor who showed us around and then brought us back to her office to speak. She was able to converse in English, which made the process a little easier. She explained that they receive a lot of olim each year, class sizes are 30 students, and that new olim receive around 6 hours of ulpan a week. She told us that we would get a sister family, who could help us navigate the school and community. The hashkafa of the school was not exactly what we are looking for, but it might be a good option for the first year or so while our kids pick up the language and adjust to Israeli culture. Although, I am not keen on switching their school twice, it might help with the language.
We grabbed some lunch in the mall. Yesterday, in Ramot, there was a small food court with a washing station and separate tables for meat and dairy. In Rechovot, there were no designated tables, and the washing station was by the bathrooms. I do not think the mall will effect our decision, but it was interesting to note the disparity.
After lunch we met with a realtor. He was a frum man who is associated with the Berman shul, one of the larger anglo shuls in Rechovot. He gave us a little tour of the city while on the way to an apartment. We went into a brand new building and saw a nice, first floor apartment. The area is still under construction, but we could see where a park was going to be built right across the street. Each apartment had a designated parking spot, which might be a good place for a sukkah. It seemed nice, but probably not in the right area for what we are looking for. The experience gave us a little more knowledge of the rental market and availability.
My final goal for today was to speak with a family friend who made aliyah recently. She moved when she was going into 5th grade and is doing very well. I wanted to hear about her experience and what helped her with the transition. She was very sweet and open with me. When she moved, she received pull-out assistance with grammar and reading as well as a bat sheirut who came to her house to assist with homework and play games. She found it helpful to speak with someone and be given an opportunity to practice her Hebrew. This girl had a handful of Americans in her class, but was only close with a couple of them. She felt that having a few English speakers really helped her to translate for social and academic situations. When she first moved she was not responsible for homework or tests. She also mentioned that it was really helpful that her teacher knew a little English, so even when the girls could not translate, she could understand what was going on. It was comforting to hear that she did not remember coming home from school crying, or having any major bullying when she first came to school. It was interesting that although she is now fluent in Hebrew and has many Israeli friends, she still gets yelled at when she speaks in English to a friend.She explained that the Israelis feel left out of conversations when they only hear English, and that their yelling is only in response to wanting to be part of the conversation. I hope that my girls will have as positive experiences as her!
Ok, we did it. We made it through day five of this marathon. Each day gives us more information, and more to consider. I have to say, it is really overwhelming. Tomorrow we plan to visit Ramat Beit Shemesh, see yet another set of schools and look around a whole new city. I really hope by the end of this trip, we will be able to confidently choose a community.