In the coming days and weeks, we are heading towards many endings and new beginnings.
And they started today.
When we made Aliyah, Matan was four and Yehuda was two. We arrived in July and signed up for nursery school and daycare for the two little guys. Matan started four year old nursery school without a word of Hebrew – not a word. But we understood that he was in Gan Etty, and that Etty was a teacher with many years of experience. It’s funny to think about now, since the community has so many English speaking children, but Etty told us on the first day in 2004 that she had never worked with a child who didn’t know Hebrew. Gulp.
Fortunately, he was in class with twins, Shoshana and Adina, who had also just made Aliyah and the three of them formed a cute triumvirate in the beginning. Their mom and I worked hard to give Etty tips for integrating the kids, recommending that she pick story books with more pictures, that she sit the kids right by her, etc.
And so it began.
Subsequently, all of my boys were in Gan Etty, and I always felt like I was walking into a warm hug when I showed up that first day with another Sussman for her to nurture and love.
Today, Neve Daniel threw a party for Etty. After many, many years here teaching Gan Etty (obviously that’s not the real name of the gan, but it’s the only name we ever use for it!) she is retiring. The room overflowed with kids of all ages from current students to high school kids, soldiers who showed up from their bases and grandmothers who had both their children and grandchildren in her class!
The Rav of the yishuv had everyone sing a song to Etty and they showed a slide show of many kids and adults thanking Etty for the years she taught. Here is an adorable example from Yehuda and Amichai (thanks to Yechiel for putting it together!).
We were all a bit teary by the end.
I can’t help but be nostalgic about the growth that Matan had that year with her, the changes he went through and the amazing spirit that he showed in a classroom where he did not understand one word for months.
On Tuesday, Matan will graduate from high school. It’s a high school where almost no recent immigrants send their children, where almost no one speaks English or comes from a similar background, where we stick out like a sore thumb – but he doesn’t.
And that, really, is what amazes me and brings me to tears when I think about it. Here is Matan in his picture from four year old nursery school.
And here he is, today, with friends from his nursery school class; friends with whom he has grown up day in and day out; friends with whom he speaks, obviously, only Hebrew; and friends with whom he shares a culture that is so different from the one in which we took him. It’s a culture that we try each day to straddle, to understand, to integrate into; but that he so effortlessly embraces, loves and wears like a second skin.
Thank you, Ganenet Etty, for showing love to Neve Daniel’s children for so many years. Good luck to all of the children who have graduated from Etty’s class with so much knowledge, skill and love.
It’s the end of an era in so many ways for us; and that will bring many tears.
Of course, it’s also the beginning of a new path as we watch Matan get ready for his next adventure.