Aviva Zacks
Aviva Zacks

Former Akiva Hebrew Day School teacher writes about moving to Israel and what she likes most about living there.

The Jewish News has asked me to write a column interviewing former Detroiters living in Israel, so I thought I would begin with myself. I was a teacher at Akiva Hebrew Day School (now Farber Hebrew Day School), Bais Yaakov and Yeshiva Beth Yehudah before making aliyah with my family in 2006.

Why did I want to make aliyah? When I was young, my family spent every summer in Israel. Being in Israel and enjoying the freedom that children have here really made an impact on me.

As an adult, I taught Judaic studies at Akiva, and year after year, my material pointed to the importance of living in Israel — from the promise Hashem made to the forefathers to Joshua conquering the land. I thought to myself, “How can I teach this and not live it?” My family was on board, so we got on the plane and moved to Modiin.

My kids were 10, 7 and 4 years old when we came, and they got used to living here pretty quickly. We moved to a community with many other olim, so they had kids to talk to in English. But we did try to make sure they were in classes with Hebrew-only speakers so they would pick up the language more easily. 

Aviva Zacks and her family
Aviva Zacks and her family

We were very easy on them when it came to their studies as it was much more important to us that they felt comfortable and had time to play with other kids.

Now Daniel, 24, is married to Shifra and is the father of our two grandchildren, Eitan and Hadar. He lives and works in Kiryat Shmonah. Ephraim, 21, is serving in the Givati Brigade as part of Yeshivat Hakotel’s army Hesder program, and Nava, 18, is doing national service as a Bnei Akiva Komenarit (she runs a Bnei Akiva chapter of more than 250 kids).

Since moving to Israel, I shifted gears because, while I taught in Hebrew at Akiva, my Hebrew was not good enough to teach Israeli children. And don’t even get me started on my American accent!

Once I moved to Israel, I taught English to native English speakers for eight years and then worked at an e-learning company writing practice tests for adults and children taking standardized tests in the U.S., U.K. and Canada. After that, I switched to content writing and now freelance through a content marketing company called Writehook that I run with my husband Arye.

Israeli Life

What do I like best about living in Israel?

I love that everything revolves around the Jewish year. The pomegranates are in season on Rosh Hashanah, every house and apartment has a Chanukiah lit on every night of Chanukah, and you should see the streets filled with children dressed up for Purim.

My favorite time of year is Pesach. A few days before our first Pesach in Israel, I went to the shopping center to get a few last items that I had forgotten to buy. There was literally no parking to be found. I couldn’t believe it. It was supposed to be a working day, but people had taken off to shop for food, gifts and clothing for Pesach. It was the most incredible scene.

I also love our proximity to the Kotel. Any time I want, I can go up to Jerusalem and daven at our holiest site.

While I don’t miss the snow in Detroit, I do miss our family and friends we left behind. Being so far away when loved ones are celebrating happy times or dealing with difficulties is the hardest part about moving away.

And I really miss the slow, calm way Detroiters speak and drive.

Israel is our nation’s home. Every prayer points us there. We even daven in the direction of Jerusalem. If you haven’t been to Israel yet, you should certainly come see what all the hype is. Once you’re vaccinated and Israel allows you to, that is. 

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