I cannot write about NetManage without mentioning the months that I spent living in Haifa and working for NetManage Israel. If you’ve been reading my previous posts, you’ll know that the reason I joined the company was because my husband and I wanted to move “back” to Israel.
I’ve put “back” in quotes, because I was born and brought up in the United States.
But I went to Israel in my mid-20s, during which time I met and married my “sabra” (native-born Israeli) husband.
Even when I was a little girl, I thought that I might want to live in Israel.
As a teenager, I pleaded with my mother to let me go live on a kibbutz. After all, I was a teenage in the sixties. The concept of a communal settlement appealed to my ideals. No one would be poor and no one would be rich. We would all share and share alike. And at night, we’d dance the hora…
But my mother said “No!” Both of my parents were appalled at the idea of my moving so far away. Until I reached my twenties, I was obedient enough to abide by their decision.
So it wasn’t until I was several years older that I got my chance to live there. By that time, I had a master’s degree and decided to live in a city rather than a kibbutz.
I ended up going to an ulpan—a boarding school where they teach intensive Hebrew—in Haifa, a port city in northern Israel. It was a good fit for me. I had grown up by the ocean and loved being so close to the sea.
I still wasn’t sure that I wanted to live there forever. I didn’t think in terms of forever. But I was happy living there.
We lived there when my children were very small and I liked the fact that I could walk my daughters to nursery school and then they could walk by themselves to elementary school. I also liked that there were good part-time jobs, with special considerations for working women with small children.
But it was very difficult financially in those days. So when my husband had a chance to come work in California, we moved to Silicon Valley and that’s when I became a tech writer.
We hadn’t planned to stay for more than a couple of years in California. Just enough time to save money for a bigger apartment. But the couple of years had stretched into more than a decade…
A Time of Optimism
When we moved back to Israel in early summer of 1995, it was a time of optimism. The Oslo Accords had been signed. For the first time in Israel’s existence, it seemed that it actually might be possible to live in peace with Israel’s neighbors.
The Israeli economy was also thriving. I appreciated some of the conveniences—like being able to use paper towels rather than rags, although using rags had certainly been a lot better for the environment.
Tremendous Support from My Co-Workers
Probably, the very best thing about working for NetManage Israel was the camaraderie. My co-workers were amazing. The friend who had recruited me to NetManage had already moved back (she was born and brought up in Israel) a few months before I did.
They had bought a large house in Danya, a more suburban-like section of Haifa high up on the Carmel, and loved to throw parties and invite everyone who worked at the company.
People knew that our 14-year old daughter—our other daughters were already in college—was having difficulty adjusting to the move. They tried to be supportive and offer advice.
Learning What it is like to be the Mother or Wife of a Soldier
By the time I met my husband, the Yom Kippur War was over. I was living in Israel during the war, but I didn’t really know anyone who was involved in the fighting.
Now I was working closely with women whose closest loved ones were in daily danger. I sat right next to a woman whose son was based in Lebanon. Everyone listed to the news on the hour. When there was “an incident”, all of us felt it in the pit of our stomachs. Her son would try to call as soon as he could to let her know he was okay.
I had friends that attended the peace rally at Kikar Malkhei Yisrael (Kings of Israel Square), in Tel Aviv, where Rabin was assassinated. I didn’t go—not because I didn’t support the Oslo accords. I did. But I was afraid of being in large rounds that were vulnerable to terrorism. Arab terrorism. I was even more reluctant to expose our daughter to that danger and didn’t want to leave her alone at home.
It was very cold in our apartment—like many of the apartments then, we didn’t have central heating–so we had all gone to sleep early just to be warm. The phone rang, waking us. We were still groggy when we heard the news from our oldest daughter, who was studying for the semester at Tel Aviv University, “Rabin has been shot!”
We stumbled out of bed and turned on the television. Our youngest daughter got up and joined us. All of set huddled there in blankets watching the unbelievable events on the screen, tears rolling down our cheeks.
It reminded me of when John F. Kennedy was assassinated. His was the first of many assassinations to follow in those tumultuous years. Before JFK was killed, we had thought that assassinations were something that happened only in history books or in South America.
Before Rabin was assassinated, Israeli Jews would never have imagined that such an act could be perpetrated by another Jew.
Remembering that time still brings tears to my eyes.
Lack of Support from the Israeli Schools and Problems of Two Working Parents
If only the schools had been half as supportive as NetManage, my husband and I would have been happy to stay in Israel. There was a special program, a type of ulpan, at one of the Haifa schools for children of new immigrants. But 99% of the class was Russian. Our daughter was the only student from an English-speaking country.
Due to the influx of immigrants from the former Soviet Union, the ulpan had study materials that made things easier for the Russian students. But they were not prepared to handle students from English-speaking countries. Our daughter felt totally isolated.
It didn’t help matters any that both my husband and I were working full-time. Although my husband had rented an appealing apartment in a nice section of town, he hadn’t realized that the public transportation to that new neighborhood was nearly nonexistent and the school with the ulpan required my daughter to take two buses.
After many tearful tantrums, we submitted to our daughter’s request to transfer to a regular public school and supplement with tutoring. Suffice it to day that didn’t work either.
When it became apparent that she was skipping school, we realized that the situation was becoming untenable.
Returning to California
It was with heavy hearts that my husband and I gave up on our dream of moving back to Israel. We had moved over our entire household and it was no easy feat to move back. In fact, we left all our furniture in Israel rather than paying for the expense of bringing it back.
But the fact that I continued to work for NetManage did help to make the transition easier for me.