Italy in the 1980s: We lived our life with no problems; there were almost no immigrants and plenty of money and work for everybody. The most important concern was who will win the soccer championship, or what will be the length of the skirts for next season.
For me it was a cultural shock. Only two years had passed since my service in the IDF.
Our only homeland is Israel and up until now I am more involved in Israel’s domestic affairs than in Italy’s. When my eldest daughter was born, we only spoke Hebrew to her. When the other children were born, it was harder for because they already spoke Italian among themselves, but I insisted on speaking Hebrew at home, reading Israeli books to them, and showing them Israeli videos for children.
All our children were educated at the excellent Jewish school of Milan. All four children have attended the school from nursery through high school. But that’s it. I have decided that at the end of this school year we are going back to Israel after living in Milan for 27 years.
It must have been inevitable. You cannot educate your children to love Israel and do it all your life through remote control.
The decision to come back was accompanied by much hesitation. For my husband it is particularly hard, as he never lived in Israel, but it is clear to him that for the sake of the future of our children, this is the right decision, even if not the easiest. Indeed, emigrating in our 50s and starting anew is not a simple thing. Many people were astonished by our decision, but for us it was clear: Israel is the future, Europe is the past.
I won’t deny that life in Milan is nice and comfortable, I love living here; there’s a kind of contagious relaxation, everything is very stylish and refined. We’ve got a friend in Israel who during the second Intifada was watching only Italian TV, because “the most depressing program is Wheel of Fortune…” Indeed, this is the essence of life here. Italians seem to possess an innate happiness and enjoyment of life.
However, the situation here has changed. We can feel the xenophobia, especially because of the economic situation. Today one third of Italian youths are unemployed.
No need to hide my Judaism
To me, returning to Israel gives my children another chance, for better or for worse.
The streets may look better in Italy, but so what? In Israel I won’t have to hide my Judaism or my being Israeli. My children will be able to choose whether to be more or less religious. They will go to university and I won’t have to worry that they will assimilate. And yes, I can walk around wearing flip flops and a clip in my hair without it being a big deal.
My eldest daughter completed her education in Italy two years ago and it was only natural for her to continue her studies in Israel. She was accepted to the Technion in Haifa with four more friends from Milan. They live in the dorms and in her first semester she told us she was not coming back to Milan.
In June, two of our children will graduate high school and they also know what their future holds. They have decided to join the IDF and only after that will they embark on college studies. The army is the best place for them, as a melting pot.
I also admit that we have our fears. We are moving to a country that is completely different than the one we are leaving. We are sending two of our children to the army and Ben, the youngest one, will have to get used to a new country, a new school and a new class where everyone already knows each other. However, we are lucky that we speak Hebrew.
Starting from scratch again is not an easy thing, especially given the current economic situation. But for us Israel is the future, and Europe is the past.
Anat Levy, 49, a married mother of four, will be returning to Israel this summer after 27 years in Milan, Italy. Read more about her on her blog