Introducing a new feature to help with personal and emotional issues with Professor Claire Rabin, consultant to the ESRA Counselling Service. She is professor of social work and therapist specializing in couple and family therapy in Israel.

We came on aliyah two years ago, but now life has turned sour as my wife misses her Canadian family and we haven’t made any Israeli friends.

I have been in Israel for two years, having made aliyah from Canada with my wife and two sons aged 10 and 14.

In the first six months, we were thrilled with our new home. We fell in love with Israel and spent a lot of time traveling around to get to know our new home.

But now my wife misses her family abroad and she hasn't found Israeli friends.

She is having a hard time learning the language. I know she is lonely and she has started to blame me for making us come on aliyah.

Claire answers: A very common issue in the process of immigration to any new country is the different rates of adjustment within the same family.

The prognosis for all of you making a successful aliyah looks promising. Sounds like you both made the choice to come, and the fact that you experienced a honeymoon with Israel says that you fundamentally enjoy life here. So what happened?

I suspect that a negative cycle has started taking up residence in your family. That is, as folks back home are missing and some hopes dashed, one of you took the role of not liking living here and the other took the other side.

Your wife feels all the difficulty, and perhaps you are naturally trying to talk her out of it.

The cycle is that the more you try to convince her, the more she wants to go home. And the more she complains, the more you try to convince her.

It sounds like the kids are experiencing the same dynamic. A successful aliyah can take a few years. Sometimes those who have the most doubts will benefit by going home for a while to do some reality checks.

So to break the cycles, there needs to be less convincing and resisting and more communication about problem solving. A counselor can help in listening to all sides.

My Moroccan in-law moved in and is now ruling the roost

My husband’s parents come from Morocco. Their idea of family is very different from mine. I grew up in Australia in a family of German parents who fled the Holocaust.

My parents did their best to create a warm and loving home without extended family.

When I went off to college in London, I was able to come home twice a year. For me, extended family is something I learned to live without.

When I made aliyah and met my husband, I really liked his close-knit large family. We went to one member of the family every Friday night, as they rotated these dinners amongst themselves.   I too was expected to host.

When it was our turn, I enjoyed the warmth and helpfulness of his family. I did my best to fit in although I always feel different than them.

Trouble started after the birth of my second daughter. My mother-in-law wanted to move in with us to help. As my mother had done this for the birth of my first daughter, it seemed only fair to accept her help.

But my mother-in-law’s idea of help was nothing I was used to. She took over the house, cooked all the meals, insisted on doing all the shopping, rearranged our closets and even moved furniture around to fit her idea of decoration. My husband and I both felt like children.

But how to stop all this? We don’t know how long she wants to stay. I let a lot of my anger out on my husband. She is used to getting her way. Apparently no one in this large family ever challenged her about anything.

Claire answers: You know exactly what you want to do ... you want your mother-in-law to move back home and allow the four of you to adjust to the new addition on your own.

It isn’t a question of what to do, but how to find a way to do it so that no one’s feeling are hurt.

The fact that you have so little experience in extended families means you never got a chance to watch the maneuvers and manipulation that are necessary to keep a large family group from going from one problem to another.

A family is like any close organization, with each family having its own rules about how to do things. The best person to guide you is your husband. Find out how he went about trying to get his way in the family.

Once you talk their language, you can quite easily get her out of the house. For example, in one family everyone went through the patriarch. He would then talk with his wife to get her to bend.

In another family, they devised a clever way to influence their overworking matriarch – they intensified their demand for help so that finally she herself decided to move back home.

If you have a problem please consult the ESRA Counselling Service:

Susan on 052 698 9088 at or Elisheva on 058 720 9794. 

Please be assured that all correspondence will be dealt with in the strictest confidence

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About the author

Claire Rabin

Claire Rabin was born in the USA and made aliyah to Israel in 1973. For over forty years she has combined an active private practice in therapy with couples and families together with an academic c...

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