Wendy Fielding left a thriving psychotherapy practice, family, friends and a comfortable life in London to live in Israel. At the age of 62, different elements in her life shifted, giving her the inspiration to make aliyah. Fielding grew up in Hampstead, London. At the age of three she began ballet lessons, and at 12 she was accepted to the Royal School of Ballet. “My parents did not think that this was a good career for a Jewish girl, so I didn’t go,” laughs Fielding. “They were probably right.”
Rampant antisemitism in her primary school deeply affected her. Her parents took her out of her school for one year and sent her to a Jewish school.
“My home was traditional and we kept kosher, but during this year the seed was planted for deeper immersion into religious practice.”
Upon graduating from high school, Fielding was accepted to university; the first one of her generation in her family. “At that time, only about 4% of high school graduates went on to university,” she explains.
Despite her desire to study English, she knew that she needed a vocation. She chose to do her first degree in social sciences and went on to receive her post graduate degree in social work. She married shortly after college.
Citing herself as extremely lucky, Fielding “landed a job” as a psychiatric social worker in The London (Teaching) Hospital.
“This was during the 1970s and all of the leading professionals in the emerging specialty fields were working and teaching there.”
She was exposed to different kinds of therapies, from Gestalt to behavioral and group therapy, to psychoanalysis and marital therapy.
“It was an exciting time,” she says. Continuing on her professional path, she moved into child psychiatry and trained under one of the founders of family therapy, Robin Skynner. Fielding wanted to integrate family therapy with psychoanalytic training and spent two years doing pre-clinical work at the highly respected Tavistock Institute of Human Relations toward this goal.
During this time, her son was born. Unfortunately, shortly after his birth, Fielding and her husband got divorced. But being a single mother did not stop her from pursuing her training in child psychotherapy. For the next eight years she worked part time while undergoing psychoanalytic training, after which she became a child and adolescent psychotherapist.
When her son was five, she met her soul mate, Marcus Fielding, the head of WIZO London.
“We spoke about making aliyah, but at that time it wasn’t possible,” she says. Shortly after their marriage, her beloved mother died. She was only 69 and never realized her dream to live in Israel. Two years later, Wendy and Marcus had a daughter.
Having aliyah in mind, Fielding undertook further training in adult psychotherapy, which took another 10 years, while working part time. In 2005, Marcus was diagnosed with esophageal cancer, and despite the doctor’s positive diagnosis, Marcus died three days after his 53rd birthday.
“We had a holiday booked and the doctors told us not to cancel our plans,” remembers Fielding. “I was in shock for a year.” The next few years were very difficult.
She became interested in trauma therapy and the body/mind connection, and over a three-year period she went back and forth to Israel to train in Somatic Experiencing. As the only person in her area of London using that approach for trauma therapy, she had a steady stream of referrals.
A sequence of events finally led her to Israel. Her son got married and he and his wife moved to Australia. Her daughter had just completed university. And after 39 years working in the National Health Service, Fielding felt that things were deteriorating.
“If I was going to make aliyah, this was the time to do it,” she says.
Fielding and her daughter made aliyah in 2012. In pursuing her dream to live by the sea and to attend a Carlebach-style synagogue, she moved to Tel Aviv. Her daughter, who had completed her degree in performance design and practice at St. Martins University of the Arts in London, volunteered for the army. When Fielding’s landlord decided to sell the apartment, she had no idea where to go. She ended up in Old Jaffa, in a neighborhood her son described as “a diamond in the rough.” Despite making great friends and finding a wonderful yeshiva for services, when she was mugged in her car, she knew it was time to leave.
“I felt that this was a sign that I should move to Jerusalem,” she explains. “I chose the neighborhood of Arnona because I had experienced, from years before, an amazing Carlebach synagogue, Mizmor L’David, and I knew that this was where I wanted to go.”
Fielding has found her spiritual home and is trying to find her professional home as well.
“I am not a person who is content to be retired. I would really like to use my experience and my skills, and would love to get involved in a trauma project so that I can reach more people than I could on my own. The only real obstacle I have is the language. Learning Hebrew has not been easy.”
“I worked in England for almost 40 years. Now is my time to give back, possibly to teach or supervise English-speaking therapists as well as setting up my own practice. In spite of the difficulties of living here, there is no place else I’d rather be. I really want to be able to make a contribution to this amazing country.” ■
WENDY FIELDING, 68 FROM LONDON TO JERUSALEM, 2012