Rather than respond to the litany of criticisms (some destructive, some constructive) offered in the comments about last week’s piece, I am glad people took the time to air their grievances. Perhaps debating this issue is a more cathartic and rewarding process than chatting idly among similarly distraught olim, which simply reinforces one’s “right” to complain about Israeli society. Further, in terms of one’s “right” to complain, I don’t believe anyone (myself included) intends to prevent anyone from exercising it. What I do seek, however, is for one’s words to be supplemented by action.
Many have equated my stance on “complaining” with my stance on “change.” This is entirely antithetical to my system of beliefs. While I have neither time nor energy for the former, I do invest both time and energy in being an effective instrument for the latter. I have returned to our land with more things to do than things I own, more experience to gain than to give. The tools people assemble throughout their lives are their greatest assets and, likewise, the seeds of potential to germinate into their greatest contributions.
How marvelous the notion that the recipient of such gifts is a country, our country, that is in “such dire need” of them, according to the opinion of many. Let one not delude himself by ignoring the fact that Israel, as all others, is an imperfect society inhabited by imperfect people in the midst of achieving an improbable feat. Yet, even in its imperfection, she represents a world far closer to “perfect” than our people have ever been fortunate enough to experience.
Further, we must differentiate between “criticizing” the system and “complaining” about it. (Well-intentioned) criticism is a means to elevate, while complaints are simply opinions on the status quo. However, both are simply the verbal manifestation of thought. Action is what is needed. Who benefits by highlighting the ills of a society without taking concrete steps to fix it? What if, after his examination, a doctor said you are suffering from “X,” but offered no remedy for your ailment? Without acting on his diagnosis, how effective is he? If one believes his idea can enhance the health of a particular element of society, then the floor is his. Assuming his proposition is of real benefit rather than simply an adaptation of Western sensibilities, he should then follow his conclusion with “actionable items.” Hollow words fill deaf ears, while words of substance nurture growth.
As any being aspiring to evolve would, one should thrive off criticism, be it in a personal or professional capacity. It is the fuel for spiritual arson, which burns away shrubs that line the ground of the magnificent forest of our potential, preventing new things from sprouting. The same applies to a society. It, too, must allow new ways and means to blossom. So, in light of Lag B’Omer, I say: LET IT BURN! Let it burn, this passion to create an infrastructure to better absorb olim! Let it burn, the desire to make your contributions felt! Let it burn, this yearning to stand upon the shoulders of the Zionist giants that came before you! Let it burn, this aching to join the ranks of those whose waking hours are dedicated to the betterment of this land. Let it burn, let is burn…until it jolts you out of the complacent state of saying and into the active state of doing.
The yarn woven to create the rich social fabric of life in this country stretches to the furthest reaches of the globe. For thousands of years, our people have moved across this Divine sliver of land. Some travel light, but their baggage is heavy. The knees of many nearly buckle beneath the weight of past oppression, while the chests of others press toward the Heavens in perpetual reminiscence of glory. With different tongues and through different eyes, in different minds and of different hearts, people inhabit Eretz Yisrael. It is possible that the amalgamation of diversity has created a square peg of reality, which olim hope to insert into the round hole of their pre-conceived, and sometimes idealized, Zionist perception. With that in mind, it is olim who bear the responsibility of finding the right tools to round off the edges of those preconceptions.
Perhaps I haven’t been subjected to the tortures of the “rude, brash” Israeli disposition, but have rather found the people here to be some of the most supportive and welcoming in the world. Perhaps my absorption process was not fraught with hypocrisy, delays, and misinformation, but rather moved smoothly through the much-maligned bureaucracy. Perhaps I didn’t put holes in my shoes hitting the pavement in search of work, but have been blessed to find substantial work of meaning in my field. Perhaps I cannot relate to a single complaint a single oleh has voiced.
Or, perhaps I did experience long lines, cranky supermarket cashiers, and “Israeli bureaucracy” at its finest, but I made the conscious decision to push through, take it all in stride, and move forward to ensure a successful absorption.
The way I see it? You’ll always have problems. At least now you can have problems while living in Israel.