Some people celebrate their Bar Mitzva at the age of 13. I am celebrating mine at the age of 35.
At this time of year I look back fondly at my move to Israel from the US. For me and my wife, our first Shabbat in Israel as Israelis, 13 years ago, the Torah portion that was read was “Eikev.” We will be reading that same portion again this Shabbat. For this occasion, I will share with you a number of feelings about various aspects of being here for the last 13 years.
1. Home: From the time I moved here, I felt that Israel is home; the feeling of connection has only strengthened over time.
2. Community: I feel a sense of community in the small Samaria town that we call home. People have similar ideals as I do, yet everyone expresses himself and lives his life as an individual.
3. Terror: Shortly after Aliya, I experienced terror first hand at the very start of the second intifada. Various worldwide events made me realize that no one is immune from it, and that the feeling of relative safety that I had while growing up in the US was a bit deceiving.
4. Family: We are raising happy and healthy kids that won’t have to make a choice between living in the same country as their family and living in the land of their forefathers.
5. Making a living: I am glad that I never had a real job in the US, and admire those who make the sacrifice of moving here after earning a decent US salary. I thank God for the fact that he has allowed me to sustain a family in his land.
6. Education: I am still in a bit of culture shock from the education system. I am convinced that most of my children’s education will be from home. I actively try to have an impact and improve the system, on a local level.
7. Weather: Just perfect. Well, maybe July- August could be a bit cooler.
8. Israelis: I feel connected to the people of this land. I feel a sense of brotherhood with “your average Israeli on the street” that I never felt in the US.
9. Politics: This place is so small I feel that my vote can really make a difference. The issues here are so critical, I feel it is essential to be involved.
10. Cost of living: There are things that are more expensive here, like dental floss and deodorant. There are things that are much cheaper here like tomatoes and mangoes. Luckily, I use a lot more tomatoes and mangoes than dental floss and deodorant.
11. Bureaucracy: 13 years ago, dealing with the office of the interior and with banks was a nightmare. Now I do just about everything online or by mail. It’s great!
12. Attitude: I have become more aggressive and am more willing to stand up for my rights. I am more willing to question, challenge and come up with out-of-the-box solutions to problems.
13. Hebrew: It it such a lovely language and it really grew on me. If only I could say the letter “reish” properly. I guess that won’t change over the next 13 years either, but at least my kids won’t have that handicap.
My hope and prayer is that we merit to continue to receive the blessings in the portion of Eikev, (Deut. 11:9) “So you may live long on the land that God has promised to give to your forefathers and to their descendants, a land flowing with milk and honey.”