As I was walking to school today I was thinking about my daily life here and I realized two things: 1) It has become very normal for me to be in Israel, and 2) I don’t want it to be normal. Don’t get me wrong, adjusting to a different country, starting college, and making new friends was definitely stressful and overwhelming, but it was exciting. My mother told me last year, before I went to seminary, that this would be the most exciting time of my life and that any day could change everything. That idea terrified me and it still does. It is hard to go on with your day to day life if you consider the possibility that today is going to be life-changing; it’s much easier not to think about it.
When I got on my flight to Israel this past October, it didn’t matter that it wasn’t a Nefesh B’Nefesh flight- it was my one way ticket to Israel. Anyone would recognize that day as one of the life-changing ones my mother was talking about. And it was life changing. It brought me to a lifestyle that I had thought about but couldn’t understand without experiencing. I had to get off the plane, collect most of my worldly belongings, go to an apartment I had never stayed in, and live on my own. Three out of four of those things were completely new experiences for me.
Each and every new experience brings with it a wave of sheer terror and a breeze of calm. That may sound strange but the calm is because after you have done it, it isn’t a new experience anymore. That is one of the most reassuring things I have learned while doing this- the first time you have to do anything is terrifying but after that it is normal. It becomes what you do. In some areas, that is good and appreciated; if I got nervous every time I went to my apartment, well, I would have a very miserable existence.
But there are some things that I don’t want to become normal or routine. I want to walk to school every day and appreciate being in Israel and how lucky I am that I can be. I want to go to the market, see packages with Shmittah instructions and not get annoyed that I will have to separate out the leftovers. All of the special things I get to do here should keep feeling special! I haven’t been here for very long, so how has it become normal so quickly?
This idea made me think about the lyrics from a new song I like. “Live life don’t just exist” (Storybook, Skinny Living).
Sometimes it’s easier to just exist. We go about living our normal lives and when something exciting happens, that moment is us living. I have many moments in my life that have stuck out as living, and many, many more of just existing.
Maybe that is just how we are as people- it is easier to notice when something extreme and unexpected happens, but when normal is good and routine we can’t appreciate it. Only when something stands out as exciting is it something special. The day you make Aliyah stands out as special, but every day you live in Israel is special too.
Yom Hazicharon and Yom Haatzmaut were perfect reminders for me of how lucky we all are to be here, and how much we have to appreciate the country.
Yom Hazicharon is one of the saddest days in Israel because it is so personal. Almost everyone knows, or at least knows of, someone who has died fighting, someone killed in a terror attack, or someone that is in the line of danger. While, Thank God, I don’t personally have someone to mourn on Yom Hazicharon, I have many people that I need to appreciate on that day. Life in Israel can be very scary- my friends are Chayalim, putting themselves in danger for us. And on the other hand, we sometimes find ourselves in dangerous situations; my brother was one train behind a light rail that was attacked. He wasn’t putting himself in danger but he going about his daily life can be dangerous, like it is for all of us.
I went to a Tekes on Leil Yom Hazicharon and one of the speakers started off saying that he has one question always burned in his mind- Is it worth it? All of the people that have sacrificed their lives, and all the people that protect us right now, and all of the terrible things that happen here- is it really worth it? He gave his speech, where he spoke about a few of the fallen soldiers that he was close to, but of course reminded us that there were so many more he could have spoken about, and he could have gone on for much longer about each person. He ended his speech telling us that he wishes he had an answer. He doesn’t. But as he said: If you don’t think it’s worth it, make it worth it.
We have to live each day for all of the people who can’t; all of the Chayalim who gave up their lives and all of the people who were killed while going about their day. We have to live in a way that shows how much we appreciate what they did for us, making us be able to live here.
Yom Haatzmaut is one of the happiest days in Israel, and it comes on the back of one of the saddest. Whoever comes up with the dates of these holidays decided to put two of the most emotional days right after each other, so it must mean something.
When you see the excitement and festivities on Yom Haatzmaut, it definitely brings you closer to the answer that the speaker gave. When you are at your lowest and remembering all of the terrible things that happen here, you are whooshed up into all of the joy that comes with Yom Haatzmaut. It is because of the people that we remember on Yom Hazicharon that we are even able to celebrate on Yom Haatzmaut.
We, or at least I, have to start appreciating every day. Not just the ones we decide are special. I am happy that I have gotten to the level that I feel comfortable where I am. A few months ago that would seem impossible to me. It is lucky that I am a person that living in Israel is normal for. Some people are still dreaming about it and I get to do it every day. As cliché as all of this sounds, I really am appreciative and I need to remind myself of that more often.