One year ago today, I made the most inexplicably irrational judgment of my life and decided to make Israel my home.
Some new immigrants here tell me they have never looked back. Good for them. I look back every single day. I miss my family. I miss my friends. I miss London. I miss Oxford. I miss Cambridge. I miss the possibility of what might and could have been, the dream of the job that came with gowns, horsehair wigs, earning potential and some security of direction.
And yet, Israel exercises an inexplicable centripetal pull. Sometimes I wonder whether under Jerusalem, there is a magnet that sucks people in and won’t let them leave. Maybe it’s something in the water, or in the air.
Whenever I meet fellow Anglo immigrants, I ask them, “Why did you make aliyah, are you crazy?” Normally they take a moment, think, and with a wry smile say, “Yeah, I guess. You?” Yup!
Then come the real answers. “In London, all my friends live for the weekend. Here, I’m busy all week, the cafés are always full.” “In New York, everyone’s miserable and stressed and sees a therapist weekly. Here people have priorities.” “I was sick of taking the Tube every day. Here I see the sun.” “Israelis don’t stop complaining how they have no money, but everyone’s always travelling. They’re always out. They like to live.”
But the most common answer: “Because this is home.” We just feel it. In the air. In the water. The Jewish mother who won’t stop nagging till we return, and won’t let us leave once we sit down.
This country drives me insane. More than you can imagine. And still I don’t want to leave. And maybe that’s what’s so exciting about living here. It makes no sense. We’re confronted every day with the question “What am I doing here?”
Living in Israel means living in a state of hyper-consciousness. It means living among people who have made a conscious choice to be where they are, and cannot take their being for granted. Living is Israel is a rebellion against inertia. Living in Israel is not straight sailing, but swimming against the tide. Life is not defined by security, but the maddening vertigo of standing on the edge of a cliff. For immigrants from the Anglosphere it makes no sense, and it’s the brilliant confrontation with that sheer audacity that makes life so vibrant.
In short, for better or worse, Israel is everything England is not.
So here’s to one year as an official resident of this totally meshugge country!