My fellow blogger, Elie Klein, inspired me to write this blog when he wrote about “Making Aliyah the Right Way.” Elie jokingly wrote me that I am making Aliyah too easy by marrying an Israeli. Elie is right, it is a lot easier to make Aliyah when you marry an Israeli. My Israeli wife takes care of all the problems with the banks, the utilities, the car, health issues, and so on. But while marrying an Israeli helps me solve problems that other Oleh Hadash struggle with, there are other cultural issues that I have to cope with that they do not.
What you have to know is that when you marry an Israeli, you are marrying the whole family. In my first marriage, my wife was from Illinois, my family was from Michigan and we lived in Florida. You had to get on a plane to visit family. We all love each other but we hardly ever spent time with each other. In Israel, I cannot escape my wife’s family. There is no place far enough away that you can move to in Israel where the family can’t drive over for a visit.
When I say visit, it must mean something different in Hebrew. A visit in the USA is never more than 2 hours long unless it involves Thanksgiving which could then last three hours. A visit in Israel often lasts more than 24 hours. It takes a minimum of three hours for everybody just to show up. A visit involves a lot more than just eating and talking. There is also the advice giving.
With advice, nothing you can say is out of line and there are no subjects that are taboo. You can feel free to criticize how your sister is raising her children or who your nephew is dating. The parents give advice to the children. The children then tell the parents what they should do first with their advice and then proceed to tell the parents how they should be living their lives. The siblings advise each other what to do. The uncles and aunts tell their nieces and nephews to ignore their parents and follow their advice. Nobody listens to anybody.
This is all done with love.
After the advice comes dessert and tea and coffee. Then comes the napping. Then comes more eating and talking. Maybe some people finally start to leave. More likely, friends and neighbors start arriving. Often people just spend the night. In Israel, when you visit family, you have to remember to pack a toothbrush.
In addition to visits, you have phone calls. I love my brother in the USA very much. I talk to him regularly. Once a month. We cover everything in a five minute phone call. It goes like this:
Wife? — Fine.
Kids? — Great.
Job? — The same.
Love you bye.
In Israel, you have to call family every hour. Children have to call their parents, parents their children. Brothers call sisters. Cousins call cousins. Most people in Israel have to have two cell phones. One for business and one for family. Family needs to be in constant connection. This is why an Israeli invented instant messaging, he got tired of having to talk to his family all the time.
So if you decide to make Aliyah the easy way, like me, and marry an Israeli, make certain you check out the entire family first. That’s what I did. I first fell in love with the family. Then I tried to find someone eligible in the family that I could marry. I love my wife, but it is my in-laws that I am really crazy about.