I am celebrating the one year anniversary of my aliyah. I had been dreaming of making aliyah since childhood. It took me almost 50 years to make my dream come true. Living in Israel has been better than I had dreamed it would be.
But that is only because I had no false illusions about living in Israel. I had been to Israel over a dozen times before making aliyah. I first came as a tourist, later as a volunteer, and then I started spending summers studying Hebrew as a student. I knew what to expect. I knew that some Israelis can be rude. I knew that customer service meant something different in Israel than it means in the USA.
I didn’t make aliyah because I thought Israel was perfect. I made aliyah because I wanted to be a part of making Israel perfect.
What made the experience better than I had dreamed me was the warmth in which I was received. Beneath the pushy exterior are people who treated me like family.
I was shopping for some furniture in IKEA. I searched for a gentleman to help me. When I asked him in Hebrew for advice on buying an office chair, he answered me in English. My Hebrew is obviously not my mother tongue and he was happy to show off his English speaking skills. I told the man that I was a new immigrant and that even though I struggle with Hebrew, I need to practice. The next thing that happened was a 20 minute conversation about me — all in Hebrew. He wanted to welcome me and he wanted to hear my whole story. He patiently listened to me and he helped me with Hebrew words I didn’t know or didn’t pronounce correctly.
This happens to me almost everywhere I go. Once when my daughter was visiting me she told the waitress that she was planning on making aliyah and the waitress gave my daughter her cell phone number so that she could call her with any questions about living in Israel or for help with anything she needed.
I was talking to a taxi driver and mentioned my other daughter was thinking about medical school. He called a friend that knows somebody that knows somebody that studies at the American Medical School at the Technion and got my daughter a tour of the school.
I have story after story. There was the furniture delivery guy who started off yelling at me because the elevator in my building was broken and we ended up showing each other pictures of our children over coffee.
I did have some bad experiences like when I had to call the cable company. But the cable company is the exception.
I love Americans. I find most of the people in the USA to be friendly and helpful and warm and generous. But in Israel, it is different.
Living in Israel has been better than I had dreamed because even though I had visited many times I was ignorant of what it is like to live in a country that treats you like family. Visiting Israel was fun and inspirational, but living here is different than being a tourist. Living in Israel is like living with family and the cable company is like the cousin that I wish I never had to visit.
I have come home.