If you think it’s tough moving to Israel try being born here!
With an average monthly salary of 7,000NIS and a passport that is guaranteed to have a door slammed shut in your face when you try to get into many countries around the world, a university system that means you actually have to study if you want to graduate and all of the other military, political and economic stuff, us anglo olim should count ourselves lucky for the things that we bring with us to the Holy Land rather than for the things that living here deprives us of.
But that is harsh, obviously I get it. The fact that the standard of living is generally lower, the prices are generally higher and the bureaucracy is very tough to negotiate, particularly for those of us who can’t speak the language, means that a good moan about our adopted homeland can do us proud. Don’t be shy, everyone else here loves a good moan too, the whole country were on the streets moaning this time last year, in fact I would go so far as to say that you can’t really be Israeli until you have at least considered packing it all in and moving overseas. Most people have for a while.
The things is this is a country of immigrants and a culture which is just a mish mash of a whole range of other cultures spanning the whole world. From Yemen to Russia to the USA and Ethiopia there are people living here from all over the world and all of us are bringing our own foibles, special dishes, skin colours types of Judaism (or not) and styles here with us in a desperate attempt to make it all work. You can’t speak Hebrew? Don’t worry, no one in this country can! Our venerable president to this very day still has a slight lilt to his own Ivrit and our Prime Minister spent his formative years growing up in Philly, his parents never came back!
When you’re feeling a bit alone and wondering what on earth you’re doing here feel free to look around at all the ‘real’ Israelis and remind yourself that you have far more in common with the founding fathers than they do. After all you came here out of choice, they are here by an accident of birth!
Actually don’t do that, they already know and the vast majority of these frustrating, prickly, incredibly wonderful people know that already and love you for it! To this day when I meet up with my army buddies I can’t persuade them to let me pay for anything, it seems that I will eternally be their lonely soldier and therefore have my drinks bought for me whenever I’m with them. Don’t tell me someone has never insisted that you came over to theirs for dinner? And don’t tell me that your Western sensibilities have never resulted in you turning down this offer for no reason other than your inability to believe that it was even made.
I first moved out here in 2001, finished the army in 2004, took an FZY Israel Tour around the country for a month (somehow passing myself off as the Israeli madrich) and then went back to London with my tail very much between my legs.
I left because all my friends were still serving in the army (my service being shorter than theirs on account of my age), my lonely soldier’s room on kibbutz was no longer paid for by the army and in all honesty I had just had enough of the place. What made leaving worse was that I had been telling everyone that I was in the army and a Tzanhan to boot (that means Paratrooper in Hebrew don’t you know) I would then throw in a smug little “and I love it here I’m never leaving!” every time I spoke.
Bugger, that was a bad move!
And there’s no shortage of smug olim out here, happy to “educate” newbies about what it means to truly be Israeli and to proudly show off about how long ago they came and how they’re still here. But that’s cool too, because it is tough here and if the only thing we have over our friends from the old country is the amount of time we’ve been living here, whilst they have the big house and expensive car(s) then I’ll take it.
The thing is though, it took me 3 years of being back in London to fully understand that there is no absolute need to be here, no compulsion. The real thing to do is live wherever makes you happy (how cliched was that? I know, I know). Don’t stay here just because you feel like you need to see something through or because you might feel the sting of failure for leaving and for God’s sake don’t stay because you’re worried that some smug tosser might come up to you and say “oh so you’re leaving? Well living here’s not for everyone”. Stay here for the intangible stuff, the really good stuff that you can feel all around you but that you can’t see.
Stay for the fact that we’re all in this together, not the Anglos but ALL of us (except maybe the Haredim, aw ok the Haredim too) we all have it tough here to varying degrees and we all love it too. The fact that in the summer (and if you’re from London in the winter) you can walk around without any need to be wearing an arctic warfare kit. Stay for the fact that on Yom Haatzmaut the streets are clear because everyone’s at the nearest BBQ, stay because here your religious holidays are national holidays and everyone celebrates them as one country even though we all may celebrate some of them differently. Stay for the fact that even in Tel Aviv no one drives on Yom Kippur. Stay for the amazing food, stay for the beautiful women, stay for Gay pride, stay for Jew pride, stay because people will happily shout at you for 10 minutes only to take a breath and invite you over for dinner right after you let them know that you’re a friend of Shlomy and for a million other reasons that a million other people can enlighten me to in the comments (please God let me have a lot of comments!)
And if you have to go back, or it doesn’t work, or you hate it here, then that’s cool too! The question I am asked more than any other is “why on earth did you come here?” And it’s a fair question, when I can’t answer it I’ll know it’s time to be on my way.
In short, complaining is fine people, so is accepting all that’s wrong with the country and loving it anyway.