“So, why did you decide to make aliyah?” The question I have been asked over and over for the past two weeks since I moved here. I’ve come up with a few ways to answer this question. First is the short answer; I’ve narrowed it down to a two word response –Jewish Homeland. Yet, sometimes I prefer the answer of the pragmatist: Well, living in a Jewish country, I can work in an office that is not necessarily a Jewish organization, and I still get the holidays off, plus vacation days. It’s a matter of practicality, really.
In fact, since becoming more observant nearly eight years ago, and taking on the sometimes restrictive dietary laws of kashrut, Israel has been my prime travel destination. Again, aside from the spiritual yearning and all that, it was always easiest to come to Israel. Growing up with a travel agent for a father, going on vacation was something we did as a family fairly frequently. Our primary destination became Mexico, and of course, who can turn down a authentic Mexican fajita or enchilada? Not to mention the fresh seafood and countless Mexican steakhouses. But, alas, all of that ended for me when I decided to keep kosher. Sigh.
Luckily, not all is lost. Aside from the fact that I learned how to make my own Mexican food (my roommate used to say I was going to turn into a quesadilla), kashrut has its advantages. For example, when traveling, if you are looking for kosher food, the simple fact that our lives revolve around the necessity of eating will always connect you with other Jews seeking out kosher food, as well. This enables us to strengthen our Jewish connectivity, even when strolling through Venice, Buenos Aires or any other international destination. But, I digress.
So, Israel became my destination of choice, because here, I found a vast selection of culinary delights in which to indulge. Which brings me back to my original point. I moved to Israel for the practicality of a religious lifestyle here. I am currently interning at a PR firm that has its main offices in New York. But, I can say with almost 100% certainty that the experience of interning with their Jerusalem office is vastly different to interning with their New York office. Because, this past Thursday, when we sat down for our weekly office lunch (and I mean everyone, from the head of the office down to me, the intern), the food was kosher, and at the end of the meal, one of the associates recited the traditional invitation to the Birkat HaMazon, or Grace After Meals. Somehow, I don’t think this happens in the New York office.