Community in Israel is Different
The lack of the community standard I grew up with will always bother my Jewish identity
Nobody in Jerusalem says ‘Good Shabbos’ or ‘Shabbat Shalom.’ By nobody, I mean not every single person. It is uncomfortable. People look at me weird because I give a pre-’Hello’ look, which I learned to give to every person I pass. That is what we do in Rochester. We look at people long enough to awkward them into being friendly. Before they know it, they are saying ‘hello’ out of discomfort. Since I have made Aliyah, instead of getting a ‘hello,’ I get a nasty improper ‘you invaded my sidewalk space’ look. It is the same mentality that I notice when people walk straight on a crowded sidewalk, showing their ownership of the sidewalk, because they have nothing of intellect to pass on. The same mentality when people I know try to pretend they do not see me, walking all haughty down the street, because they are that insecure in what they have to offer, or they just can’t stand me. I am guessing it is that they can’t stand me and are embarrassed for people to witness that they know me. It is even more hurtful when it is a stranger I want to say ‘Shabbat Shalom’ to, who is embarrassed to be seen greeting me. The strangers can predict that saying ‘hi’ to me will lower their cool status. Not receiving a ‘Shabbat Shalom‘ is so hurtful and awkward, that when I finally build up the courage to get it out, I am reprimanding the next guy with ‘Shabbat Shalom…that is what you say to a Jew on Shabbat…this is the Jewish homeland…care about the other Jews…love it.’ It is an angry ‘Shabbat Shalom,’ and it sounds worse than a ‘shut up, you piece of…’ It is my way of helping society.
I have become angry in my quest for community, as I am not a chalootz/pioneer from 80 years ago, and I am not here to work the land. It bothers me that people seemingly can care less about the Jewish people. However, that is my narrow-minded view of Judaism talking. There are pockets and even whole cities of the old heart people who care about their Jewish brethren and love Midinat Yisrael (the nation of Israel). They just express it differently. As noted by Elazar Brandt, ‘When they see you eating a shwarma on the street, everybody will say ‘Bitay Avon.’’ They will not say ‘Shabbat Shalom,’ but they will note the fact that you are pigging out in public. And they will tell you to enjoy it. It is communal, even if everybody passing you is trying to score a taste. There is a great enough lack of social etiquette for these strangers to be considered part of my community. I just have to accept that the community does not always come together in a synagogue. In Jerusalem, the community comes together on the street. Random passersby that I never met before will pry into my doings. Thank you random passersby for making me say another blessing on my bread, so you could say ‘Amen.’ Thank you random passerby for making me zipper up my winter coat, because ‘why would you wear a winter coat if it is not zipped?…there is pneumonia.’ Thank you random passerby for infringing on my privacy and making me feel like there is a community, like there are people who care, like I do have family. Random passerby, you are my community.
Oh, and yes I do notice when you people who know me, pass me, and pretend like you didn’t see me. I see it. As if it is going to kill your day to see me smiling and saying ‘Shalom.’ Thank you random passerby for invading my space. Shalom to you random passerby.
Thank you one more time random passerby, who I never met, for caring enough to ask me what my monthly salary is.
Community is the most beautiful aspect of Jewish life. It is more than just people, it is intergenerational. That was the idea of the houses of prayer created in the Second Temple period. It brings together 90 year olds and 9 year olds. It allows for one to learn how to respect the previous generation. Do you know how many times I have had my cheeks pinched since I moved to Israel? Not once. This could be a totally inaccurate explanation of the foundations of synagogues, as they maybe did not create the shule for Kiddush. Even though, the post services snacks are the only part of the services I catch. This section is not about my sleep habits, but about a caring community. Community is where you hear people curse other people with nasty words like, ‘She should live and be well.’ I would never wish that upon anybody. Community is about saying hello to an older man and having everybody look at you as though you are angry, because you had to yell ‘Shabbat Shalom’ in order for Marvin to hear you. I need more uncomfortable experiences. In the meantime, there are people who do gossip about me. They say I have an ego and that I think people talk about me. Thank you for making me feel like I am part of a congregation. Maybe you can scream ‘Shalom’ at me, like random passerby. Thank you random passerby for your loss of hearing. Thank you random bus driver for beeping.
For Israelis, that community is family. When you have 10 children and they each have 10 children, there is enough cheek pinching. There are enough random people making sure you cannot do what you want to do with your life. There is a lot of shouting. You have community.
Again- Does Israel need communities? Does Israel need a congregation? There are enough protests, families, groups of people to disagree with. It already exists. I just have to find it.
As an immigrant, it might be a slow process. I have to create that family. But there is that dream that one day I will be part of a group cheek pinch and the cause of extreme discomfort. The dream that one day I will be able to talk some good gossip, while spitting on the person across from me at the weekly meeting, talking about what we did not accomplish last week. The dream that I will have a rabbi to complain about. The dream that I too will be invited to lifecycle events, so that I can find a good sale and allocate cheap gifts; gifts that were expensive a long time ago. That one day I will be able to hand out candy to a little kid and get a ‘Shabbat Shalom.’ To have that child say, ‘My mom says I should take candy from strangers.’ First I have to figure out who I despise. I do not have enough family in Israel for that.
As has been seen by this segment of The Manifesto, community is based on hatred. I am on a search to connect to that, as I have not the sense of identity I had, and this Israel way of being Jewish and a regular person is confusing. Do I need a community to be a regular person? I do not know. Nonetheless, if it takes a community to say ‘Shabbat Shalom,’ then it might be worth it. Even if that community only knows how to say ‘Good Shabbos.’
I think I have figured out nothing. This is going to be my Jewish existential crisis, as I am witnessing a world that is not the way my mom and dad told me. This Israel does not provide me with the most important aspect of communal living I grew up with; there is no Home Entertainment System and interaction with other people should be confined to shule. I see the people that would be part of my community too often here. I am still confused. After a lot of thought, the point of the last few sections is I am still single. This has all just been a roundabout way of complaining about that.
In the meantime, thank you random passerby for correcting my eating habits. I know they are disgusting. And thank you again random passerby for giving me somebody to yell at.