Happy Aliyah Day!

Don’t feel bad. I didn’t know it existed until a few hours ago either.

Today, I am grateful for aliyah, and the credit belongs to the felafel guy I just bought dinner from. Here is what I know about him: There is no chummus at his felafel shop, and a pita only costs 7 shekel.

We have had exactly two interactions.

The first time we spoke, he asked if I put ketchup on my felafel because I am American. Nope, I replied. I just like ketchup. It’s time for you to learn of techina, he said.

The second time was tonight. I had the longest day. Action packed since 7:15 in the morning. I stumbled up to the felafel store counter, half regretting my decision to forgo pizza – but the felafel was closer. And they had french fries. He served me my chummus-less felafel, no tomatoes please, with fries on the side. I took out my credit card to pay.

“Ah,” he said. “We don’t accept credit.”

On a normal day, this would not be a tragedy. But today, of all days, I just wanted to eat. And I had no cash.

“It’s okay,” he says, and I think he’ll tell me that he can wait while I run up the street to take cash out of an ATM. “You can pay me next time you come.”

“I’m going to America,” I tell him.

“But you are Israeli, right? So you are coming back.”

“Of course.”

“Okay,” he says. “So what’s the problem?”

I leave, felafel in hand, and feel the stress of today melt away.

I am Israeli. I am the person that he can rely on to pay him back. I am the other side of the deal. He must be trusting, and I must be trusted.

This is not the first time I have encountered the natural Israeli kindness, or their confidence in the goodness of others. I have had hundreds of monumental “Israeli” moments. But on this day, this Aliyah day, it meant so much more to me.

I walk home, and a bike rider zooms past me, a near miss. A cat with gleaming eyes is camped outside of my building, hoping to sneak in the door behind me. My backpack is heavy, and I am so, so tired.

There are ups and downs, good days and bad. But I wouldn’t trade living here for anything.