It’s 10 years since the most meaningful, scariest, life-challenging, changing and improving decision I ever made, to move to Israel.
I had wanted to live in Israel for as long as I could remember, but I reached a point of urgency, a sudden realization that while I loved my hometown, London, as a Jew it never felt like home. I felt I was sleepwalking through life and needed to move to Israel as soon as possible. So I did, with two months between the decision and actually doing it. (It may have had something to do with my mother’s recent recovery from breast cancer, which was quite the effective “life’s so short, what are you waiting for” wake-up call.)
In the past ten years here I’ve been pushed and challenged and forced to change, to adjust to and cope with what life – and Israel – throws at you.
When I moved here I was a socially anxious, awkward, self-critical, people-pleasing complete pushover. I started off in an ulpan program not knowing anyone else there, that alone being the most crazy un-me thing I’d ever done.
I basically reinvented myself here, I had to. I had to make friends, socialize, learn to be assertive when dealing with Israelis and the culture here, adjust to roommate-living, and I had to make the most of all the opportunities that came up in my new life. It was exhausting.
At the end of five months in ulpan, we were turfed out into the real world of our new independent Israeli lives. Find a community, find a job, find an apartment, find a husband… oh, and here’s your first war on top of all that, rockets overhead and all. (This was 2014).
So how did all that go? Well, I stayed too long in jobs where I was miserable and spent much of the day clenching my stomach in tension, because I was afraid of initiating change. I wanted to get married but had so many fears around that that I would consistently self-sabotage in dating. And I was still a socially anxious, people-pleasing, pushover who couldn’t meet my own expectations of myself.
But I was in Israel. And there is nothing better than that. For a long time I thought you have to be a bit crazy to make Aliyah, to give up some of the comforts of the “real” Western world (sorry, Israel, but come on!!), to leave your family, your childhood home, your comfort zone, everything you’re familiar with, for this crazy, messy, difficult place.
But now I don’t think it’s crazy at all, the opposite. Israel is a gift. It’s our home. It’s where we’re meant to be. It feels right to be here, here and no other country. The crazy thing would be to not want to be here.
Eventually, I overcame some fears and mental blocks that were holding me back from ways I wanted myself and my life to change. I stopped pressuring and criticizing myself constantly. I realized it’s ok to take care of and stand up for yourself, that you’re not doing right or good by letting yourself be taken advantage of and that ultimately self-respect matters more than people-pleasing.
I found a job where I’m doing what I’m good at, what I love, what’s important to me. I met my husband-to-be – my soulmate who I hardly dared imagine actually existed – shortly after he moved here, we got married six months after that and now a few years later have two kids.
The movies always leave out the challenges that come after that. Smaller ones, like how the self-criticism and people-pleasing issues make a comeback at new stages in life, like becoming a mother, and then becoming one again.
And bigger ones, like accidents and pandemics and wars.
Ten years in, I never would have imagined Israel to be forced into such a terrible war as this one.
And I still wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.