A Country Based on Irrational Decisions

Tomorrow I make Aliyah.

I’m leaving behind my family and friends; my network; financial comfort; my mother tongue; a domestic worker who folds my laundry; home-cooked meals; my own space; my car and the left side of the road.

What I will get in return is a tightly packed country with a war roughly every 4 years; scorching hot summers; snowy winters; expensive living and a future of misusing the washing machine.

Two-minute emails in English will become twenty-minute emails in Hebrew. South African manners will be stampeded by Israeli abruptness. My own business will become that of whoever sits next to me on the bus that now, I’ll be riding.

My comparative advantages will become redundant. Bill Gates visited Israel and was impressed by the fact that toilet cleaners were debating the stock market. That’s not impressive, that’s frightening: what will I have to discuss for a medium wage?

The stock market breaks on a Sunday. Israel doesn’t.

And then there’s the fact that I only have an undergraduate degree under my belt. A recent study found that the retinas of Jewish mothers struggle to focus directly on sons without clear career paths. How will I put bread on the table?

Yes, Aliyah is a completely irrational decision – but that’s the only reason it’ll work.

If I was a rational person, I would have stayed far away from the dessert and the swamps. I would have said that rescuing hostages from Entebbe was suicidal. I would have arrested the inventors of the Pill-Cam for suggesting that patients swallow a camera. I would have said that intercepting a rocket traveling at 200 meters a second, with another rocket travelling at 700 meters a second, was farfetched.

But luckily, Israel is built on irrational decisions. Somehow, against all the odds, an economy that shouldn’t function, does. Skinny soldiers that shouldn’t make elite units, do; deserts bloom. Rational people laughed at Herzl when he suggested a Jewish State. Irrational people moved in to that state and built it.

Ben Gurion once said: “In Israel In order to be a realist, you must believe in miracles. The airport, named after him, is a reminder of that paradox: Israel is where, in order to be rational, you must be irrational.

Tomorrow, to Ben Gurion, I return.

ושבו בנים לגבולם

About the Author
Josh is the former Chairman of SAUJS (South African Union of Jewish Students) Cape Town; and former Board Member of the SAJBD (South African Jewish Board of Deputies) Cape Council; and Tikvah Fellow
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