Beautifully imperfect Israel

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“Israel”, the mere sound of the word evokes a plethora of complex and often contradictory thoughts and reactions – Love, hate, apathy, connection, death, conflict, humanity, occupation, miracle, democracy, extremism – and the list goes on… As an oleh chadash, living here is such a vastly different experience than seeing it from afar, or even visiting for a few weeks each year. After immersing myself in the culture, language and day-to-day living for over a year and a half now, I see the immense depth and beauty of this multi-faceted country. Home to a variety of people from all walks of life with so many identities, cultures, and religions; here Jews, Christians, Muslims, Atheists, Anti-theists and others coexist. Within the Israeli Jewish community itself there is such great cultural and ethnic diversity that is not seen in the United States where an estimated 90% of Jews are of Ashkenazi descent. We are witnessing the blending together of Sephardic, Mizrachi and Ashkenazi traditions, which is creating a new, distinct and beautiful culture (and people I might add) that focuses not on differences, but rather on our shared ancient origins and identities as Jews.

If I were to compile a list of issues within Israel it would be quite a long one: the Arab-Israeli conflict, insane bureaucracy, very low wages coupled with a high cost of living, racial tensions, “impolite” interactions, chutzpah, lack of personal boundaries, religious vs. secular, left vs. right; it is certainly not utopian. Ask anyone with a gripe about Israel, and they too will be able to enumerate a long list of completely legitimate critiques. She is not perfect, mistakes have been made, opportunities missed; but which country’s formation and development stages were completely free of mistakes, free of opposition, free of blame? It is, however, undeniable that Israel was born of a miracle, continued to survive through miraculous circumstances, and now 69 years later, she is a thriving democracy and oasis of sanity in the Middle East.

For me, the positives greatly outweigh the negatives and I want to focus on the beauty that I see here on a daily basis. I find a great sense of pride in our accomplishments – proud that we are a defender of the Jewish people worldwide, proud that we are a center of technology and startups, proud of our ingenuity, I’m proud of our children, proud of the bus system, proud that a makolet is open on Shabbat, and at the same time I’m proud of the communities that unanimously decide to keep their stores closed on Shabbat, I’m proud when I see a woman wearing a hijab working next to a guy wearing a kippah in a public office, proud of our infrastructure, proud of our treating of wounded Syrians, proud of our often unnoticed kindness and humanity, proud of our will, proud of our strength, proud of our trains, I’m proud of our cities, proud of our small towns, proud in embracing our flaws and proud of our successes, so very proud to be a part of a long and complicated history that has shaped the course of modern civilization.

Finally, I am proud that today on Yom HaZikaron we can memorialize, pay homage, and mourn all those who sacrificed their lives for our existence, while tomorrow on Yom HaAtzmaut we can make a quick switch, just like that – to move on and move forward celebrating the miracle of our founding in 1948. We do not look back. We do, however, remember the past and go through great lengths to honor it, but then look forward to a better tomorrow.

Additional editing and contribution credit to Yosef Caldaron

About the Author
I am a Zionist with a background in social activism, Israel advocacy, and a degree in psychology and Judaic studies. I grew up in an ultra orthodox community in Brooklyn new, York.
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