Zahava Kalish
A proud Jewish Zionist originally from London, Israeli-in-training since 2014. Married mother of two.

Being Israeli

What is it about Israel?

The longer I live here, the more I love this country and the more settled I feel – yet the more I see how crazy it is to move here. Of course, I made Aliyah because I am a Zionist, because I love Israel, and I want to live in the Jewish homeland. But nothing here is straightforward; this country is intense and confusing. My Zionism is stronger than ever, yet at the same time I’m constantly learning more about the different nuances and perspectives and flaws and problems of the many, many different players in this hopeless conflict (and for sure my job plays a part in that.) I feel like I’m becoming more right-wing and left-wing at the same time.

Both in life and in my job, I see the best and worst of this country, I see how the international media reports on it, how Israeli media reports on it, left and right, and how we who live here experience it – and it’s often a completely different story.

In those everyday “only in Israel” moments, I wonder- where are the media? Why do they close their eyes to the reality here? At the country’s darkest times, when we’re suffering but holding each up – why aren’t they seeing this? When we’re celebrating religious and national holidays like our lives depend on it – why don’t they understand what Israel means to us?

There is no doubt that the situation here can sometimes be depressing, and tense and frightening. But those are, unfortunately, part of the Israel experience. We aren’t just any other country, for the good and the bad. Sometimes it feels like we live in several different countries at the same time. One moment we’re worrying about the price of ibuprofen. The next we worry about the countless terror threats to our safety. On pigua [terror attack] days, we might suddenly forget about our small, insignificant personal worries, and instead worry about our nation, remember that we’re part of something bigger, what we’re up against, and what our army is doing every minute of every day to defend us. And it makes me love the country even more and feel even more protective of it, of our people, our story; because of what we’re fighting for, both literally, and in the media.

Three Years

My third year of aliyah brought so much change, good and bad. Friends who’d been here with me since the start moved back to the US. Friends who were really more like family, who changed me and changed my life for the better, who I miss constantly. Friends left, but family came (to pick up their slack!) My Israeli cousin moved to Jerusalem. My sisters made aliyah, and we take turns scrounging off each other- and incredibly my sister, who is a nurse, even did a cast for me when Terem mistakenly thought my hand was broken! I started a new job, moved to a new flat.

And with every change, every upheaval, every struggle, people would remind me: Be Israeli. You made aliyah- so you can do this. And I would be thinking: I already made aliyah, I shouldn’t have to make any more decisions, deal with more changes…

But I learnt to embrace it all. Maybe because there’s no alternative really.

Israel challenges you, and I found that I apparently thrive on that, to a degree that I go out of my way to look for ways to push myself, sometimes enjoying doing things the difficult way and feeling more accomplished for it.

One thing I did this year that I never could have imagined myself doing before I made aliyah was ‘Legion Run’. I hardly ever exercise and although I’m definitely stronger than I look, that’s still not saying much. So when I saw the ads for Legion Run, an obstacle course involving tunnels, walls, mud pits and barbed wire, requiring daring more than fitness, the thing I was most concerned about was the 5 km of running it also entailed. It turned out I was right to be worried about that part. Not sure whether I might pass out after running up a hill at Tzuk Manara, that turned out to be the worst of it. The obstacles were intimidating but exhilarating, and everyone could use help or encouragement as we faced the physical and mental challenges. Aside from maybe some of the experts, we all achieved things we never would have thought we’d be able to. And that feeling was the best souvenir we could have got, along with the misspelled tshirts (Legoin Run- if it wasn’t spelled wrong then it didn’t happen in Israel!), the mud in our eyes and mouths, the scrapes and cuts, and bruises from where people pulled and pushed each other over the obstacles.

Everything about it felt like a metaphor for my aliyah.

About the Author
A proud Jewish Zionist originally from London, Israeli-in-training since 2014. Married mother of two.