For the Cindy that will cry in the middle of the night;
For the Cindy that will wish she never came;
For the Cindy that will wonder why she gave up her incredible job for this;
For the Cindy that now works minimum wage;
For the Cindy who will get orders from 18 year olds;
For the Cindy that will want to return;
You’ve arrived in Israel. You’ve dreamt about this since you were 12. You’ve planned for this since you were 16. You’ve prayed for it since you were a child, and hoped for it your whole life. All your dreams and inspirations have lead to this moment, you proudly arrive at the airport when you spot a woman with a sign painted in bright red words: Olim Chadashim. You approach her and she tells you “boi, you’re the only one from Canada today”. Obviously. Why would a Canadian with a perfect life come here? But you’ve decided otherwise, you’re headed upstream. You’ve chosen a life of growth over comfort; you know it won’t be easy.
But you don’t really know do you?
You don’t know that when you get there, the taxi driver will drop you off in the middle of nowhere because he can’t find your apartment, with your five suitcases in the streets of Nahalaot. You don’t know that once you start Ulpan you will realize that you can never get a job in Hebrew. You don’t know that you won’t really hang out with Israelis: only other immigrants. You don’t know that without the language, you’ll never truly be accepted. You don’t know that there will always be a part of true Israeli culture that you can never understand because you didn’t do the army. You didn’t realize that in a way you will never be considered a true Israeli, always an oleh/olah. You didn’t realize that in order to thrive in Israel, you would have to go against every aspect of your manner-bread-European-polite-upbringing. You didn’t realize how much more effort you would have to put in everything to get mediocre results.
All you knew was that it would be harder. You told yourself all the cliché quotes, that if your dream doesn’t scare you it isn’t big enough. That in order to become who you will be, you must be willing to give up who you are.
I know it’s hard. They all told me it would be.
I know sometimes it feels like no one in the world can understand you. As if you are barely holding on a cliff and slowly your hands start to sweat and one by one your fingers glide off and let go as you fall into the abyss, only to think it’s over…but you’ve survived.
I’m proud of you; you’ve come this far. I know it seems like right now you want to rip yourself up from the inside and give up. Don’t. This is not an option. You were meant for greatness, you were meant to change this world. Being an immigrant has never been an easy journey. For anyone. Not for your parents who immigrated to Canada, not for your grandparents who immigrated to France, and the ones before that who were kicked out of Italy, Portugal, Libya, and Spain. That is precisely why you moved to Israel in the first place, so that your children would never have to bear the pain of leaving their birthplace because of who they are.
Israel is the place for you.
It always has been.
Forward 7 months later and despite all of this, when you ask me, would you ever come back? Do you want to leave Israel?
My answer is hell no.
Because the effort, the pain is what makes it great. It’s what makes us great.
It’s what makes us fight to be the greatest version of ourselves. The world is balanced and just as your greatest strength is our greatest weakness so is it that a place with so much quality of life is needed to be balanced by hardships.
Because what you didn’t know at the time, was, the same irritated bus driver who would drop you off from the airport would also call your sister after he’d driven off, just to make sure you would safely find your apartment. You didn’t know that the streets of Nahalaot would be your greatest happiness in the mornings. You didn’t know that although you may not get a job in Hebrew, as you may have hoped, you will not need one to thrive in such a multicultural place. You didn’t know that other immigrants would open you up to such a way of living… and that although we shall always be considered Olim, Israelis have a respect and deep appreciation for us, hidden behind a mask of impatience.
Somehow by not belonging at all, you belong here the most. There is a certain beauty about living in a place of outcasts. A place where no one was wanted and so we learned to thrive amongst one another…the best way we could manage, and as broken as we were.
So for the Cindy that will potentially search for return flights, just remember happiness comes at a price.
Sometimes a great one…accompanied with a greater promise.