Israel under the Microscope – Musings of an Ola Chadasha

Jerusalem

It’s been a few months now since I made Aliya…

The transition has been, how should I put it nicely… quite “challenging” (for lack of a better word).

Don’t get me wrong, I expected challenges to arise, just as you’d expect every time you settle into a new place… but I was completely caught off guard by some of the things that seem to part of the culture here.

My point in this post is not to whine or be negative, but I do believe in constructive criticism… even though I’m aware that not many people will read this, and even less will take any of this seriously… which is fine. My reasons for writing this are pretty selfish and I’m mostly writing it to just get it off my chest.

Damn it’s Expensive…

Yes, I knew that before I came. But I mean come on, seriously?

And I’m not even talking about the elephant in the room (RIDICULOUS rent prices, property taxes, and other blood-sucking expenses), I’m talking about the rest of the basic human necessities.

Sure, you don’t need to eat in restaurants 5 times a week (wasn’t far from it when I lived in the US), but once or twice would be nice…Well, Tough luck! Unfortunately, you simply can’t eat lunch outside without spending a day’s worth of your salary (and my salary is above average).

I thought my days of living on oatmeal and tuna (my version of Ramen noodles) were long gone… I’m sad to say that there’s, unfortunately, a sequel to that movie, and most sequels suck…

Taking a mortgage to attend weddings

I love weddings, Bar Mitzvahs and all of that good stuff. It’s fun, exciting and often very emotional. That’s at least what I’ve been used to… until I came to Israel.

Now, having been to 4 weddings and 2 Bar Mitzvahs during the summer in Israel, if you now asked me to summarize what I thought of such celebrations in one word, that word would be – a chore.

I simply can’t wrap my head around the notion that I should be the one financing the couple’s honeymoon… and not only that, people actually keep tabs on how much you gave for their wedding so they can reciprocate equally when your time comes to get married. Am I the only one who thinks that’s ridiculous?

I mean, we’re so good at following the footsteps of our American friends in so many fields, why not adopt the idea of using gift registries or simply buy the newlywed a nice wedding gift they could use like they do in the US?

Not to mention Bar/Bat Mitzvahs… I’m just not fond of the idea of throwing money at a 13-year-old boy. He’s 13! He doesn’t need the money! He needs a cool Bar Mitzvah gift he can show off to his friends! I don’t think giving him money at such a young age sends the right message, it usually does the exact opposite…

Stress… Stress Everywhere

Why the hell is everyone so stressful here?! Everywhere you go, everything you do, everything you hear… I’m guessing the cost of living has something to do with it, but there has to be more to the story than that.

It seems people here became so used to getting screwed by everyone else, that we started to behave in a similar fashion just to get by the day. That’s just a recipe for disaster and it’s by far the main thing that bothers me the most in this country.

The sad part is, you only realize how much of a pressure cooker this country is after you go to another country for vacation. All of a sudden, you notice that you yourself became stressful and more “aggressive” than you were used to.

I guess in a way it can be a good thing. I have a theory that it’s one of the reasons why Israeli start-ups are so successful. They have that “edge”, or “Chutzpah”, that is often so necessary to succeed in the business world. Almost by definition, new business needs to disrupt their industry somehow to get noticed, and that “edge” is what often plays a key role in getting people to notice you.

OK, Now What?

Not much use in complaining is there?

The way I see it, the only 2 ways to go from here is to make a choice:

  1. Live here and adapt
  2. Leave here and go back

At the moment, I’m somewhere between 1 and 2. Some days I’m closer to 1, others I’m nearly at 2.

I think the key here is to find a sweet spot between adopting certain qualities that are required for survival (financially and culturally) in Israel while balancing it with the qualities that the culture here is lacking so you don’t completely go crazy. One thing is for sure – in Israel, you need a thick skin… much thicker than I initially expected.

About the Author
Rebecca is a writer and Olah Chadasha trying to settle in her new home
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