I don’t want to tell French Jews what they should or should not do, it’s not my place. As Sarah Tuttle-Singer wrote earlier, picking up and leaving home isn’t something you just do. I grew up with close friends whose grandparents refused to leave Iran, which was a far more dangerous place for Jews than present day Paris.
But, for those French Jews who are now considering emigrating, looking around and surveying what it is they’re going to give up by making aliya, can I offer a brief word of consolation?
It’s so nice here in Israel.
Quick background: my family and I moved here last August from Riverdale, NY. We moved, not because of any dissatisfaction with Riverdale; in fact, I loved living there for the last eight years. My family made aliya because of a burning curiosity for how we would like living in Israel. We knew, in advance, that we were leaving certain things behind (for me it was Sundays, for my wife it was the house with the big backyard), but we also thought there might be certain things here in Israel that would outweigh whatever it was we were giving up. And, fair disclosure, both my wife and I have family who have moved here before us, making the process infinitely easier.
Five months later, I’m admittedly still honeymooning, but I love living here, and I’ve never looked back. Let me highlight a few aspects of Israel that have made the last five months here so wonderful and have me feeling optimistic for a future here.
Have I mentioned the weather? While the rest of the world is freezing, we Israelis are enjoying bright blue skies and warm sun. Some days, I wake up and think I’m living in La Jolla. While my friends back in New York are bundling up with winter coats, my synagogue is having kiddush outside (fear not, there’s no shortage of wine here) and today was the first day all year I’ve put on a jacket (and only because my wife made me do it). I am even finding it hard to get upset with the rain because of how green everything becomes in winter. You might think it’s strange that I start with the weather. Perhaps I should have started with Zionism or Herzl? But you know that already. What you might not know is that the quality of life here is outstanding. This climate just makes people happy.
Being Jewish is Easy
Second, some things are hard in Israel, but being a Jew is not one of them. You will not have to explain to your employer about Passover and other Jewish holidays. Instead, observant or not, you will look forward to the holidays because it means time off work. I thought I was going miss Sundays, but instead I’ve become obsessed with Thursday nights and Fridays. In America, I was rushing home for Shabbat while my non-Jewish colleagues were getting drinks. No longer. Plus, even though you might have off Fridays, your kids will still be due in school giving you the much needed four hour break from them you’ve been craving since the moment they were born. Simply put, Judaism is a lot more satisfying when it’s not a burden.
Israel is Beautiful Too
I’ve been to Paris, it’s beautiful. This may seem trivial, but before making aliya, I got nostalgic and sad about the Hudson River, the East Village and my annual apple picking trips in Rockland. But, whether it’s a hike up North, the Tel Aviv boardwalk or the Ella Valley, I’m constantly discovering places in Israel that are simply breathtaking. Tel Aviv, in particular is a city that continues to blow my mind. I lived in New York, which is fast paced by any standard. Tel Aviv moves at accelerated pace. There is an energy in the city that’s almost palpable.
I’m here only five months and I mostly know what I don’t know. There are certainly problems here in Israel (you start seeing those pretty quickly as well), but they are problems that we can fix. I am not here to preach, I just want to tell you that if you’re considering aliya, it’s a great choice.