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My first four months at home

#18: The sight of the sun setting over the Mediterranean, the Negev mountains, Jerusalem, and at your kibbutz never gets old
Illustrative. Night falls at the promenade of gold. (Shira Pasternak Be’eri)
Illustrative. Night falls at the promenade of gold. (Shira Pasternak Be’eri)

I made aliyah on July 15th, 2019–a day I won’t ever forget. There have been many difficult days ever since, with the language barrier, waiting around endlessly for never-ending bureaucracy, and a fair share of useless peyluyot in my Garin Tzabar program’s perek klita. Yet most days have been rewarding in a way that’s impossible to describe in words. So instead, I’ll write down a few funny observations I’ve made along the way.

  1. There are dozens of ways to spell Kfar Saba, even though it’s always pronounced the same way. Ditto for Tzfat.
  2. Old people in the bank love shouting at each other about who should be served first.
  3. It’s perfectly acceptable to take as many free samples of olives, shuk nuts, or kiosk candies as you want. Just ignore the pigeon nibbling away at them.
  4. Camping is a national pastime. A makselet is a necessity.
  5. You’ll get strange (sometimes admiring) looks if you genuinely enjoy the taste of Arak.
  6. The sound of someone rolling their own cigarettes starts to become soothing over time.
  7. Gadna only sucks for the first day and a half. Afterwards, it’s extremely fun.
  8. You never get used to the flies bothering you. Or the mosquitoes.
  9. The fish actually bite you in the Mediterranean.
  10. Everyone has a tapestry for the beach (generally decorated with marijuana leaves or Indian elephants.)
  11.  The Ring-Necked Parakeets may be invasive, but they also add an exotic element to the country.
  12. Kiosks are a national treasure.
  13. You fall in love with Mivtza Savta. If you live on a kibbutz, you’ll know someone just like Idan. If you’re in Garin Tzabar, you’ll know someone just like Krembo.
  14. All of the sabras insist their local falafel/shawarma joint is the best in the country.
  15. If you graduated college and/or have a masters degree, you’ll be met with questions like “Why did you join the army?” or “Why didn’t you stay to make more money in America?”
  16. All of the songs you loved on Birthright gradually become a nuisance.
  17. You look with pride, nostalgia, and amusement at all of the Birthright groups traveling the country, remembering you were once one of them.
  18. The sight of the sun setting over the Mediterranean, the Negev mountains, Jerusalem, and at your kibbutz never gets old.
  19. You love the fact that the Israeli flag is ubiquitous–gas stations, holy sites, beaches, roadsides…it never gets old.
  20. Voting in the world’s only Jewish state, and the only Middle Eastern democracy, is more moving than voting in your country of origin.
  21. The independence of Israeli children never stops surprising you. You realize that Israel is, in many ways, much safer than America.
  22. People either admire you or think you’re out of your mind for being a Lone Soldier.
  23. The diverse population of Jews–and non-Jews–is both exotic and comforting.
  24. The likelihood of your ulpan teacher being either a badass or very political is relatively high.
  25. You gradually get more loudspoken and brash, even about the most trivial things. (Seriously. My boyfriend tells me that Noa Kirel’s Chatzuf is my anthem.)
  26. You go from loudly arguing about who to vote for to getting help with directions from the same person on the bus.
  27. You feel slightly foreign when you go visit your family for the first time since aliyah. 
  28. One way or another, your politics are likely to strongly shift after making aliyah. 
  29. Despite feeling slightly out of your element, you eventually start feeling at home. Through all of the difficult days, you realize you’d rather be nowhere else than your new home/ancestral homeland.
About the Author
Dmitri Shufutinsky is a graduate of Arcadia University's Masters program in International Peace & Conflict Resolution. He is an ardent Zionist and a supporter of indigenous rights, autonomy, solidarity, and sovereignty. Dmitri currently lives in Kibbutz Erez, Israel as a Lone Soldier in the Garin Tzabar program, and is drafting to Michve Alon on 15 December.
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