I sit around the unfamiliar Shabbos table, smiling, nodding and generally just trying to be the good guest that’s expected of me. Yes, this is the reality of many ‘Olim Chadashim’ who don’t feel like spending every Shabbat in their university apartments eating leftovers from Thursday night’s pizza- a new host every other weekend. And while the pro’s definitely outweigh the cons (namely interesting company, different places and generally fantastic food) it can get a bit exhausting being “the guest”.
And so I sit, smiling and nodding, easy as that. Until it comes at me…without any warning…
The dreaded question.
”So Yaffa.. why did you do it? Why Aliyah?”
It seems pretty harmless doesn’t it? Even expected. I mean, leaving your country of birth where all your friends and family remain and uprooting to a land where you have to learn how to cook, clean, shop, and do all that other stuff they forget to teach us at school is quite a big deal. So you would think when it comes to this question, I have some clear, outstanding one liner that justifies all this madness and makes it obvious that my decision was the right one.
But, I’m afraid it’s just not that simple. You see, I have all these answers, all these thoughts and beliefs jumbled up in my mind, but I’m not about to make my poor host listen to me rant for half an hour, I’m the perfect guest remember. So I have to make the decision…
Do I list a few Cliché (yet true) reasons in the hope that it covers all the basics and we move on-
”You know there’s the religious aspect, the idealistic, and of course the life for religious youth is a big draw card.”
Do I go for the emotional, straight for the heart sentence that either invokes teary eyes, or the rolling of them-
”I just felt in my heart this is where I am meant to be.”
Or do I opt for the vague ”It’s complicated,” and pray that they read into the seemingly offish answer and understand my position.
Truth is, any of those responses would be the right one.. because the reasons are endless and transient, rational and totally irrational, well thought-out and as spontaneous as they get. Yet I feel wrong giving an answer bound by words because that would be limiting. And how can you limit that feeling you get when you see a soldier giving up his seat for an elderly women on the bus, or that laugh when the shuk seller calls you Angelina Jolie in an attempt to flatter you into a purchase..that sense of belonging as you stand squished side by side at the Kotel for Slichot, or the heavy heart that weighs you down as you continuously pray for the victims and families of the terror attacks.
So I smile back at my host, who is totally oblivious of the intense conversation that just took its course inside my head, pick one of the responses that usually works well, and ask him to pass down the chummus.