Often, when people ask me why I moved to Israel, I don’t have a good answer. I can joke that I was brainwashed, or give them a lecture about every nation’s right to self-determination, but my joke falls flat, and nationalism is passe.
Mostly, I moved to Israel because I wanted to move to Israel. As an emotion, want isn’t necessarily rational -but I knew that I wanted to move here from the time I visited Jerusalem with my parents when I was seven.
Now that I live here, and am caught up in the mundanities of real life, there are days when it’s easy to forget why I moved here in the first place. But there are also days like today, when I experience a reminder:
Today is the Jewish holiday of Purim, which is celebrated by dressing up and eating candy, so I went to hand out candy at the children’s wing at the Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital. I didn’t have time to put together a proper costume, but I did wear a unicorn horn.
As I moved from room to room, I saw the panoply of Israeli society represented in the ward: Mothers in hijabs and fathers in black kippahs, their children all wearing the same hospital gowns. As soon as I offered them a goody bag, the children’s eyes lit up, regardless of religion or nationality -it turns out that candy can overcome cultural barriers.
But what impressed me most was that, in every hallway, there were other groups of visitors who had come to the hospital to hand out candy. I saw two firemen, a group of zoo animals (including a fierce-looking tiger), and some cartoon characters I couldn’t quite recognize.
Seeing all the other volunteers at the hospital on Purim was a reminder of the spirit of caring, commitment, and kindness that animates Israeli society. I think, that the next time someone asks me why I moved to Jerusalem, I will simply recount this experience and say, “Moments like this.”