Sunday, June 24, 2007

Gradual Klita

When we first started researching the possibility of buying an apartment in Israel years before we could make aliyah and actually live there full-time, we were advised by potential neighbor, a woman who worked for the Misrad haKlita (Ministry of Absorption) and was thus speaking from actual experience, not to do it. There is no such thing as going through klita gradually,” she said. One becomes a citizen of Israel all at once or not at all. “It is simply not possible to live your life on two different sides of the ocean,” she chastened me.

That was four years ago. Since then, the phenomena of olim working in America and living in Israel has become commonplace.

And we bought an apartment that summer anyway.

The impact of that purchase on me has been extraordinary.

I have become obsessed with Israel. My collection of books about Israel has swollen to overtake its own bookcase. On Shabbat, I read a review of a novel that takes place in Israel. After Shabbat, I ran out to a late night bookstore to buy the book and I stayed up until 4:30 AM to finish it.

I am a woman possessed.

But even more, I had two experiences this week that demonstrate to me that gradual klita, that learning about Israel a little at a time so one is not shocked by the reality, is absolutely possible.

We had a guest over Shabbat, an earnest young man whom we have known since his childhood. He just returned from two intense, growthful years in yeshiva in Jerusalem. “Just last Shabbat,” he reported, “I was davening at the Kotel. I was standing in the place where all Jewish prayers arrive.” Further, he taught us the Jewish secret of deja vu. This is the holy Israel, the spiritual potential that draws my neshama like a neodymium magnet.

Earlier in the week, I met with an Israeli banker. More mundane than prayer at the Kotel, but also necessary for life in Israel. We spoke about many things, among them the current government and its policies. “If you’re going to live in Israel, you have to understand that it’s like living in Chelm,” he said with a sly smile, referring to the legend of Chelm, Poland where all the residents are fools, though they think of themselves as great sages.

This is what the last 10+ visits to Israel have taught me. Chelm and the Kotel are both a part of life there. So when I get there for real, when I live there full-time, Gd-willing, this contrast will not shock me.

Because for all these years, I have been experiencing gradual klita.

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