This morning, as I prepared for Shabbat, I cut my way inexpertly through a whole chicken (which we buy because it's much, much cheaper than buying chicken parts). I also had to defrost and then hand cut the frozen broccoli for the broccoli quiche because the 10 oz. boxes of chopped broccoli that were a staple on our US shopping list are not available here. More than half the recipes in my recipe book are defunct now because I can't get the ingredients they require.
The transmission in our 2001 car (our only car, the one that I hardly ever drive because gas is the equivalent of $8/gallon or more) went up on Wednesday without warning and had to be replaced. Not a small expense.
In the US, we were often in a position to save money each month. We live a much, much simpler material life here and money is,without question, much tighter.
I anticipated that. Every day that I take two buses to work and two buses home for what would be a 15- minute commute if I drove in a private car, I am aware that we are called upon, in all sorts of ways, both significant and negligible, to sacrifice in the material realm to live here.
I'm probably not like the majority of olim, but I often feel that I would be willing to sacrifice nearly anything to live here. If I were forced to live in America again, I'm convinced I would shrivel up and die, right in the driver's seat of my brand new Toyota or in the living room of my 4-bedroom, 3-bath private home.
Frankly, it's very difficult for me to relate to olim and prospective olim who are drawn to the idea of aliyah but conclude that the material safety and security in America is just too hard to walk away from.
For starters, I believe it's illusory. Hashem runs the heavenly treasury and can provide for people in Israel just as easily as He can in Indiana. The material sacrifices I make to live here, I make with love. Ironically, while I'm intellectually aware of our diminished standard of living, I don't generally experience deprivation.
I also believe, as I've written many times before, that the easy material life outside of Israel is coming to an end as the Diaspora shuts down.
I do understand that college students who plan to make aliyah after they "finish their education" think they're making a wise choice, but I believe they are, in the end, choosing material goals over spiritual ones.
I do understand being nervous about making it here. I do understand that some families have a harder time than others once they arrive. I do understand that not everyone is willing or able to live in profoundly diminished material circumstances.
Please don't misunderstand. We live a much simpler material life here, but thanks to Hashem's loving kindness, we are not living in anything remotely resembling poverty. It's not what it was in America, but it's not the agony of being unable to put food on the table either. While we do live with economic uncertainty more than ever before, I, like many others who successfully adapt to life here, choose to see it as an opportunity to rely even more on Hashem.
More than anything else, perhaps it is exactly the willingness to live with economic uncertainty that separates those who come, and stay, from the all the rest.