Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Dear Dave




Hi Rivkah,

I'm jewish and am wondering how life in israel is. Although i am far from ready to move, so please don't try to give me any compelling spiritual reasons to! I'm just not ready in many ways (:

So, how is it different than living in the US? Or is it so much different?

Thanks,
Dave

Dear Dave,
   It has taken me a few days to respond to you because I really wanted to think about what you've asked. I started to list things that define my life in Israel. I don't pretend to speak for all Israelis (how could I?) or even all olim, or even all members of my own family. Everyone else will have his or her own list. Here's a somewhat random list of what life is like in Israel, but just for me:
  • seeing Arab villages and shepherds on distant hills, instead of signs for Target and McDonald's
  • living in smaller quarters
  • feeling blessed with a life far richer than I could have imagined
  • learning to rely on context because I can't understand every word
  • although having some is crucial, learning how unimportant having lots of money is
  • rediscovering how to cook more from scratch because so many convenience products are unavailable here or just too expensive 
  • adding many new recipes to my repertoire because groceries are different here
  • welcoming friends and family from the Old Country, either those who are visiting or those whose aliyah followed our own   
  • having so many friends who see Jewish history like I do
  • living with people who love this place too, even with all its flaws
  • learning patience because everything seems to take more time here
  • thinking about Hashem more
  • wearing sweatshirts all winter because, in a country that's hot most of the year, insulation is non-existent and heat is expensive
  • having opportunities fall into my lap
  • passing Har HaBayit on the bus every morning and evening
  • learning to do everyday things, like shopping and banking, over again in new ways
  • appreciating that my neighbors have lived all over the world and come from a dozen or more different countries to be here together
  • figuring out how to get English books to read
  • learning what I can live without
  • being happy with crowds and traffic because it means so many other Jews live here
  • learning to network
  • giving up the illusion that I am able to function independently and learning to rely on others
  • laughing with other olim about how small our paychecks are, but how big our lives feel
  • living on the edge of my seat, really, truly anticipating Moshiach
  • feeling proud of myself for every little thing I learn how to do by myself
  • understanding Israeli geography
  • having access to rabbis and women scholars whose Torah makes my neshama sing
  • feeling proud to be a citizen of the State of Israel
  • passing a wadi while walking to visit a friend
  • thinking of everything that happens to me in spiritual terms
  • losing my breath at the view from my bedroom window every morning
  • driving though barren sand dunes to get to the grocery store
  • feeling comfortable negotiating public transportation
  • taking pictures of things that only happen in Israel, like this sign on the bus about the importance of not gossiping

  • actually knowing soldiers in the IDF
  • going away for Shabbat whenever we want
  • realizing my everyday life seems exotic to some
  • learning to think in kilos, shekels and liters
  • constantly clarifying, and often defending, my priorities
  • negotiating with friends and family to get the few consumer goods I still value delivered from the Old Country
  • feeling very American in Israel and very Israeli in America
  • letting Hashem run the world
  • being unspeakably grateful every single day

13 comments:

SaraK said...

Great list :)
I can't get over every single how fortunate I feel to live here, even when I encounter difficulties. I have been showered with so many blessings here in Israel.

Anonymous said...

That's all you could come up with, Rivka? You must be tired today.

:-) <3

Gidon

Miriam said...

Oh Rivkah...I just wanna give you a big hug after reading this and say, me too...oh, me too {{{{HUG}}}}

Hadassa said...

Shalom!
Every once in a while someone compiles a list of the 100 things he/she likes the most about Israel. Then everyone reading it adds more. And then everyone starts to argue about what everyone else has written...
Dave, if you can see this, come for a visit. After a few days you'll be able to answer your own question, if you allow yourself the courage to do so

Devorah said...

Why hasn't someone opened an english bookstore? of all the things you listed, the lack of english books would bother me most of all :))

Hadassa said...

People who look completely secular who: know when Rosh Chodesh is because it matters to them, not just because it's also on the calendar
put on tefilin everyday
eat only mehadrin
know the Torah and all the prayers by heart
keep Shabbat

SuperRaizy said...

Great job articulating what so often feels unarticulable!(is that a word?)
re: English books. Just buy a Kindle from Amazon. They cost under 100 dollars and then you have access to almost any book you want.

Lisa said...

Great post, Rivkah, and very well said!

Yael said...

Heartwarming list! I can really identify with so many of your points!

Deborah said...

Fabulous post!!! Very heartwarming!! Toda Lach

Batya said...

Lovely post. My husband and I made aliyah 2 months after our wedding, 41 years ago, so our adjustments were fewer, but in those days greater, like not having a phone for a year.
I just can't imagine a life any place else but here in Eretz Yisrael. Over 40 years later, I'm not sorry a single second.

nechama said...

To Devora -- there are bookstores with plenty of books in English -- best-sellers and all. But they're expensive on an Israeli paycheck. Also smaller apartments means less bookshelf space. So people share, use Kindle or equivalent -- especially now that you can get books from public libraries in US that way -- and find other creative ways to get their fix of English reading.

Shnitzy said...

I couldn't have said it better myself.