|Alison Stern Perez|
Aliyah, Redux: The end of my ‘Dark Age of Aliyah’
Blessed to bitch about the Holy Land
Blessed to bitch about the Holy Land
“[Living in Israel] is both such a gift and such an amazing accomplishment.”
I remember feeling elated upon first arriving in Israel, enthralled by the sights and sounds and fascinated by this people I had never encountered before and couldn’t begin to understand – linguistically, culturally or emotionally. I was excited about the challenge and eagerly dug into the task of learning about my new country and integrating myself as best and as quickly as possible. And I remember the feeling that the honeymoon was over, around the time that I was contemplating my own honeymoon – but I was being thwarted at every turn in my attempts to prove that I was Jewish “enough” to get married in an Orthodox ceremony in my new homeland.
And thus began a rather extended period that I am beginning to view as “the dark years” of my aliyah, in which I have felt disconnected, disenchanted, often discombobulated, and even more often profoundly disturbed by this people who I still barely understand.
Yes, my life was going along relatively well, and I have never (yet) regretted making aliyah. But my relationship with my first love, Israel, has taken some punches and become a bit worse for wear, a bit less idealistic. Over the past few years, the more I have come into direct contact and confrontation with Israelis, the more conflicts and clashes I have experienced, and the more I have come to dislike them. These days, as you all may have noticed, I find myself complaining to no end, deeply ensconced in my own egotistical sense of injustice, lack of comprehension and utter frustration.
And then, two weeks ago, I came across one of those sappy Yom HaAtzma’ut Facebook posts, the ones that used to make me sigh affectionately and wax poetic about my love for Israel and yes, for the past few years, have only made me snort in derision and comment bitterly, “Just you wait until you’ve been here for longer than a minute!” This post, titled, “65 Things I Love About Israel,” was written by Keren Hajioff, who had immigrated three years ago.
At first, I considered not even reading it. I had been cut off not once, but four times that morning on my 10-minute commute to the university campus and I couldn’t even imagine coming up with one thing I loved about Israel, much less 65. But I decided to click on the post anyway, hoping somewhere deep down that I could find something to restore my faith in Israeli humanity.
I definitely snorted through the first few items – “#1: I love that there are Israeli flags absolutely everywhere.” Yeah, yeah, so what. Waving a flag doesn’t mean the person is going to be nice to you – but then something in me began to shift. “#7: I love that under a week of knowing someone, he invited me to his wedding.” That’s true, Israelis really are like that. And #6 really is true, and wonderful – we do stop what we’re doing at the sound of the Yom Ha-Zikaron siren, stand stock-still and come together as a people for those two glorious and exquisitely painful minutes.
And then #24 hit me like a ton of Israeli-made bricks: “I strangely love that people here complain so much about Israel. For people to complain so much about this country, means that they have forgotten about how great of a miracle it is that we have it. Why do I love the fact that people have forgotten how great it is that Israel is ours? Because it means we are used to it. Why are people used to it? Because it has been ours for 65 years. That is something that I am very happy about. So, the more people complain, the more I am reminded that Israel is ours.”
And this, I do believe and tentatively declare, heralds the end of my “Dark Age of Aliyah.” Because it is so, so true. Because every bitter and whining complaint, no matter how completely justified or painful, that seeps out of my mouth really does both totally reflect and totally take for granted one immutable fact: I live in Israel. No, I feel I must say it again: I live in Israel.
And I can say, without any hint of sappiness, this is both such a gift and such an amazing accomplishment. Some days I still cannot believe it, and other days I am steeped in gratitude for my decision to make aliyah, my fortitude in pursuing this dream and my persistence in continuing to at least attempt to make my dream match my reality.
I live in Israel. How many people in the world can actually say that? And how amazing is it that Israel exists at all? Yes, she may not be perfect, and yes, she may still have some growing (and growing pains) ahead of her, but she is ours – warts and all. And those of us lucky, audacious and irrepressibly resilient enough to live within and love her must never forget how truly blessed we are to be able to bitch and moan every day of our lives here.
ALISON STERN PEREZ (firstname.lastname@example.org or alisonsterngolub.com), a native of Seattle, is a 2000 Brown University graduate.