A Sabra’s take on new immigrants

From the outset, it might seem that Israel is but a branch of America, since American influence is apparent just about everywhere in Israel. But this is not the case.

By TEHILLA MARKOVITZ
February 24, 2016 11:14
2 minute read.
ukraine aliya

New immigrants from Ukraine make aliya, December 30, 2014. (photo credit: REUTERS)

I’m fascinated by Americans, specifically Jewish Americans.

From the outset, it might seem that Israel is but a branch of America, since American influence is apparent just about everywhere in Israel.

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But this is not the case. Take a closer look, and you’ll see a world of a difference.

And it is precisely because there is a world of difference that those Jews who moved to Israel out of hard-core Zionist ideals deserve a world of appreciation from native Sabras, myself included.

A third generation Sephardi on my father’s side, and the daughter of an Ashkenazi immigrant from Canada on my mother’s side, I never really believed it was so difficult for new immigrants to take the step and make aliya. Somewhere in the back of my mind there was always the idea that Israel is the best place for Jews to live, that all Jews want to be here – even those who don’t realize it yet.

OK, there are some slight inconveniences: no Starbucks, high prices, the heat, family members far away. I do understand that Jews need something to kvetch about.

But what I did not realize, until I attended a memorial gathering held by my “American” neighbor (in the country for about 30 years) for her father who recently passed away, was that some of those faraway family members adamantly object to their offspring living out the Zionist dream.

How could that be? Because if the children move to Israel aren’t they doing the right thing? Deep down aren’t they all proud of those who actually “do it”? But, as I understood when my neighbor’s husband stood up to speak, parents are not always proud when their children move to Israel. I understood that sometimes they oppose it strongly and vocally.

Readers of this newspaper might be surprised that something that is so obvious to them – that not all relatives are thrilled when loved ones move to Israel – is not a given for native-born Israelis. It has to be told, explained.

And that realization reveals something else as well: it is often those things that seem so obvious and self-explanatory to us – things that are at the core of our own identity – that others might not understand.

These are the things that do not get explained precisely because they seem so obvious, but which need elucidation because they explain so much.

American Israelis can talk to their native-born countrymen and discuss how difficult it is to leave everything and make aliya, but take it from one of those native-born countrymen – it is difficult for us to understand.

But now I do understand, and I stand humbled with a much greater appreciation for those who do move here, to their motherland, despite the objections of their own fathers and mothers.

All I can say is, “I’m glad you made it.”


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