Moments after my accent gives away my ''fresh off the boat'' status, I am frequently asked if I like living in Israel. ''No'', I answer honestly. ''So what are you doing here?'' they ask, to which I always reply, ''It''s a damn good question.'' And then, I scuttle off to the corner to ponder Douglass Adams'' ''Life, the universe and everything in it.''
There are so many things I could complain about, so many things I do complain about--and these complains are exacerbated by the fact that I can only do so in English to my Anglo friends, who simply nod their heads in mute agreement. I can fully empathise with my Israeli friends, too, when they take issue with the forces that be. In either case, at the end of the day, I am powerless to actually do anything to change the situation, and this seems to be the point from which my frustration is sourced. I am after all the type of person that campaigns against sexist advertising or for equal rights for gay whales.
My brother gave me some advice before I made aliya. He said ''you can''t change them, so don’t try.'' I call on his wise words often to get myself through the daily swamp of injustice and inefficiency through which we Israelis wade. Still there''s the part of me that just expects a certain standard, not a very high one, not excellence, not benchmark, just what I call ''normal''. ''Normal'' to me means that if you select ''English'' on a phone menu, at least part of the continued recorded message will actually take place in English, even if you know for sure the service operator who eventually takes your call won''t speak a word of it. ''Normal'' means that if the telecommunications company call you to offer you an upgrade, they won''t send around a technician who will disconnect your line, and ''normal'' means you don''t park your car vertically in a horizontal car space, no matter how tiny you car is or how quick you think you will be. I could go on indefinitely, but I won''t. Instead I will try answer the question.
The harsh reality is that my decision to make aliya was made after one too many young Australian children disappeared.
Soon after we arrived, my two youngest children started walking home from school alone. One afternoon they came home a little late. When they arrived I asked if they were hungry, as is the custom of the Jewish mother. "No, we had chocolate cake!" they told me casually."Where did you get chocolate cake from?" I asked both curious and relieved that I didn’t have to leave Facebook to cook them lunch. "This lady in this house invited us in and gave us chocolate cake." They informed me as if it were totally ''normal''. To this day I still do not know who ''this lady'' is or where she lives (they couldn’t remember exactly) or why she invited my children into her house to give them chocolate cake. But I do know that had my children been invited into a stranger''s house and offered something sweet to eat in Australia, I would be hysterical.
And that is why I am still here, because in this crazy insane country where you are screwed from every single angle and from every single government department, in this country where the fish truly rots from the head over and over and over again, in this country where ''integrity'' is literally a foreign concept, it is still ''normal'' for children to eat chocolate cake from the hands of a neighbour.
I am not for one minute suggesting that Israel is free from pedofilia or sex trafficking or the drug trade or the mafia, but in the quiet country towns, on the kibbutzim and the moshavim, our children are still relatively safe from even having to know about things children should never know about, and that is the ''normal'' of this country, the rest I can live with.