ben goldfarb 88.
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In a recent column I discussed why I live in Israel. This column will deal with the practical tips and tricks of living and flourishing in the land of milk and honey.
Despite all the advantages and pleasures of living in the Holy Land, dwelling in the land of our forefathers is not without its challenges. Here are some practical suggestions for dealing with, and rising above, these challenges.
Despite all of the compelling reasons to live here, it is nonetheless very painful to be so far away from family. In my opinion, this is the hardest obstacle to overcome when immigrating to Israel.
If it weren't for the daily hope of the coming of the Messiah (Mashiach) when all of the Jewish people will return to Israel, I probably wouldn't be able to deal very well with the absence of my family.
The belief in the advent of the Messianic age is not some vague hope or mere lip service. According to Jewish law, it is incumbent upon us to believe in the coming of the Messiah (Mashiach). This belief must be a deeply internalized anticipation of an actual, imminent reality. We have to anticipate his arrival daily. So when I wake up each morning, I'm convinced that some time during the day I will see my family from America and we will "do lunch", or perhaps share an early dinner.
From time immemorial, the trick to getting good service is to set a pleasant tone from the onset of the interaction with the service provider. This is true in Israel and in any country in the world. Whether it's a waiter, a clerk, or a flight attendant, when you begin communicating with a smile, a sincere compliment, or an expression of gratitude or empathy, the person on the receiving end of your kindness will want to give you the best service possible.
I have an ongoing collection of stories of how clerks from the Israeli Ministry of the Interior bent over backwards to help me and performed tasks bordering on the miraculous to get me what I needed. This was all because I spoke to them as they deserve to be spoken to - as fellow human beings created in the image of God. (This is true even for employees at the Department of Motor Vehicles.)
The Talmud teaches us that as we approach the Messianic age, the generation preceding it will be filled with negative character traits. Although I try to see the best in everyone, that doesn't mean that I'm naive or blind to the reality of the social fabric of Israel today.
However, non-Israelis often translate Israeli culture in their own subjective terms. These interpretations often lead to negative understandings. Over the years, I have come to appreciate many cultural phenomena in Israel. In particular, I appreciate the tendency of Israelis to be brutally honest and direct. I know exactly where I stand with my Israeli friends and colleagues. This is a refreshing change from some of the vague or misleading messages I often receive from my American counterparts.
I have learned to temporarily suspend judgment when I'm the recipient of certain Israeli behaviors and attitudes until I come up with alternative explanations. When we open up our hearts and minds to different interpretations of cultural behavior, we are often pleasantly surprised by what we see, hear, and feel in this society.
Many people don't want to move to Israel at all, or they want to postpone their move until they are past the draft age. Rather than seeing the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) experience as a burden to be avoided at all costs, my religious Zionist eyes see the opportunity to be in the first Jewish army in 2,000 years as a privilege. To this day, I'm still amazed that I served in a military organization that has kosher food, synagogues, and access to military rabbis to address issues of law and theology.
I found basic training to be a physical and mental challenge that taught me a degree of discipline that I have been able to use in my Torah studies and work. Although I sometimes referred to boot camp as "summer camp from hell", I gained a tremendous amount from the experience. I have a greater understanding of Israeli society by having spent some time in uniform. Perhaps draft-dodging is part of our Jewish collective psyche from our experiences in Mother Russia (and perhaps in the United States during the Vietnam War). With the exception of legitimate yeshiva and academic deferrals, the IDF is not the army to avoid, especially now that we are back in our own land.
Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, the chief rabbi of Beit El, once gave the following analogy to illustrate our relationship to the land of Israel. Imagine you are lost in the desert for hours on end. You are about to pass out from heat exposure and dehydration. Suddenly, you spot a small shed. You run to the primitive structure, go inside, and find a rusty, but functional, water fountain. You recite a blessing and then drink the lukewarm water. After you regain your composure, do you begin to criticize your drab surroundings and the poor quality of the structure? Of course not. The proper thing to do is to continue your appreciation and gratitude for this humble, but lifesaving, oasis.
So too is the case with our sojourn in the State of Israel. While we are far from perfect and we have to pray daily for a better society, we should have a great deal of gratitude for how much God has allowed us to grow and develop in the past century. Through God's blessing, we were able to carve a paradise out of a desert, and we have to be thankful and in awe of how far we have come in less than 100 years.
Instead of complaining when waiting in line in a government office, remember that just a few decades ago the ground upon which we are now standing was a mosquito- infested swamp. We should be dancing up and down the aisles in appreciation of God's blessing upon our people instead of complaining that things aren't going the way we had planned.
Whether you plan on moving here immediately and booking the next El Al flight to Tel Aviv, or if you choose to wait to emigrate when you will be brought here on the wings of eagles, one thing is for certain. You now have more tools at your disposal to make your permanent visit in Israel enjoyable and relatively pain-free.
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Ben Goldfarb was born and raised in El Paso, Texas, and is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin. He moved to Israel in 1988. He divides his time between his yeshiva studies and his coaching practice. His life calling is to help others understand their personal mission and accomplish it with humor, creativity, and spirituality. He lives with his wife and children in Jerusalem. His book Double Feature will be published in the winter. For more information about his coaching practice, visit Paradigm Shift Communications , or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Â© Copyright 2007 by Ben Goldfarb