I have been dreading making a psychiatry appointment for about two months now. I was avoiding it with such commitment that I sacrificed getting my prescription for a month and suffered through depression and anxiety in result, simply because I could not fathom another visit to an Israeli medical facility.
So many aspects of this country are split in my heart between complete gratefulness and an urge to get on the next plane and leave. Medical care, for example, is free, which in theory is cool. But then when I get to the doctor’s office (two months after making the appointment), I first have to stand in a dingy waiting room (that’s actually just a lobby of an old apartment building) for hours as everyone tries to cut each other in line and steal each others appointments. Then, when it’s finally my turn, the first thing the stout middle aged doctor says to me is “you could lose some weight” before he even asks me what my name is. Actually, a doctor has never asked me for my name- they simply stick out their hand for your insurance card and read your name from there. By the end of the experience, I am certain that I was healthier and better off before I showed up.
The only reason I ended up going to this psychiatry appointment was because my mom (yes, the one in California 20 hours away from me) forced me to. The thought of me being unmedicated makes her take more medications, so for her sanity and well being, I went.
The appointment went like this:
“Hi, my name is-”
(abruptly cut off) “Give me your Maccabi card” (impatiently sticks out his hand like I was selling him drugs) “Tell me what is wrong with you.”
“Well, I’ve met you before. I just ran out of my prescription and need a refill.”
“I know your face but have no idea who you are.”
“You have my insurance card, you can look up my name. Can’t you?”
(Opens giant planner book from the 1960s and begins aimlessly flipping through looking for my information, which is scribbled somewhere amongst thousands of other patients’ medical history. I stare in disbelief that this is happening.)
“So how do you feel.”
“Sad. Can you please refill my prescription? That’s all I need.”
“Fine. That will be 26 shekels.”
“I only have 100, do you have change?”
(Fishes though his personal wallet where I clearly see that he has change.) “No.”
“Okay…so here is my credit card.”
(Looks at me as if I had just suggested we shoot heroine together.) “You think that I would accept a credit card for 26 shekels? I don’t take cards!”
“YOU ARE A DOCTOR’S OFFICE. DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA HOW SKETCH IT IS FOR A DOCTOR’S OFFICE TO NOT ACCEPT CREDIT CARDS?”
“That might be America, but this is Israel.”
Before you make Aliyah, every Israel says “This is your home!” or “Make aliyah, you will love it here!” but the second you actually do, they make sure to let you know you’ve made a huge mistake. They will literally say anything to try to make you regret your decision. “You are from California, why would you ever come here?” is heard at least six times a day. My other favorite is “There is no opportunity here, you will never make money.” Everyone will say this to me: co-workers, waiters in restaurants, bus drivers, grocery store clerks, my hair stylist’s 8-year-old daughter. Seriously, I KNOW. No one makes Aliyah to make money. Now shut the f**k up and let me exist here without berating me with non-stop unsolicited commentary.
My patience here has dwindled, which is unfortunate since the heart of survival here is patience. I will now literally yell at anyone about anything. I will cry openly at my work desk with no apparent shame or concern for my co-workers surrounding me. I will take off my bra in the middle of a bus ride home and refuse to cook anything that will take longer than two minutes (literally, a bowl of oatmeal can go in a microwave for two minutes and then I’m f**king done). I no longer wait in lines or follow instructions or make attempts at polite small talk. I refuse to not stand up for myself and I sure as hell won’t apologize for any of it. On the one hand, it’s led me to have a very difficult relationship with this country. On the other, it’s made me very, very Israeli.
I suppose this tumultuous state of being is not unique. But again, I won’t apologize for that. I won’t apologize for saying this is hard, or missing California, or recognizing that living her can sometimes suck. This is my narrative and this is what I’m living. But I’m not leaving here, I’m not giving up, and I plan to continue moving forward, just as all Israelis do. That is a part of what being Israeli is, and even with everything, I am so proud to be a part of that.