Does Israel do it for you?

“Apart from ideology, what keeps you in Israel?”

NEW ‘OLIM’ wave excitedly after arriving in Israel on a Nefesh B’Nefesh charter flight. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
NEW ‘OLIM’ wave excitedly after arriving in Israel on a Nefesh B’Nefesh charter flight.
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
I made aliyah about 10 years ago, fired up with idealism, but it is slowly being replaced with frustration and apathy. Politics, making a living... exhausting. I am heartsick over almost daily confrontations with Israelis about what are often the most trivial things: supermarket lines, parking places, getting onto the bus.

This is not the life I thought I would be leading here. I find myself increasingly thinking of yerida (leaving Israel). At the same time, I love the weather, lifestyle and a lot of people I have met here. I do believe that I belong here ideologically – but it no longer seems like enough.

How can I cope?

- Almost apathetic oleh


Tzippi Sha-ked:

Years ago I got into an argument with my cowriter on a book about South African Jewry. My stance: Zionism without Judaism is just another form of nationalism – for good or bad. He countered that one doesn’t need religious ideology to be a Zionist.

Bearing your question in mind, I contacted a social media group Keep Olim in Israel, administrated by Liami Lawrence. I asked: “Apart from ideology, what keeps you in Israel?”

Answers included low health insurance costs, free Jewish schooling, lifestyle, culture, a safe environment, being a part of something bigger, sunshine (the Brits), shared commitment and responsibility to our people, a more meaningful life, the lack of feeling God elsewhere, having children in a country where they don’t feel different. Some said that America is decaying and that England and South Africa are dangerous. Some mentioned the food, the social scene and beaches, and Israel being like America in the ’80s where kids can play outdoors until nightfall. Some felt motivated to change the system. And some love the great avocados.

The bottom line: “Life can be hard wherever you live in this world; at least Israel is home,” and “I’d rather live in a studio that’s mine than a mansion belonging to someone else.”

We all fall into the aliyah rut from time to time; I’m no exception. Instead of focusing on how to change Israel one Israeli at a time, I try to initiate projects that will positively impact on others. In this country, moods are infectious; it’s my civic duty to keep up the morale!


Pam Peled:

I decided to come on aliyah in 1967; I was 10. At school, news about the Six Day War was broadcast continuously; I wanted to be part of the miracle. I felt all those “‘Hatikva’ moments” – Ooooh! the bus driver is wearing a kippa! – but that euphoria does not survive long when the driver jolts away while you’re still waiting in an illusionary queue.

Israel can be a hard place to live. Forget the wars, the army, the heat and the pushing. It’s difficult to make a living here. While I accepted having a smaller house than my friends abroad, and driving a (much) smaller car, it’s more complicated to see my kids unable to earn enough to buy anything close to what their peers there can afford. It’s hard to always live by that particularly quirky saying in Pirkei Avot: “Who is rich? He who is happy with his lot.”

And yet.

After living here for almost half a century, I’m glad I left the fleshpots to pitch my tent with my people. Really, we’ve done an incredible job. It’s easy to bitch about the problems, but we’ve worked magic here in the center of the world. The desert is blooming, and we’re reaching the moon – how crazy is that?

But the greater good cannot be enough. My advice is to urge a member of your immediate family to join you in this madcap adventure. Yes, we’re all family here, but you need someone with the same DNA. Or marry into a large, loving clan living here. Israel will instantaneously feel more like home.


Danit Shemesh:

In Brachot (5a) it is written: “The Land of Israel is acquired through torments.

If it is worthwhile, it is achieved with torments.

My first torments were running with my newborn to doctors, only to be laughed at (mosquito bites, not measles). I showed up on the wrong day to an important school meeting; I didn’t know what Yom Dalet was. Whenever I took my children out, strangers gave me abundant advice on how to raise them. Rude or straightforward?

I came to Israel to raise my children in the Jewish state.

My experience was reminiscent of Frankenstein telling assistant Igor that he was going to check on his creation (who was making a ruckus in the basement), and that under no circumstance must Igor open the door. “Now I am lucid and sane, but as soon as I go in there, I don’t know what may happen, I may lose my resolve. Keep guard that I will not come out.”

If my Igor had opened the door, I would have been back in the States five children ago, forgetting my idealism.

Idealism is our guiding light, one that we want our children to embrace. We want to make it possible for them to achieve what we may struggle with.

Pirkei Avot teaches us: “It is not up to you to finish the work, but you cannot desist from doing it.” My motto is “I just work here.” I don’t have all the answers. I gather from the sages that I need humility to live my idealism, which is crucial, but the result is not in my hands. My grown children are very Israeli, and I’m proud of them. They are living the ideal that we initiated. 


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