What am I supposed to call this blog post? More on that later.
Today marks ten years since I arrived in Israel. When all of us bloggers started to write less frequently a few years ago, a wise friend told me that I might consider how much time and effort I commit to something that doesn’t pay the bills. Good advice. Even though I rarely find the time or inspiration to sit down and churn out a few thousand words anymore (as compared to this little list I just wrote for the Times of Israel), how could I possibly miss today? I’ve written on seven of my previous nine “aliyaversaries” and even though I feel like I’ve said it all (what feels like hundreds of times), today is a big one. Here are just a few unrelated reflections in what should be the last one of these, in no particular order….
Once an “OLEH”….”STILL AN OLEH”
(So I can’t enlarge the graphic here for maximum readability….
It’s over on Facebook anyway.)
- While “ten years” is about as meaningful as it gets, most olim are sort of over the heavy-duty introspection by this point. So why am I not? Probably because, one, my job involves me talking about it, and two, people ask me about it ALL THE TIME. These are basically one and the same. When a group in Israel or abroad invites me to speak, it’s not for my good looks (my mom comments publicly in 3…2….) So while there would surely be advantages to not putting your own life under a microscope, this is the path I’ve chosen I guess.
- I seemed to have a lot of it figured out back in Year 5 but I’ll say this part again: the most special part for me about living here is being part of this fraternity of olim who have all had the same crazy, unique experience. If you were going through such a unique experience (too many years working for Israel programs, I still can’t think of a good synonym for “experience”), you’d feel a pretty strong bond to those people who were going through the exact same thing. It’s like how parents all compare notes about their kids, just replacing stories about getting pooped on by Junior with those about getting pooped on by the iriya.
- The longer I’m here, the more I have started to see certain things in a new light. This has been a painful one over the years so it took some time for me to accept that this is probably as good as my Hebrew will get (sigh). How many people suddenly decide in year ten that NOW is the time? (“Hey, Shaq, we know you’ve never been able to hit free throws but maybe it will suddenly click at age 39.”) As long as I’m working in English, surrounded by English-speakers, consuming English-news and podcasts, and in my (cough) forties, this is my reality. And for those of you abroad who ask, “you’re not fluent by now???”…..trust me. Walk a mile in someone else’s shoes first. Actually, even that won’t help because nobody uses miles here.
- If I never answer this question again, I won’t be upset: “So are you going to be there forever?” Not only because it’s really hard to answer the same question hundreds of times and not get tired of it. I have a good friend who moved back with his family after twenty-plus years. Another good friend returned this past year after around fifteen, and none of us saw it coming. A couple of other friends who have thought about it. (And just two days ago, a friend of mine announced on FB that she and her family were leaving after 14 years.) None of these goodbyes were on bad terms. I guess life is complicated and rarely black and white. (Alarm bells just went off in Nefesh B’Nefesh.)
- Here’s a rare but ridiculous one I sometimes get: “So are you totally loving it?” I assume the person asking this must imagine I am on a gap year, eating felafel seven nights a week on Ben-Yehudah Street and barfing in the Underground. I sometimes explain that this is like asking: “So are you totally loving life/marriage/raising a teenager?” (The latter is my new favorite.)
“OMG, it must be amazing! Teens are so great! They are at such an impressionable time in their life, growing into young adults! You have the ability to impart your values on them and watch them bloom into people!”
No? That’s not how it works?
As I realized at some point, people forget that to make aliyah means to immigrate. Less sexy when you put it in those terms. It’s uprooting your life, starting over, creating a new social network and support system, having to start your career over, dealing with cultural/national/institutional differences (some of which you never get used to), being knocked down 100s of times to get up 101, etc. If change and overcoming adversity is what life is about, then nothing makes you feel more alive than this. But it’s up, it’s down, it’s happy, it’s sad, it’s real life. So I wouldn’t describe it as “OMG, it’s AWESOOOOOOME!!!!!” Who describes an extended portion of their life like that anywhere? Besides, I reserve that language for things like Osem’s new fajita Bamba. (I just wrote that to see what my Year 3 jokes still sounded like.)
- Much as I used to joke about “yiyeh b’seder”, I really have learned not to sweat the small stuff as much. I wouldn’t say it when rockets are hailing down on us but my inner Israeli is much better at winging it and adapting to things which go wrong (even when your apartment is on fire). As I’ve said before, when you extend your comfort zone out to here (motion with arms), you have all this room inside to play with. As I told my friend Kira just days ago after she left Israel to start a masters in Denver, “Just remember…..even if it’s tough, you made aliyah. YOU CAN DO ANYTHING.”
- Don’t lie. I can’t be the only one who STILL occasionally finds him/herself justifying an expense by converting it into dollars. “A taxi from the airport? Ah, that’s just $40.” This is likely to happen immediately after returning from abroad.
- Here’s a short video that I’ll share just because Shachar Hason is hilarious. If you don’t know him, he’s an Israeli comedian who is funnier in broken English than the rest of us could ever dream to be in our native language. And remember, kids, פאק isn’t a bad word if you say it in Hebrew.
And I can’t let this completely ridiculous ten-year old thought go unnoticed:
- “It hasn’t sunk in that I’m starting yet another chapter of my life but after moving to New York, how big of an adjustment can it be?”HAAAAAA!!!!!!!! What a moron I was.
- Here’s my five-year slideshow again because I like it.
I just reread this entire thing and realized it doesn’t sound so festive and celebratory as much as reflective and deep. I’m happy to have made it to today but I can’t think about this topic anymore! If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading now and over the years. Here’s to ten years!