Friday, December 07, 2007

Aliya: Two Years On

Two Fridays ago, on a sun-drenched November morning in Jerusalem, I had one of those untypical 'typical Israeli moments'.

On one side of Emek Refaim stood 40 crimson clad protesters of all ages whistling loudly and calling on drivers to hoot their horn in support of better conditions for teachers who have been striking for the last 2 months.

100 yards down the road opposite Café Hillel the noise of car horns persisted, but this time due to a traffic jam caused by a chefetz chashud, a suspect package.

In many ways, that scene is Israeli society in a nutshell. Two problems – one social, the other security; Both central to our future and ability to live prosperous and happy lives. Neither with simple answers.

And in the background, regular Israelis trying to maneuver between the noise and enjoy a relaxing day off in a café.

The first night of Chanukah marked two years since my arrival in Israel. And while I’m sure I’ll be told by those Israelis who disagree with my political views that I haven’t been here long enough to ‘really understand’, time has undoubtedly eroded the ‘chadash’ part of being an ‘oleh’.

In many ways, my Aliya has been a process from ideological fervor and excitement – appreciating the grocer's Shabbat Shalom wishes, Shai Agnon's Nobel Prize speech on the 5o Shekel bill and countless other small things Israelis take for granted - to simply living life, with all its disappointments and excitements, its ups and downs.

If new immigrants get off the boat feeling Israel is their oyster and that the country offers a wealth of possibilities, a 'veteran oleh's' experience is generally more sober, maybe even more jaded.

Two years on, life in Israel is normal, regular. Like a long-term relationship, it's often harder to maintain constant romance. One doesn’t necessarily start every morning excited. Faults become more apparent.

Yet every now and then, things happen to remind you why you are still in love, why you choose to stay.

And when all the thrills are taken away, the commitment remains as strong as ever.

Despite all the changes, most of my thoughts regarding this country remain the same. I still don’t enjoy being asked why the hell I moved here. I continue to be excited by the uniqueness of how religious festivals are marked as national holidays, or amazed by the opportunities, challenges and responsibilities that power and sovereignty provide us, the Jewish people, with.

And despite the issues whose solutions remain somewhere over the beautiful Mediterranean horizon – of territory and terror, of education and economics, of settlements and society – I can't think of anywhere else I'd rather be.

Because whether we like it or not, here is where things of importance to the Jewish people are being played out. This is the front line in shaping all of our futures. And why wouldn’t I want to be a part of that?

And even for those who find ideology and idealism passé, there's always the attraction of relaxing with some toasted bagels and coffee in the November Jerusalem sunshine.


Anonymous said...

Congrats on your two year anniversary. It's great to read you posts!!

Anonymous said...

Mazel Tov and Happy Hanukkah. Congratulations on a successful first two years in your new home, Israel. I look forward to joining you soon.

Keep up the blogging.

Avi said...

מזל טוב וחנוכה שמח

Anonymous said...

Hey, Calev.
It was really nice to speak to you on the msn the other day. Mazal Tov on your 2 year anniversary & Chanukah Sameach.

Anonymous said...

calev, mazal tov on your 2 yr anniversary, nice post

Anonymous said...

Really enjoyed reading it Calev. Should be cut & paste for the many others, who often forget the purpose of being here. See you soon. Gal.

Anonymous said...

Mazal Tov!

Dont just take out the "hadash" take out the "oleh" and replace it with "Israeli".

You can say you are truly Israeli when you know who this singer is, recognize the song, and understand the words, and their funny significance.

As proudly sung by Ars #1

Calev said...

Thanks for all the mazel tov's

having listened to the youtube link, i think i can safely say that i am not fully Israeli yet!!

The Ginrod said...

great post! A breath of fresh air!

Noodles said...

3.5 years on for me, and can't say I have maintained such positivity! Although, there is hope in the form of Calev! Mazel Tov

Anonymous said...

Dear Noodles

What most people refer to as the "ive been here for two years + and now the reality is setting in" life experience... not uniquely Israeli.

This is move number two for me.

Ive seen it all before.

But I felt the same way you do after move number one.

Psychologists say that moving countries is as emotional an experience as if youde lost an immediate family member.

Im not sure if Id go to that extreme, but lets agree that its a very challenging period for the sake of argument.

Israel has its problems, but so does Britain. Just take a look at the Financial Times and the doom and gloom surrounding Northern Rock (which is just the tip of the financial iceberg).

Or if you prefer, take a trip into a low income area of London.

Ask your average Briton of african or muslim background how he/she feels about their financial and social situation. Check out the stats to double check if it makes you happy.

Israel is a first world country just like any other.

Try not getting a job in the US - see how far youll get with the pitance they give you as unemployment cash (with the proviso that you keep showing them that youve continuously been looking for a job otherwise that pitance will not be coming your way any time soon).

Any move overseas is tough.

Nothing is going to be handed to you on a silver platter - yes, not even here, in the land of milk and money.

But you didnt exactly land in the middle of the sahara.

Some Israelis are jaded because they have a longer route than a lot of other people - army of 3 or more years, often violent, then Uni, then start work usually in your late twenties when a lot of other young yehudim around the world are getting along either ok or well financially and are building careers for themselves.

Israelis are only just starting at that age. Imagine how it must feel, and then put their words and actions in context.

Then theres the usual blah di blah about the people in the slug buildings (ie government offices).

Again, same story everywhere else. Slugs exist all over the world, they just speak different languages when you ask for help with something.

Being told to "wait" while they "arse about" is exactly the same whether its in English or in outer Mongolian.

Someone famous once said that change is the only constant in our lives (along with death and taxes if you believe my four eyed accountant).

Embrace change, hopefully in a positive way, and adapt.

This place makes you think on your feet. Nobody is going to spoon feed you here.

When you do something because you have no choice, then you can achieve wonderful things.

Dont just think positive, act it. Thought without action is a, well, haval.

Karen said...

Mazel tov! I love reading your posts! Please keep up the great work!
Shavua tov!

Yehudi said...

Congrats! Glad to hear you're still making Israel your wife and I can't wait to join you!

cornflake girl said...

Calev, just wanted to say this is a beautiful post and describes every moment spent in Israel where excitement and disappointment coexist in the same breath. I hope to know someday which lover I will commit to and settle down with in the future.

Anonymous said...

I made Aliya from France 2 years ago.
I had good times in Israel and less good times, but I know it was the right decision to come here.
I will be happy to answer any questions from people who think of doing it and give my advise to them.
Having relatives in Israel already is a big asset.
In case someone wants to find new relatives and stay in touch with the old ones, I can recommend the Israeli website
Famillion is a worldwide family project connecting people across the globe, transcending borders and languages. you simply build your family tree and the system matches it with related trees and that way you connect to new or old relatives and make your family tree grow. you can also upload pictures and exchange family stories.
It s a great tool to find relatives and stay in touch with them.
So, guys, let s get all connected!!!
looking forward to receiving your comments...
Stay in touch,


Anonymous said...

Hi Deborah,
I heard about them - thanks for the advise.
Even though I think I know all my relatives, connecting the Jewish world sounds cool.
Dash cham,