So, it's no surprise to most of you that we live in Israel. I got an interesting question from a reader: what made you decide to move [to Israel]? There are two stories here: mine and Craig's. Today, I'll tell you what living in Israel is like for me.
I moved to Israel on 06/06/06 - crazy, right? Since I was a kid in Jew school (I went to a Jewish private school for many years), it was drilled into my head that Israel is the promised land and it's my duty to live there. Granted, I grew up in Detroit so while the school had one agenda, my community had another.
The Jewish community in Detroit has worked tirelessly to create a safe-haven for Jews from around the world - including those who don't really want to live in Israel.
So, why did I do it? Partially ideological reasons. I'm a Zionist - I believe the State of Israel has a right to exist. Heeheehee, some people think Zionist is a dirty word. I also moved because it's the one place on earth I could be a Jew and not worry. I didn't have to explain to bosses WHY I was taking off for Jewish holidays. I didn't have to explain my level of observance to anyone. I didn't have to worry that I'd be swayed by some handsome guy who wasn't actually Jewish. I just didn't have to worry.
I felt at home in my own skin.
Visiting Israel and living IN Israel are two VERY different things. Life here is NOT easy. You could easily say "Hil, living ANYWHERE isn't easy!" You'd be right. But living in Israel is difficult. You have to adhere to Jewish law... which sounds like we're the Jewish Iran but in reality, we're more like the Jewish U.S. Not every restaurant is Kosher - legally, they don't have to be, but on Jewish holidays and the Sabbath, you'd be hard pressed to find a bus or train. We don't roll on Shabbos.
Getting married is another story. You have to prove your Jewish identity. According to Jewish law, your religion is passed down from your mother but when you try to get married, there's more to it. Not everyone is "accepted" as a Jew which means you can't get married. You CAN go to Cyprus or other places abroad and get a civil marriage. We did that. We also had a "religious" wedding in Israel. Two weddings... does that mean two anniversaries?
Anyway, life isn't SO tough. It's hard not being near my family but I have some FANTASTIC family members here in Israel. We have great friends, too.
In all, sometimes I feel like I'm living in paradise - with all the palm trees and cloudless days, it's easy to feel like that. Other times I feel like I could harm someone physically. In the U.S., you may need to wait a long time to see your doctor BUT you don't have to worry about someone cutting in front of you. When I go to the doctor, I usually get one or two people who say "can I go in before you? It'll only take a minute, I promise." The answer is usually "no." because it never takes a minute. Ever. There's also the random old lady who can't wait her turn at the bank and takes it upon herself to ask your banker questions while your banker is handling YOUR finances. That's kind of annoying.
In all, Israelis are a warm people. They're loud but it's never really malicious. When I first moved here, I was at the bank and some lady yelled at me to go and I turned around and said "I'm sorry, I don't speak Hebrew." She promptly asked "are you a new immigrant? Where are you from?" She gave me her number, said she had a son my age and invited me to Shabbat dinner. It was one of those only in Israel moments. I've had many of those moments since I came here nearly 5 years ago.
Those are the moments that make me a proud Israeli.
People travel for hours by plane to get here and visit Jerusalem, Haifa, Tel Aviv, the Dead Sea, Eilat, and the Golan Heights. I get to see them whenever I want! Last weekend we went to the Dead Sea. In a few weeks, we'll go to Eilat. We were in Jerusalem AND Tel Aviv two weeks ago and we'll go for lunch in the Golan Heights sometime this summer while everything's in bloom. As for Haifa, I've seen all there is to see but I long for the majestic views. Only in Israel.
So, what's it like living in Israel? It's amazing. There's no place like it on earth.