Today marks 10 years since we moved to Israel. I was wondering how and when I’d find time to record some of the lessons that I’ve learned in the past 10 years, but as is typically the case in this holy country, it was as if G-d just reached down and answered my question, by ‘helping’ me to miss two trains yesterday, and giving me lots of downtime to sit at the train station where I could organize my thoughts. If you haven’t considered Aliyah before, maybe this can inspire you…and just know that now you officially have some ‘vatikim’ (old and experienced people) to help you through the process personally!
1- Sure, it’s painful that most purchases in Israel cost at least double (if not more) what they’d cost abroad…but tuition costs about 2000% less. And though it’s excruciating to spend close to $100 on baby shoes, at least I know that one day he’ll be wearing them to walk into his entirely free pre-school, so I’ve actually saved about $12,000 on these shoes.
2- Living in Israel means the door is always open. You may think that it’s a burden on us when you ask to crash at our place. But honestly speaking, you’re doing me a favor. You’re making me keep the house a bit neater and the kids a bit quieter in the morning. When you join us for dinner, you’re encouraging me to make a real meal, rather than serving the frozen chicken nuggets the kids are accustomed to. In short, you’re making me a better mother. So please, don’t be afraid to drop by, and even to stay a while.
3- Rain can be a miracle, not a curse. The Jewish people pray for two critical things three times daily, 365 days a year: peace and rain. Though we haven’t yet seen the peace that we plead for, there are times when we see the rain…and we can recognize it as a blessing, rather than as a plague. While I used to grumble at the frizz caused by a few drops, today I accept each one as a gift and as a valuable reminder that prayers are often answered.
4- Socialized medicine has its drawbacks, but it can also be incredibly wonderful. The hospitals here may be a bit more rundown and the service may be a bit slow, but when it really counts, there are many quality healthcare professionals here, both of the homegrown and imported varieties. You just have to know where to look.
5- We may have chosen to live amongst our own people, but that doesn’t mean that our lives lack diversity. We have the privilege to teach our children about religious acceptance and tolerance of others in their own surroundings, not in the theoretical way that we learned about it when we were growing up. We have the opportunity to slowly break down the prejudices that are so common today, even if we’re only doing it 5 impressionable people at a time.
6- Thanksgiving is highly overrated. I won’t deny that I miss the family gatherings, the turkey and the pecan pie, and that I really miss the idea of having a random paid day off. But actually, we have many ‘random’ paid days off, such as Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and Pesach, most of which have plenty of eating as well. And it’s pretty terrific not to have to use vacation days for these holidays.
7- Speaking of “holidays”, I really love the no-frills vacations that are the norm around here. This isn’t to say that I’m not envious of my sister’s upcoming trip to Hawaii. I AM (more than I wish I was). But I love knowing that our winter vacation this year included one day of harvesting food for Israel’s poor, one day of baking cakes for the soldiers protecting our area, and one night in a cabin with bunk beds, hideous linens and free sufganiyot from the local Chabad shlichim. I enjoy knowing that these vacation days were full of meaning and togetherness, even though they weren’t filled with exotic beaches, exciting ski trips or Chuck E. Cheese…and I smile knowing that our kids are content with this ‘simpler life’.
8- I love living in Israel because I know that there’s always a way home. In this society, hitchhiking is the norm, rather than the exception. At the end of a long day, I love knowing that at some point, some kind stranger will invite me into his or her warm car, and help me find my way home. It may take a while, but I have faith that it will work out…and so far, it always has.
9- I find it fascinating to live in a place that can dispatch teams to deal with suspicious packages without warning, but one in which elected officials have little or no concept of how to deal with snow, despite having days or weeks to prepare.
10- Finally, even after 10 years, I still love the feeling of camaraderie that there is between olim, both those who have chosen to come and those who have come out of necessity. It takes a certain type of crazy to leave your family, your language and your comfort zone to move across the world and start new in a country filled with bureaucracy, messy politics and high taxes. And yet, I’m proud to be surviving the turmoil, and to be sharing this experience with thousands of others. And I can’t wait to see what wonderful things the next 10 years have in store.