I hope you enjoyed the pictures of the snow in Jerusalem. Judging from the pics you might have thought the snow was 1 foot deep and the winter wonderland was going to last throughout the day. But I took the photos in the morning, and by the time afternoon came around, the snow had melted off the trees. I’m glad I got to capture the temporary ice land as well as a few pics of children and adults–who were just as excited as the children about the snow.
Now on to the more serious stuff…
For some of you our decision to stay in Israel came as no surprise. To others it might have made absolutely no sense. So without further ado, in addition to explaining my reasons to as many people as I can personally, I’d like to use this blog as a space where I can provide some insight into the decision-making process. I might also suggest your reading the page “Why We Came” for more background.
I first got the Israel bug on my honeymoon in October of 2005. I was originally reluctant to spend our honeymoon in Israel, but once I got here, I abruptly fell in love with the country. I didn’t know that I would be ending up here, but I knew the place got to me somehow. I remember coming back to the U.S., and it felt like a big letdown, and it was more than just the usual post-honeymoon blahs.
A couple of years later we came to spend a year in Israel. We wanted to get to know the country better and also study Jewish texts at the Pardes Institute. Now that I’m here, I’m glad I took the big leap. Pardes has been everything that I thought it would be—with a warm and spiritual community and a group of dedicated and brilliant teachers—and a lot more challenging than I had realized. And after a few months of slogging, I’ve finally come to enjoy studying Talmud (even though I still have trouble figuring out what is going on) and look forward to waking up every morning to go to class.
The volunteer work at ICCI has also been fulfilling. During my time there, I’ve met inspiring young Israelis and Arabs who are engaged in dialogue efforts and joint action projects though a program called the Jerusalem Interreligious Youth Council. I’ve also become better acquainted with other organizations that bring Israelis and Arabs together.
The more time I spent here, the more I started wondering what it would be like to live here. I worried a lot, though, about our financial future, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the overall security of the region and the problems plaguing Israeli society. I thought of how hard it would be to not have my family by me, not see my sister’s kids grow up, not take part in all of the family occasions. I realized how hard it would be for them. Even with blogs, email, internet video phone and biannual visits, I realized my life would be separate from theirs.
At the same time, there were numerous things that pulled Eric and me here. The place felt like home to us and we somehow felt more ‘complete’ here. Even though this place has its share of balagan and annoyances, there are so many things we love about being here.
I love the fact you can drive a few hours from Jerusalem and hike in an awe-inspiring, mountainous landscape or stroll along a beach near Haifa or visit an archaeological site from the Roman era. I love how people in the supermarket tell you Shabbat Shalom on Thursday afternoon and how friendly people can be (even though though you’d never want to be in a car with them!). We are enamored with the country’s cultural diversity and how this diversity is reflected in the multifaceted cuisine in which schnitzel is just as popular as hummus. People have a good work/life balance here (although it is hard to get used to not having Sundays off!). Learning Hebrew and studying Jewish texts is not only fun for us, but it is an opportunity to connect to our Jewish identity. There is a saying that says Jews have two souls and when they go to Israel they regain their second one. I think I understood what that meant.
Another major element in our decision was ideology. We’ve felt that the Israel is an integral part of the Jewish identity even as many people our age have become increasingly disconnected from this place. We also realized that Israel is a work in progress, and has many flaws. After living in Israel for a few months and listening conversations with classmates, family and friends, we’ve felt a conviction growing within us that we need to be a part of making Israel a better place and that our impact here could be much greater than it could be in the U.S. We’re not trying to be pompous or self-righteous here. We just want to put our money where our mouth is.
That’s a brief explanation of what led us to our decision. I’ll try to add a few more lines over the next few days, but I felt it was important to post this entry as is.
In terms of what we’re doing now: We’re applying to an aliyah organization called Nefesh B’Nefesh to obtain their help with a variety of services, counseling and financial aid. One of the things they do is cut through a lot of the initial red tape that a new Oleh (immigrant) encounters. With their help as well as the help of friends and colleagues we’ve also been making contacts in the job market. Eric has been looking into medicine and biotech as possible career options. I’m applying to Hebrew University’s Rothberg International School where I hope to study at the Community Leadership and Philanthropic Studies program and eventually work in the Israeli nonprofit sector. And, starting next week, we’ll be going to night ulpan (Hebrew classes) to improve our Hebrew and ability to argue like Israelis.
We’ve got a lot of things on our plate these days, but we’re both very excited about moving ahead. At the same time, the decision is bittersweet. We can’t tell you how much we’ll miss all of our friends and family back in the U.S. We love them all very much, and want to maintain close relationships with everyone. We’ll be back to visit you as often as we can and (once we find a place) invite you to visit us.