After my KIC session with Bnei Akiva MTA on Friday, one of the participants approached me to ask the following question: "Tell me why I should live in Israel when all I see is a rude and unfriendly society". Well for those of you who are educators out there, I am sure you have various pre-programmed answers ringing through your mind for the very moment he has finished uttering the challenge - and a massive challenge it is.
Only that morning, I had returned to the Renault dealer in Talpiyot (Jerusalem) where we bought our car just over 4 years ago. Again, the automatic gearbox is broken, having already been replaced twice. The first time they demanded we pay 13000 shekels, then offered it for 7000 and then for free when our lawyer came walking into their offices. Now on the third occasion when the gearbox has ceased to operate as it should, we simply requested the courtesy of a rental car for the period that they are fixing this recurring and unacceptable problem.
Sure they said - that will cost you 140 shekels per day. Hmmm. Nice. And how about the rip in the front passenger seat that your workers left after the last gear replacement. "Nothing to do with us" - apparently! And the fact that we have to bring the car in every month for mechanical repair. "Ummm, not our responsibility".
How about the fact that you are playing 'silly buggers' the day after Yom Kippur? "מה קשר" - "what's the connection?"
So two hours later, this Zionist Bnei chanich throws the Aliyah question at me and I feel myself beginning to symphathize with him, almost wholeheartedly. It took me some time to reach the true and honest conclusion in giving him a sensible and appropriate answer.
The KICview is that Aliyah is tough work and that it is not for everyone. Sure, it's a great mitzvah and a great achievement to make a life for oneself in this Land, but it's hard work and many will not have (or find) the time, energy or patience to carry it through. (However, in my humble opinion, lack of (enough!) money is not a reason not to at least try).
As I said to the Australian guy, Israel is not Bondi nor is it Florida. We all have to face the reality that though Israel is more or less first-ish world and great to be a part of most of the time, it is by no means fully Western - it is not England or New Zealand, USA or Australia - and in many respects that's a good thing!
But, Israel is in the Middle East and with it comes Middle Eastern weather, Middle Eastern moods, personalities and Middle Eastern attitudes. Many olim say that "while we hate living here, we couldn't see ourselves living anywhere else". That feeling doesn't exist among all or at all times, but it does raise its head often. Love it or leave it, that's Israel.
I left him with these thoughts. I listed him some of my reasons for living in Israel that are simply untouchable and immeasurable.
It is in this season, at this time of the year that I am often reminded of the beauty of living in this often frustrating Jewish state. I found great satisfaction from Aron Razel's Yom Kippur tefilot at Shir Hadash which included several dances during Neilah. But it was even more satisfying to know that I had so many shules to choose from within walking distance, one of them being the Kotel. Still, I particularly like Shir Hadash because it represents a community of olim (and some Israelis) who are committed to making a go of it in our homeland.
After almost 6 years in Israel, it was my first time in Jerusalem where I could see the wonderful sight of completely (I mean 100%) car-less, empty and peaceful streets for the 25-hour Yom Kippur period. The country shuts down and pedestrians re-take the roads. It was truly a holy sight in itself. Now, there are Sukkot springing up on every corner of empty bit of ground around the country. Sukkot are built at restaurants, bakeries, shules, hospitals, workplaces. Lulavim, etrogim and the like are on sale everywhere and there is a wonderul sense of the grand Chol Hamoed Sukkot national holiday week ahead. This morning I started davening among waiting patients at Hadasah Hospital and then joined a minyan in the hospital shule. People brought around free kosher sandwiches for patients and staff wished their patients Shana Tova and Chag Sameach.
I really could type about these things for some minutes. In essence, these examples are some of the untouchable reasons. These things make me feel that I am living a full Jewish existence everywhere I look and everywhere I go. Not just at the shule, in the kosher restaurant and when I arrive home from the office to my Jewish house. In Israel, we live Judaism everywhere and it is an inherent part of the way the country runs day-to-day. When I go to work, or to the mall, to university or to the hospital, people are not only tolerant towards me because I am different, but my Jewish-Zionist desires are fully accomodated automatically.
These feelings are personal and untouchable. Each prospective oleh needs to develop strength to recognize these incredibly positive aspects of Israeli life and to channel them in a way that they will help to overcome the societal challenges that do in fact exist.