The Aliyah Decision

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Post 1:

When I decided to make Aliya to Israel in 2002, everyone, including family, friends, associates, acquaintances, people that overheard my conversations on the public buses and quite possibly the ministers at the Israeli Internal and Absorption Ministry thought I was crazy . . . and that was only the Israelis. Actually, that is not completely true. There was this one very sweet, grandfather-like Israeli taxi driver who said that he was very proud of my decision and that I must be very brave. He soon became my favorite person in all of Israel. I was so thrilled to finally be receiving a bit of support for my decision that I thought I should pay him a bit extra for the cab ride and then I quickly came to my senses and realized that he was probably over charging me anyhow. This is how my Aliya survival story begins.

In all reality there were two types of responses that I would receive: One response was very welcoming. This response came from people that love Israel and are as Zionistic as I am. They were happy and even grateful that someone would choose to move to their beloved country. This was the minority response.

The other response, and the much more common response was, “Really?! Why?!” and then quickly followed by the next question, “Is there any chance that I can have your American citizenship?” Most Israelis associate the U.S. with what is shown on TV. They can’t fathom why somebody would give up their ‘luxurious’ lifestyle in America for the bureaucracy, frustration, and terrorism of Israel. Come to think of it . . . what am I doing here . . Oh, yeah, Zionisim!

It was always difficult explaining that my reasons for making Aliya were not financial, but ideological reasons, Zionistic reasons. It is weird, only in Hebrew saying that you are a Zionist echoes of cynicism (and it is even more ironic that the words cynicism and Zionism sound almost identical in Hebrew, but I will get to that coincidence later . . .)

Telling my friends and family back in the United States I received a completely different response. They also thought I was crazy, but for completely different reasons. I’m sure a lot of people pictured me dodging bullets on my way to the supermarket or having to run into bomb shelters in the middle of the day. Israel to them was a war zone – it was one big exploding bus. The only concept they had of Israel is what they saw on CNN, which of course is known for its accuracy and unbiased reporting.

Post 2:

 

No matter how many times I stated the statistics that I was more likely to die in a car accident or from a heart attack or from second hand smoke in Israel than being killed in an exploding bus, they weren’t convinced. Somehow telling them that I was moving to the middle of Jerusalem and not to Gaza was not anymore comforting to them either. I don’t know why though, because by the time I moved to Jerusalem the terror attacks in Jerusalem had dwindled down to only one ever few weeks versus occurring every day. I guess they still considered that too high of a frequency, but I figured it made my chances pretty good.

 

Then of course there were the people that heard through the grapevine that I was moving to Israel. These were the type of people that are completely out of touch with reality and have no concept of other countries or cultures. Basically, these are the type of people that identify with Jeff Foxworthy’s “you-know-you’re-a-redneck” jokes. These type people would always say to me that they thought it was really great that I would be able to experience living in the holy land in a tent in the middle of the dessert, just like in biblical times. Before I had a chance to explain to them that Israel is a modern and technologically advanced society, they would ask, “Do they have cars there yet or do they still use camels?” Just for fun, I would always tell them that only the rich people have camels and that most people can only afford goats.

 

My friends and family spent a lot of wasted time worrying about all the possible terror attacks, because eventually, they and I realized that the major events that would affect my life wouldn’t come from Palestinian terrorists, but instead from Israeli society itself.

Luckily (and surprisingly) my parents were tremendously supportive of me wanting to move to a terrorist ridden country, but I bet they are kicking themselves for always making me go to synagogue, Jewish day school and for pushing all of those Zionistic values on me when I was growing up. I mean, all my parents really hoped for was to make me into a nice Jewish girl that would find and marry a nice Jewish man, a doctor or lawyer preferably, and provide them with nice Jewish grandchildren. I guess that plan backfired on them. Instead, I ended up running off to Israel, and while there are plenty of doctors and lawyers here, nice Jewish guys are few and far between.

Post 3:

 

I’m quite lucky to have parents that supported my decision to make Aliyah. It would be even nicer to have parents that financially supported my Aliyah as I’ve become as broke as the rest of the country. Israelis constantly complain that their bank accounts are in the negative sums, which seems ironic for a Jewish country. Of course if Americans also had to pay 150% tax on their cars, I’m sure that there would be some type of financial crisis in the states . . . or at least a new president.

 

In fact, the country’s entire financial system is built on the assumption that the population is completely flat broke. For instance, when buying any type of merchandise, from food to gas and from clothes to small electronic items, on credit, you are asked whether or not the payment should be split into one, two or even three separate payments. I have yet to hear the option of four payments, but I’m sure it exists.

 

And just to prove how backwards the country is: When buying a car, you don’t get the option of splitting the purchase up into separate payments; you have to put all the money down at once – taxes and all.

 

Since my Aliyah, I have begun thinking like an Israeli and comparing the lifestyle in the US to ET’s “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.” After all, if I had stayed in the States, wouldn’t I already have a personal plane with a gold leaf interior instead of having to steal toilet paper from public places? Well, I at least would have been making payments on a car instead of on a bicycle.

Post 4:

 

Even after five years of living in Israel, people still ask me why I decided to move to Israel. While I have a long explanation about coming to visit when I was younger a few times, studying here while I was in college and doing a volunteer program, I don’t think that any of these explanations are the real reason. I think the real reason stems from the fact that I never really felt like I fit-in in the United States.

 

While I am sure that my Zionist and Jewish upbringing had something to do with my decision, I don’t think that these reasons are what has kept me here. Because if there is one thing that I have learned over the years, is that you can not survive on Zionism in Israel.

 

The reason also does not have anything to do with being Jewish in a Christian world or always having to ask for make-up tests because of Jewish Holidays. (However, there was this one teacher who taught world religions in high school. When she was explaining Judaism, I distinctively remember her saying that the Jewish religion viewed Jesus as a prophet. Despite my arguing with her and explaining, that I would know better than her since it is my religion and not hers, she was unwilling to accept what I had told her. While I wouldn’t say that this experience affected my decision to move to Israel, it definitely made me realize the level of ignorance and stupidity in the U.S.’s public education system.) I think that what actually made me feel as if I didn’t fit-in, is the level of politeness and courtesy in the United States.

 

I guess the whole apple pie, baseball, white-picket fences and pleases and thank yous never really felt right to me. (However, after being in Israel, you definitely learn to appreciate the politeness in the United States.) It is not just people in the street that are polite in the US, even companies and corporations are polite. You don’t have to yell and scream and hold up the people in line behind you for a half an hour before you get your way. You simply make a polite complaint and you instantly get your wish. This is a great policy, but for some reason, I just felt that I needed to be in a country where everything was difficult – a country that demanded a bit more aggression and aggravation before finding a solution to a problem.

 

Unfortunately, I never realized how wonderful “the customer is always right policy” is until I came to Israel where they have a “customer is always wrong policy” and it is ok to ignore and yell at them at your whim.

 

The thing that did bother me about this “customer is always right” policy is that you know that the person helping you will be saying something nasty about you the second you turn around.  In Israel, it is quite different, I can spend a half an hour arguing with a taxi driver over two shekels ($.25) and then five minutes later we will be talking like we have known each other for years and he will be trying to set me up with his son and inviting me over for Shabbat dinner. I guess there was just something to fake … or too simple for me about the American approach.

 

For someone who does not enjoy American politeness, I lived in the worst place of all. Not only did I live in the mid-west, which is known for friendly people, I lived in the state that is famous for its manners and generosity – Minnesota. The state defines its culture as “Minnesota Nice.” I personally don’t understand how people can be so god-damn nice in a place that is so cold that your nipples can get frost bitten and fall off during the winter and during the summer the state bird is the mosquito.

Post 5:

 

I have always been the type of person to say what was on my mind . . . no matter if it was nice or not. In the states, I was considered argumentative, loud mouthed and some even thought I was obnoxious, but in Israel, I’m considered sweet, friendly and innocent in comparison to the rest of society. Don’t get me wrong, I know how to hold my own here and how to speak up when necessary. Trust me, a sweet and innocent Midwestern girl would never make it here in Israel if she didn’t have some chutzpah! Forget the Arab terrorists, try keeping your spot in line at an Israeli supermarket on a Friday afternoon! If you aren’t willing to yell, scream, pull some hair and throw some elbows into the people behind you, there is no way you will make your purchase before the store closes.

 

The register isn’t even the hardest part of the trip to the supermarket. Since grocery stores close early on Fridays and are closed all of Saturday, people are always in a rush to buy food. Trying to get your hands on the food to put in the cart can prove to be a difficult and violent task within itself. It almost looks as if a war has just been declared and people have gone mad trying to stock up on necessities for the next month.

 

Making the decision to make Aliyah to Israel was not actually as hard as the move itself. It was of course difficult to leave my family and friends, my pets, my favorite hang outs, my childhood bedroom and the famous Minnesota mosquitoes. However, the hardest part of making Aliyah to Israel was zipping my two bags closed.

 

I spent nearly an hour sitting and jumping on my suitcases, trying to zip closed, inch-by-inch, the two bags that had the entire past twenty-three years of my life, stuffed, shoved and crushed into them. (I actually was unable to fit my entire life into these two, overweight and oversized bags and ended up having my parents send me multiple packages to me throughout the years. The cost of sending all of these packages probably would have bought me an additional seat next to me on the plane to store all my baggage.)

 

I was so relieved that I succeeded in shutting my suitcases that it never even occurred to me that they might be over weight. Once I got to the airport, I was quickly reminded by the agent of the airline’s policy regarding oversized luggage. I didn’t heed too much attention to this comment since I had always viewed rules and regulations in the United States as mere recommendations and suggestions. I assumed that since I was still in the U.S. the “customer-is-always-right” policy still applied and therefore when I said that my luggage was not actually overweight that I would be right.

 

This agent, however, must have either been an Israeli or a former Nazi because she had never heard of this “customer-being-always-right” policy. I figured I could handle her, because I’ve learned that if you can get your way in Israel, you can get you way anywhere in the world. With enough bitching, complaining, fighting and a bit of begging and pleading, anything is possible. But this woman would not hear of it. If there is one thing that I do not understand about the policy on overweight luggage, is why, I, all 52 kilos (110-pounds) of me has to pay for overweight luggage, but the 180-kilo (400-pound) man sitting next to me on the plane, with his fat rolls falling over the arm rest into my seat, doesn’t have to pay a penny extra for his fat ass. Somehow bringing up this point didn’t seem to help either.

(Continued on The Move to Israel Page)

 

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Responses

  1. We used to think you were crazy, now we think youre crazy funny!
    Check out our blog to help you get on your way with those big Israeli dreams!!!

    http://www.dreamgloss.wordpress.com

  2. I just love it!!!
    Who knew that after two years of service I’ll discover you as a great writer with an awesome aliyah story… 😛
    Going to read some more now. Keep up with the good work!

  3. For anyone else with the can’t close the suitcase issue-vacuum storage bags are god’s gift to travelers. I’m making Aliyah in a week and they are saving my suitcase zippers!

  4. looking forward to the next chapters! My biggest Aliyah suprise was just how astonished most Israelis were about why I had come! A mixture of shock and respect I think. Having said that – now the Shekel is doing much better and the Dollar seems to be skimming the bottom of the sea – so I’m not sure what people would say nowadays! The sign that Israelis must be prouder of their own currency is that house prices in Israel are now actually quoted in Shekels and not Dollars – crazy world we live in!

  5. it s fantastic….so well written….please give us more things to read!!!!
    congratulations on this blog!!!

  6. Great writing. You seem to be doing well for yourself. Its been a long time since Pilgrimage.

  7. Thank you for sharing your story on this site and I look forward to reading more about your move! I’m excited for and with you.

    I would like to suggest that you be careful about the sensitivity in using the word “Nazi” so easily, when using the word itself or even by saying something like “this person was either Israeli or a Nazi.” I understand you used the word in jest, but light uses of the word Nazi take away from its true horrific meaning.

  8. I have had quite a few laughs reading your blog, Jessica. I can almost hear you telling the story with your NY/MN dialect.

  9. hey.- you know, it’s difficult to make this decision, and I have been struggling with it for a long time. Not with the decision itself, because I am going to israel without question…not a question of if, just when. But my struggle is making my family comfortable with me being far from home and the idea of joining the army and the terrifying idea that life might be hard for their son! I fully and completely embrace this challenge and look forward to being an Israeli! Just like there is no such thing as a converted jew…(once a person converts to judaism, there is no distinction between him and a born jew) same with immigrating to Israel. There is no turning back, you are Israeli for better or worse. I cannot wait to be back in Eretz Israel!

  10. great blog
    great writing
    somebody just told me that olim are only a little crazy because they don’t know exactly what they’re getting themselves into
    toshavim chozrim (returning residents) are totally crazy because they know exactly what they’re getting themselves into
    that’s me, back for my second try…

  11. Your posts are insightful and humorous! I am not considering making Aliyah at the present but I am fascinated by your experiences and enjoy reading the blog. Please keep us posted on your adventures in Israel!

  12. Jessica!

    I enjoyed reading The Aliyah Decision… I thought it was very captivating and funny! Did people really think that Isreal had only camels, and you lived in tents? Ignorance…

  13. Hello Jessica,
    Came here by way of your comment on A Soldier’s Mother’s blog. I too was a lone soldier (23! years ago).
    I was actually a kateen chozer which is slightly different from an oleh. But I get the feeling that the experiences are similar. Here I posted a few words about what influenced my decision. It amazes me that I still get queried about why I came here.

  14. Hi, great blog. I just moved to Israel this past year from MN. I’m not missing the weather or mosquitoes but I do miss the MN niceness. I haven’t quite adjusted to the Israeli way yet but I’m working on it.

  15. I am a kateen chozer, and it is my fourth day. Not sure if it is the jet lag, but having been a prosecutor for 20 years, and all that goes with it, the opening of a bank account was quite the experience.
    Perhaps it is too early for me to post, but thought that I should start getting my thoughts and impressions down early on.

  16. Hi Jessica,

    Thanks for writing your blog. My parents are Israeli but I grew up in the States and have always felt “out of place” there. I spent many summers in Israel as a kid.

    Now, I am studying in China, for many reasons, but one of them is to experience life outside of the U.S. Living here helps me see American culture more clearly and realize how much I just don’t fit there.

    Last week, I went to Israel for a wedding. I haven’t been there for 12 years and my last trip in 1997 was short, so I wasn’t able to really experience it fully. So, really, I haven’t been to Israel for 20 years!

    In a word, I loved it! I felt like I was home. I know I only saw it very superficially, but I am considering moving there when I complete my studies in China.

    Thanks for your writings.

    Roni

  17. I really enjoyed reading your blog. I’ve experienced so many of the same things that you have, my friends thinking I was crazy for coming to Israel, Israelis thinking I’m crazy for coming to Israel, the customer-is-always-wrong policy, the bureaucracy…. I moved to the south, but I’m not a medical student, so I hardly know any Americans, or really many people who can really relate to my experiences. It was nice reading about another girl who can relate 🙂

  18. Your sharp intuition and wit make me laugh @ a situation that I am usually weeping about!

  19. I plan to read this everyday instead of drinking cough syrup with codeine.

  20. I will probably add you to my bookmarks because I admire the way you express your ideas.

  21. I have been contemplating a trip of my own there. I can relate to a lot of your feelings regarding the “not fitting in feeling” in the US. The catch here is I am a Christian who has grown up with both Judasim and Christianity. I love and respect Israel and Judaism. Israel, to me, is a place where I feel like my days in this world would be more eventful, challenging, and simply put- well lived. I’ve had this dream for so long..but fear of the unknown,leaving my huge and close family, bombings, my age..I’m 31.. I’m unmarried tho. No children. One dog. And attend college for a nursing degree. I just want to be in a place where you earn your keep. Exposed to other cultures. And live life to it’s fullest. How can I settle for a life in the states..a homegrown husband, suburban life, trading crock pot recipes with friends..for others this is a wonderful life, I completely respect that. It’s just not in my heart. Thank you for an awesome blog. You make the impossible possible. 🙂

  22. I’ve just died. That was SOOOO GREAT!

  23. moving to Israel is a HUGE decision I like how you turned your experience into a commical, relatable, and honest story.

    Working for the Aliyah department has opened my eyes to many similar stories such as your own.

    Look forward to getting my hands on your book and providing it as a fun and useful resource to future olim.

    http://aliyahnewyork.blogspot.com/

  24. Hello! Love this blog! You are such a great help to all those contemplating aliyah.
    So in terms of being a Conservative convert and had been in the process for over 2 years prior to my conversion. I wanted to apply to make aliyah before the “recommended” one year (some places I’ve read 9 months) mark of staying in the community where the conversion took place. Does this rule always apply or does it vary? May I still apply through nefesh b’nefesh?
    In the case that I did wait one full year, how long does the processing take if you are going to NBN?

    I’d appreciate any feedback! Thank you!

    • Your best bet is to reach out to nefesh b’nefesh. Sorry, I don’t ave a definitive answer.


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