Why I Stay In Israel, Despite All The Craziness
So, a few days ago, a friend asked why I stay in Israel, despite all the craziness. This prompted me to try and put some of it into words…
1- I have literally never felt like I belonged anywhere, until I moved here. This is the only place where all of the different pieces of who I am can harmoniously co-exist. I can be an artist and a teacher and a religious woman and a social justice advocate and a mother and all the other bits of me all at the same time without dissonance.
I thrive here. This is where I belong. A plant that is native to Japan, can never flourish fully if it is planted in a garden in Russia - conditions can be made to emulate its native soil - but it will always be different and not exactly right. Not everyone does - and I respect that - but I need my native soil.
2- I actually feel more safe here than I ever did in the US or anywhere else. Here, I know what to expect. I know when to be afraid and when not to. There is very little in the way of domestic crime, and it's a much more safe, communal, trusting, and connected society. I know that if - G-d forbid - something were to happen to me, someone would help. People don't mind their own business here. Everyone is up in everyone else's business - which is both annoying and also endearing. And it means that people take care of each other, and get involved when something wrong is happening.
Also, the world has proven that they do not care about the safety of Jews - people have committed and allowed for genocide against us time and time again. No one really cares about that, unless they are using our deaths as a tool to push for their own unconnected agenda. With the US what it is today, I am just not so hopeful that it will stay safe for Jews for very long. Just like almost every other country we have ever lived in.
3- Israel (at least in theory) is much more in line with my ethics and politics than the US. Israel is a small democratic-socialist state - where even the most extreme "right wing" politicians believe in socially progressive (left) policies. We have socialized healthcare, socialized education, 16 weeks paid maternity leave, much more feminist leanings, strict gun control, free, legal, and accessible women’s and reproductive health (although there are flaws), welfare (although there are issues there too). We are the queer center of the whole region. We believe in education. We believe in arguing about everything. We believe in hospitality and kindness. We believe in green agricultural tech (although we also have issues in that respect). We fight to be a just and equal society. And I would much rather be a woman here than in the US.
4- The whole country is not actually much bigger than the state of RI, so I actually am able to make an impact.
5- I don't constantly feel gaslighted by society - insulted and then told I am nuts for feeling upset about it. I did in the US.
6- There is so so so much less pressure on women to conform to unobtainable and objectifying beauty standards here.
7- I am actually surrounded by my own culture, and don't always feel like a freak or outsider. People get my basic world-view and paradigm. People know about my particular flavor of religion just from my hair-covering alone. People know what it means when I tell them I am religious. I don't have to constantly explain myself.
8- I can be religious and still exist in the modern world and do things. Outside of Israel, I can not really go out to eat or drink, because nothing is kosher. Most things happen on Friday and Saturday - and so I am excluded because I keep Shabbat. Here, that is the opposite. I can go out to eat or drink pretty much anywhere - kosher is the norm. And almost nothing happens on Shabbat. This means I can be a normal, social, engaged member of society.
9- The food. Not only is it kosher, but it is some of the best in the world. Hands down.
10- The nature. It is mind-blowingly stunning. Even though it's a tiny country, we have huge bio-diversity. We have beaches, and deserts, and forests, and mountains, and rivers, and plains, and prairies. We also have unique geological formations called "makhteshim". We have the Dead Sea. We have the Red Sea. We have the Mediterranean. We have the Judean hills. We have the Judean Desert. We have The Jordan River. We have Ein Gedi. Mount Hermon. Jerusalem. The Galil. The Negev. The Aravah. Eilat. Cesearia. Benyamina, Ako, Tzvat.... I could go on for hours about how gorgeous it is here. And how the very soil and rocks are a part of me. And I often am moved to tears by how gorgeous our nature is.
11- The art. Israel is literally overflowing with art, music and creativity. The street-art is breath-taking. There is music on every street. It feeds my soul.
12- Judaism makes sense here. At its core, Judaism really is an indigenous religion. All of our holidays are connected to the seasons and harvests and weather of Israel. Judaism can be practiced in the diaspora, but it feels weird and empty to me. For example, we have this holiday called Tu BeShvat, which is the celebration of the blossoming of the trees. In Israel all the almond trees are blossoming at that time and you can really feel it. In New England, it is usually still winter, and it feels silly.
13- The people. I love the people here. They are raw, and real, and rude, and kind, generous, loving, protective, annoying, hilarious, brave, earnest, sassy, fierce, flawed, beautiful, healing, and welcoming. They take care of each other. They don’t mince words. You know what they mean. They have no time for bullshit, but always have time to celebrate. They work hard. They fight hard. They cry hard. And they play hard. No matter what is going on (politically or otherwise) there is always a seeba la’meseeba - a reason to party.
14- The diversity. I love the diversity here.
15- The history. It is really humbling living on such continuous history. And much of it is the history of my own people. I live in the land that all of my people's stories are about. I live inside the beating heart of my people.
16- I actually have a perfect religious community here. When I was in the US, I never fit anywhere. Religiously, I am orthodox. Socially, I am weird, rebellious, creative, progressive, open-minded, etc. Those things usually don't go together outside of Israel - because in order to be religious, in the diaspora, you really need to be part of a very closed insular community with not so much interaction with the outside world. I can't handle that.
Here, I am a part of a huge closely-knit community of free-thinking, wild, creative, progressive, open, amazing, brilliant, and also religious people. And we really take care of each other. There is a sense of community here, that I have never seen anywhere else.
17- Spiritual connectedness. This is harder to explain. My soul is plugged in here. I feel it when I pray. I feel connected to my source. I am regularly brought to tears by religious and spiritual experiences. Shabbat in Jerusalem is unlike anything in the world.
I feel dead inside when I leave.
I think this is actually the biggest reason for me.
And this list is just barely scratching the surface.
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