Sunday, July 16, 2017

My Friend Made Aliyah

I couldn't think of a flashier title, because the one I chose is so full of emotion, I didn't want to mess with it. Last week, a close friend of mine names Ariella made Aliyah, and it was just about the most exciting thing I could imagine. As I celebrated 3 years here on July 1, I thought of the changes in my life that have happened in that time. Nothing huge. No wedding, no babies, not elected to Knesset (yet). And as of today, I'm still Jordana IN Jerusalem! So what, really, is the big deal about 3 years here? 


At three years, I have watched my ulpan and Aliyah friends decide that Israel wasn't for them, and leave. I have seen more people come to Israel to try and make it their home too. I have seen holidays and festivals, birthday parties and smachot. I have been to concerts and funerals, I have seen babies born here, and witnessed pretty much every Jewish life cycle event after that. Three years in the scheme of a lifetime is short, but it is enough time to outgrow my Aliyah "honeymoon phase" and the sparkly title of "olah chadasha" (new immigrant.) 

Although I probably still am a new immigrant, most days I feel completely at home, in a way I never did living in New York for decades. I walk the streets here or traverse the country in the knowledge that these are my streets and this landscape is my own. I never feel like I'm visiting, like this is a stop on my journey. I consider myself unendingly blessed to feel that this was truly my destination.

So when I tell you that my friend making Aliyah was one of the most exciting things to happen, it's not hyperbole. Let's not kid ourselves, life is hard sometimes and moving to a whole new country and culture will be tough (we've talked about this here and here) but the only consistent bummer is being away from family and close friends. I pray regularly that my family will join me here, but it doesn't seem to be on the horizon. And although sporadic visits from family members and my yearly pilgrimage back to NYC are great, they will never be a substitute for living near family. So when a close friend like Ariella told me a few months back that she was going to make Aliyah, I was elated!

Not to get into the back-and-forth about how Aliyah should be EVERY Jew's ultimate goal (because I don't want to argue with you) but the idea that someone I love, in a similar social situation, with a similar background and the same attachment to her family was making Aliyah just like I did was extremely validating and exciting. She would ask logistical questions and always preface or end conversations with "sorry to bother" and I would respond "this is no bother! I wish I could have this conversation with every one of my friends! I'm so proud of you!"
Some Israelis riding the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv bus!

So when she finally made Aliyah last week, it hit me harder than I thought. It was my friend, taking a huge step and hopefully succeeding in building an amazing new life in Israel, of course. But it was also seeing someone else, realizing a 3,000 year long dream, leaving the diaspora to come home and showing everyone back in America that this is the goal we should ALL have, we should ALL strive to achieve. 

This is what 3 years has taught me. It has been HARD and it has been wonderful. It has been LONG and it has gone by in a blink. It has been LONELY at times, but I have made new soul connections. It has been DIFFERENT to what I expected and so much more. And it has showed me, an American from New York with a tiny bit of jappiness, that there is more to life than Target and Bagels and Co. and that a new goal in my life is to help my friends and family come home- to Israel.

And when that time comes, I will tell you everything you'll need to know. I'll stay on the phone with you as long as you want, answer all your questions. I'll calm you down and build you up. I'll sit with you in Misrad Hapnim and give you the name of a great manicurist/real estate agent/pediatrician/handyman. I will do whatever it takes to have you here with me and Ariella and the rest of your Jewish brothers and sisters. 

I promise!

Sunday, June 4, 2017

On Parades and Aliyah

I may have mentioned that I grew up in a super pro-Israel household. The Israeli flag flies outside our door. I toured the country top to bottom at 13 with my family. We ate falafel at shul every Yom Haatzmaut. And most importantly, my family attended every Salute To Israel Parade down Fifth  Avenue in New York City, every year of my life. 

I was rolled through it as a baby in my stroller, flag flying behind me. I was a spectator most of my childhood, due to the chareidi nature of my elementary and high schools- Bais Yaakov of Queens may not have marched, but the Brown family most definitely attended! In 11th grade, I switched to a Zionist high school and was able to march for the first time. All my new friends yawned and complained about having to march again, but I was unbelievably excited. I even marched proudly again in 12th grade, when a large segment of my senior peers opted out. And in the college and post-college years that followed, Parade Day was one I always looked forward to, painting my nails blue and white and planning my outfits and coordinating meet up spots with my friends, some of whom I would only see on that one magical day of the year. 

I think I've also mentioned that it was never my lifelong goal to make Aliyah. For much of my young adulthood, my goals were: getting a well-paying job, finding a fellow pro-Israel  Jew to marry, settling down in some orthodox Jewish enclave and raising pro-Israel children, who would then hopefully repeat the cycle. Nothing on that list isn't exactly what 99% of my friends were hoping to accomplish as well. But about 6 years ago, when I began to become interested in Israel as a place to live, rather than a place to visit, the Parade changed for me, too. 

Deciding to move to Israel is a seismic, fundamental shift in character. It is a change in every way you can imagine, and my own move shocked everyone who wasn't intimately involved in my Zionist activism in the few years that preceded it. If you didn't see me during the years I took those 12 Birthright  groups to Israel, you would think I was the same Jordana who sang "Hatikva" at my Young Israel's 5k run-walk for Israel".

But once I decided that Israel was the place I had to live, because I am a pro-Israel Jew, I began to feel something odd at the parade. This isn't going  to be a blog where I berate everyone for not making Aliyah- I'm sure that will come someday, but not today. This is just my view as Jordana in Jerusalem, and maybe a bit of food for thought as well. 

Supporting Israel is great. Visiting Israel for Sukkot is great. Donating to Israel  is great. Singing hatikva in your Young Israel is great. Hanging the Israeli flag outside your home is great. Cheering on Team Israel at the World Baseball  Classic is great. Eating a shwarma on Main Street that Dudu sold you is great. Painting your nails blue and white is great. Dancing to Omer Adam at your house party is great. And going to the Salute to Israel Parade is great!

But it is not the goal, or at least it shouldn't be. Even if you think Aliyah isn't for you- it's so hard (it is), you'll be poor (you will), it's too far (sooo far), you don't speak Hebrew (lo norah), the people are mean (yeah, but they're also so nice!) and every other excuse I've heard a million times, it should be an ideal. Something you wish you could do, you hope to do someday. I promise you, ten years ago, Aliyah was not in my plans. But it was always an ideal, something I wished I could do. And ten years later I did!

Just think about it, and have an amazing time celebrating our country at today's parade!
My last parade before Aliyah

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

69 MORE Reasons I love Israel!

Well, kids! It's been ages since the last time I blogged. If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me "When are you writing a new blog post?" I'd have... like 40 dollars. And most of that would be from my mom. But here I am, back in action, special for the best holiday of the year- Yom Ha'atzmaut! I can't say that nothing has happened in my life since September 2016, of course it has. But nothing that moved me to write a blog post, I guess. But now that I'm back here, maybe I'll stay! Aliyah starts with excitement and new and different and then a few years in, it's normal. It's your life. Sure, the bank is always an experience, but you've already been to the bank 100 times! So hopefully I can get back into making quality content on this blog- even if I have to just make stuff up- just kidding!

As yesterday was Israeli Independence Day and this year I actually spent it in Israel (unlike last year) I thought I'd give 69 more reasons I love this Land- one for every year since our Independence. Only, it's a bit hard to come up with so many new things! Not that Israel isn't truly magical every day, but it can be hard to quantify all the little things that make this so great. So I came up with a bunch and asked people (basically everyone) I knew to contribute. And here they are:

The 69 Reasons I love Israel Most

1) I love that I could watch the American presidential election go down from the sidelines, because if I lived in NYC I know I would have been completely immersed. And probably gone crazy.
2) I love that I've met my mayor six times.
3) Unlike my family in NYC, I love my mayor.

4) I loved watching everyone running the Jerusalem marathon in different colored t-shirts denoting worthy Jewish charities.
5) I love that delicious kosher options are exploding all over Israel-so many that visiting friends don't even know where to start and need to plan return trips to try them all.
6) I love all the amazing musical artists coming to perform here, knowing Israelis are among the best and loudest fans they have (see you soon, Aerosmith and Britney!)
7) I love that Israel wants to help the Jewish nation grow- providing IVF and fertility services for women who are struggling to conceive.
8) I still love the vibe of the shuk at night- a learning about my history and culture with the graffiti-ed murals painted on all the stalls. 
9) I love the National Israeli Baseball Team, who came out of nowhere to make the whole country so proud when they rocked the World Baseball Classic.

10) I still love Cofix- even though they raised their prices! (from 5 to 6 shekel!)

11) I love how Israel won 2 Olympic (bronze) medals and the country celebrated more than America and her 121 medals ever could.
12) I love how excited Israelis are about Ama're Stoudemire- they love basketball and America so no matter what he does here for his team, he's a hero.
13) I love that my quest for the ultimate Israeli breakfast continues another year (Adraba in TLV and Nocturno in Nachlaot are favorites for this year.)
14) I love the unity I'm seeing from our ally, the USA. I'm excited for the strengthened friendship Nikki Haley and David Friedman seem to be spearheading.
15) I loved seeing the desert bloom this winter as the South hosted the Darom Adom (Red South) festival.
16) I love how handy and well-equipped Israeli guys are- they can pitch a tent, start a fire, change a tire and make a mean poika (kind of a beach stew) without breaking a sweat.
17) I love spending Shabbat in Tel Aviv! I know, right? I have the privilege of having shabbat dinner with 150 young professionals of all stripes and then enjoying an incredible Shabbat day kiddush every time I go!
18) I know it might seem odd, but after many years, this year I went to my first Henna- twice! I love Hennas! I love the pageantry and the food and the music and the culture of my Sephardi brothers and sisters.

19) Speaking of smachot- I love Israeli weddings! Most of them may not be as lavish as the ones in the States, but they are so beautiful! The backdrops, the views, the mix of guests- every wedding holds the potential for the best night of the year.
20) I love photo magnets! Apparently this hasn't caught on in the US just yet (I think you do photo booths?) but it's super fun to get photo mementos of being all dressed up with your friends and blanketing your whole fridge in magnets.

21) I've said it before but I love wine festivals! And since last year, I've discovered that Herzeliya also has a white wine festival- so that's basically a dream come true!
22) I love the normalcy that comes with living here almost 3 years.  Life here now is normal, and I love knowing that I'm where I'm meant to be.
23) I love that I live in the center of Jewish world- it's so fun always bumping into someone you know from back in the day or getting to see friends and family from the old country when they make a visit here.
24) I love the left- wing Israelis. I know that seems odd coming from me, but defending my position and my ideology in a productive and meaningful way both opens my mind and strengthens my own beliefs.
25) I love that the rhythm of the country is based on Judaism. Weeks, months and years- Israel moves to a Jewish beat.
26) I love that losing your wallet often ends with its return and your faith in humanity rejuvenated.
27) I love how here in Israel, my third cousins are just "cousins." I feel just as close to them as I do my first cousins back in the States, because they have taken me into their family so fully and lovingly.
28) I love that Tinder in Israel is basically JSwipe and Jews are able to meet other Jews and start Jewish families and have Jewish babies. Makes me smile.
29) I love ending a fun night out with a 3 AM shwarma. 
30) I love that even the graffiti is Jewish- Na Nach Nachman Me'uman! 

31) I loved the way the country stops on Yom Hazikaron and Yom Hashoa. A lot has been said about it, but I agree. It's beautiful and important.
32) I love how different Yom Hazikaron is from Memorial Day in the States. I love that Israelis consider it one of the holiest days of their year and grieve so fully for their loved ones. It hits home for everyone here, and it's palpable.
33) I love Yom Ha'atzmaut! Don't get me wrong, July 4 is super fun but for me it doesn;t compare to Israeli Independence Day. And the celebrations are non-comparable too- Israelis GO WILD for their tiny country built on miracles! 
34) I love that you know the next Jewish holiday because of what is on sale at the supermarket (like donuts before Hanukkah, dried fruit before Tu b'Shvat, and cleaning supplies before Pesach!)
35) I love that little kids will tell you we must save water "for the Kinneret"
36) I love that this country actually utilizes the Hebrew (lunar) calendar! In the US, I probably couldn't even tell you the lunar month. Here, you can write the Hebrew date on your checks!

37) I love that Israelis are called Sabras- prickly on the outside but sweet on the inside is the perfect fruit-based analogy.
38) I love how I get to know different cultures, both Israeli and of my fellow olim. Anglos/English speakers are diverse, we're not just Americans! I now know lots about the Brits, Canadians, Aussies and South Africans (my fave!)
39) I love that most of my most important phone apps were developed in Israel- where would we be without Whatsapp, Moovit, and Waze? (Probably friendless, stranded and lost!)
40) I love when Birthright season begins- I pray now more than ever, Jews in the diaspora will see how incredible Israel is and spread the word.

41) I love Wine Wednesday. It's a charity initiative in Tel Aviv where young professionals get together (Usually on a gorgeous rooftop) to raise money for a worthy charity and drink wine with friends. It's the best way to give back! 

42) I love that when Israelis get married and move away, they're generally generally still nearby. Makes me a bit sad that I can't say the same (although my parents can always make aliyah and join me- keep praying, friends!)
43) I love when people say that I'm so lucky that I live here, and I get to tell them that they too can live here! And the government will even give them money to do so!
44) I love that Israel revived a dead language. What was for so many year only utilized in Torah study is now a thriving and ever-growing language representing the Jewish homeland.
45) I love that cab drivers will always have a guy for you. It is amazing how they can truly see how perfect Dudu and I would be for each other after 7 minutes in a cab.
46) I love the sign on the bus that says what day of the Omer it is.
47) I love having one day of chag. When I lived in the States, I swore the extra day made the chag extra beautiful. I lied. Make that one day beautiful.
48) I love that Aroma gets in on Jewish holidays like giving gelt on Chanuka and funny face wrapped chocolates on Purim.
49) I love the aggressive love Israelis show you once you finally establish that it is, in fact, coming from a place of love. It's like a country full of people who want what's best for you, whether or not you want the same.
50) I love that Shabbat dinner isn't just for the Orthodox here- that so many Israelis consider this beautiful custom an important tradition.

51) I love all the budget airlines that allow cheaper travel. I have flown to more countries in 2 years than all my life in NYC, and on extremely sketchy airline (one was actually called I kid you not!)
52) I love that the buskers here play Jewish songs.
53) I love the siren before Shabbat, letting you know the country is about to slow way down.
54) I love the Bar mitzvah celebrations in the Old City- a cacophony of shofar blowing and bongo playing accompanying the 13 year old and his 50 closest family members and friends.
55) I love that Israelis call their friends "neshama" or "soul."
56) I love borrowing money from someone behind me on the bus and having them tell me to give it to tzedaka instead of paying them back.
57) I love that the municipality decorated the side streets of downtown Jerusalem all summer, making our beautiful city even more so!

58) I love the Israeli folk dancing in public places- Israeli senior citizens staying fit and young by cutting a rug on a Tuesday evening.
59) I still love the light rail- even when it gets held up for 17 minutes for suspicious objects, it's still a super quick and comfortable alternative to the bus and it has made Yafo street pedestrian and therefore an excellent place to stroll.
60) I love that I have the ability to connect with other Israelis anywhere in the world. Whether is was my pub-crawl guide in Amsterdam, my waiter in Paris or the owner of my bagel store in NYC, being Israeli gives you an instant connection to other people around the world. Israelis are a roaming people, but it's certainly special to find a piece of home so far away.

61) I love Jerusalem stone- its is strong, and beautiful and everything in this city is composed of it. Every time I see it in the States and hear how hard it was to get it and how expensive it was to import it, I think "My city is just covered in the stuff!"
62) I love the fact that the news has someone translating everything into sign language and so do Yom Ha'azmaut concerts! Watching someone "sing" hatikvah in sign language is so moving!63) I love that I don't have a car and I'm surviving just fine. I basically lives in my car in Queens and thought that this change would be horrible- it hasn't and I make it work. Maybe one day, though...
63) I love that the Israel haters bother me less- I live here, I see the good, I know the truth. I can see for myself how wonderful it is, I don't need their approval or acceptance. And I'll never get it any way, so why be upset about it?
64) I love how people say "Shabbat shalom", not "Have a good weekend." This may be due to the fact that essentially our whole weekend is shabbat, since Sundays are workdays, but I prefer to see the Jewish beauty in the concept.
65) I love how there are a bazillion native English speakers, but no one ever seems to ask us to proofread their signs or menus! I wait patiently for the day when someone posts a job opening seeking "translations proofreader." Then my aliyah will be truly perfect.
66) I love how this is a country full of Jewish mothers, which means that pretty much everywhere you go, someone in looking out for you and worrying about you. Makes ya feel good.
67) I love how we call Israel "Ha'aretz- the Land" and anywhere outside of it "Chutz La'aretz- outside the Land."
68) I love how when I had a bit of trouble coming up with so many things, everyone had a suggestion which made me fall even more deeply in love with this place.
69) I love how now that this is my home, I get to find new things to love about it every day!

Thank you for reading and feel free to add your own reasons! Looking forward to another fantastic year in Israel, awaiting the day when you join me and together we can celebrate Israel's 70th- next year in Jerusalem!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

One Last Blow Before I Go

Even though the UN is entirely useless, run by dictators and human-rights abusers and holds no credibility with anyone with a functioning brain, it exists, it's in the newspapers and it shuts down all of New York City for a few weeks a year. It's an international joke that has gone on too long and whose only recognizable function at this point is to pass umpteen resolutions demonizing the Jews. Oops, I mean Israel.

If you don't care about Israel, or it's just not on your radar (but then, how did you get to this blog? I digress) the UN is a benign and impressive building with a bunch of colorfully dressed dignitaries who have cars they can park anywhere. They function away from your eyes, don't accomplish much and really don't affect your life in any way. You might visit the building on a class trip or read an article mentioning that they are having their yearly sessions that week. But if you are Israeli or a supporter of Israel, you know that they do have one other very important function. They are there to ruin the international reputation of your homeland. They convene once a year to collectively and decisively condemn every aspect of your beautiful, democratic country- repeatedly. Every. Single. Year.
But why Israel? You might ask. If you are one of Israel's many detractors you may think "sure, cite Israel along with Saudi Arabia, Syria, Sudan and all those other human rights abusers." The problem with that thinking is that you don't hate Jews and Israel enough! If you were truly like the members of the UN, you would realize that Israel is the perfect scapegoat for all the world's problems. You would appreciate the vile dictators and disgusting countries that make up the human rights councils and security councils and education councils, whose sole purpose is to come up with new and exciting ways to call Israel "the worst." These countries calling Israel "the worst," it should be noted, are largely Arab or Arab-majority, human-rights abusing, non-western, oppressive, violent and anti-Semitic regimes who, through oil money and intimidation, have come to run this farce of an organization.
This is one year alone!

Perhaps the UN started with the best of intentions, but it has devolved into an anti-Semitic cesspool where the patients are running the asylum (I'm really fired up, forgive me.) So why do I even care what happens there, you might ask. Generally, I don't. Usually, I can laugh at the rantings of Arab dictators at the plenum, and roll my eyes at the unending stream of condemnations of Israel, blaming us for everything from environmental ills (Israel is one of the greenest countries on earth) to women's rights abuses (Israel is the only liberal democracy in the entire Middle East.) Plus, Israel generally has the support of the western world (specifically the US) at the UN so it curbs any real damage. Except for when things like what happened yesterday occur. Except when things like my former president (I still hold American citizenship but take pride in this man no longer being my head of state) Barack Obama decided to aim one last parting shot at the country for which he holds such disdain. 

"Israel must recognize that it cannot permanently occupy and settle Palestinian land."

In his final address to the UN and the world, as he has done for the last 8 years, he blamed Israel for the lack of peace while cushioning it with a plea for Palestinians to stop inciting their citizens to murder Jews, so as not to completely upset his liberal Jewish fan base. In that one sentence, he disregarded all offers for peace short of national suicide and gave Israel's detractors, enemies and terrorizers another weapon in their arsenal. "See?" Israel's enemies say "Even the president of your best friend America, even the country with the most Jews outside Israel, even the most powerful democracy on earth thinks you are occupiers, colonizers, thieves." They will continue to call our legitimacy into question, to ignore our indigenous rights, and to extend their fallacious narrative but now with a one-sentence soundbite from the leader of the free world. Just Google his speech and "Israel" and that quote is in the sub headline of every article. Not the part about Palestinian incitement. Not the part about the Palestinians needing to recognize the legitimacy of Israel. He said those things, but you'll have to read the whole article to find them, and most probably won't. 
The reverberations are not hard to predict. The BDS movement will place this statement on their literature and placards. The UN will continue to do what they do, but without the conscience of the pesky US to tell them what they're doing is wrong, and the entire world will become a more dangerous place for the Jews. Because, as you should know by now, Israel is a proxy for the Jews. Even if you are a Jew that hates Israel (and, by the way, if you are- yuck) that man in Ireland, Africa, Abu Dhabi hears "Jew" and thinks "Israel" and vice versa. So Obama telling the world that Jews in Israel are permanently occupying Palestinian land, when actually they are living in their native homeland (like they have for 3,000 years) isn't just wrong- it's dangerous. It is not surprising, given Obama's clear disgust for Israel (if you are shaking your head in disagreement, please let's revisit this topic in 20 years when he is hawking anti-Israel diatribes like a modern-day Jimmy Carter.)

As you know, I always like to leave on a hopeful note, so let me try and turn this around. Obama will be leaving office in around 120 days. For me, that's wonderful. But his legacy (which my liberal friends love and I despise) remains. And he is leaving the country in the hands of either Hillary (more of the same, especially when it comes to Israel, sadly) or Trump (the definition of the phrase "Oy vey") so I can't even look forward to his exit the way I planned! So I will say this: Israel was here before the UN and will be here long after. The children of Israel have suffered pogroms and libels, expulsions and genocide- they will continue to survive. And because we as a nation have a strong, just and beautiful country of our own, we will also thrive. Because, as you know, Am Yisrael Chai.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Sweetest Bronze

         Happy Olympics everyone! As a sports enthusiast (most notably a lifelong Yankee fan, played first base in synagogue little league and former Rosh Sport one month one summer at Camp Moshava, Wild Rose) I am super excited about the Olympics! Once every four years, (don't give me that "Winter Olympics" nonsense- if it's not figure skating or my bizarre addiction to curling, I'm not that interested) you can put politics and regional squabbles aside, and the whole country rallies around "their team." And for my whole life, that was Team USA. This is the first year, while tangentially following and rooting for the Americans, I am actively cheering for a new country- Team Israel!
It says MY country!!!

          Rooting for Team Israel after being an American fan for many years is like rooting for the underdog of all underdogs, after rooting for the 10-time world champions your whole life. There is an edge to it, an urgency, that I've never felt. When you root for Team USA, you root for the top of the medal count, when you root for Team Israel, you root for a medal. See, Team Israel has won single-digit medals in its history. We have yet to win more than 10 medals! But does that dampen my excitement? No way!
          This year, Team Israel sent its largest-ever delegation- 47 Olympians! Team USA has 554, and I'm no mathematician, but that seems to give Team Israel a much smaller opportunity to bring one home. We also compete in competitions I would have never thought to follow. Long gone are the days of screaming for the Dream Team in basketball and the Fab 5 in women's gymnastics. Now I'm all about rhythmic gymnastics, windsurfing and judo! Did I have to google "what is judo?" Maybe. But now that I know, I'm all in! 
           The big story is how the Arab world is treating Israeli Olympians. It is a big story to people who are not me, because I am a right-wing extremist who doesn't feign outrage when the Arab world insults and derides Jews. But that's just me. Am I disgusted that Lebanese athletes tried to block Israelis from boarding a bus back from training? Of course! Am I surprised? Nope. Am I horrified that a Saudi judo athlete has apparently taken herself out of competition in order to avoid an Israeli competitor? Quite the contrary! If they want to show the world that they don't care about fulfilling lifelong dreams all in the name of bigotry- go for it! And a forfeit is a win for the Israelis, so let 'em all forfeit, for all I care! That's one step closer to the gold!
            This is not to say I'm not super- proud of Team USA. They are killing it out there, and I am as obsessed with my Jewish-gymnast sister Aly Raisman as can be! I love that they are leading the world, bringing a politically- fractured country together for just a little bit, and representing my second-favorite country so beautifully.
                 But for now, I cheer on my blue-and-white clad countrymen, follow the local news with anticipation and take intense pride in the newest Israeli medalist, Yarden Gerbi (name twins!) I put in an extra little prayer for another medal or 2 (hey, can't hurt) and yes, check out Team USA on top of the medal count with a flutter of pride. Because you can cheer on your two countries, you know. Just as long as if they ever compete head-to-head, you take a stand. And my stand will always be Yalla Yisrael! 

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Aliyahversary, the Second!

        Two years. Twenty-four months, 104 weeks, 731 days (2016 was a Leap Year) etc etc. Tomorrow will be 2 full years since I stepped off that plane, into Ben Gurion airport to start the next and hopefully best chapter of my life. 

         I just reread my post for last year's Aliyah anniversary- boy, that Jordana was cute! Brimming with life changes and accomplishments, overcoming small challenges of bureaucracy and moving furniture- I envy her. Not that this past year wasn't great- quite the contrary, my Aliyah continues to be the best decision I've ever made. But when you make a huge life decision (moving, getting married, having kids- so I'm told!) there are peaks and valleys. And this year came with higher peaks and lower valleys than I could have imagined in my first year. To gloss over the bad would be allowing this blog to become inauthentic. I strive to make anyone who reads it understand that although I believe aliyah is for (almost) all Jews, I understand that there will be complications and sad times. So I will be straight up with some of my struggles here. I still have not found the job for me. I have not found that magical equation of: I enjoy it+ I am good at it +I am challenged by it= it pays me enough to live. You might think these are super reasonable qualifications, you might think I'm asking too much (not to be confused with a conversation on "what are you looking for in a spouse?" which sounds interestingly quite similar to this.) Although I have blessedly been employed by wonderful companies and people for the entirety of this year, I am a bit at a loss for why the job for me eludes me. I thought I had it for about 5 minutes, only to realize it wasn't quite right and have to start from Square 1. If I had to pinpoint this year's lowest valley, without a doubt, it would be that setback. In fact, I write this as I am still trying to climb back up from that, so if this blog seems a little less than effervescent, it's probably just because you should not write a blog post in a state of flux. But what can I do?! My Aliyaversary is falling out smack in the middle of my time of flux- what a bassa!

            I do remain hopeful and (weirdly) confident that a job that involves writing/marketing/politics/Jewish outreach/Israel advocacy/media will materialize, the powers-that-be will realize my talents and I will stay working there until I am a little old lady. It could happen, right? But until then, I remain positive- I have to! This is my home now. As I have mentioned several times- there is no "Plan B." There is no "going home"; I am home. I do not see myself ever living in America again (sorry, Mommy) so I will do whatever I must to make Israel the best home I could possibly ever have. "Ain Li Eretz Acheret- I have no other land." There is something terrifying and exhilarating about knowing that you have found your place in this world and no matter what, you will make it work. 

           There are fundamental differences between years 1 and 2 of my Aliyah journey. Liken it to the difference between starting a job and keeping that job fresh. The difference between starting to date someone and allowing that attraction to grow into something more. In practical terms: It's the difference between figuring out how to open a bank account and then how to bank efficiently on your Leumi app. If year one is finding a group of friends to go to a bar with, year 2 is growing those friendships into people you can trust with the real-life stuff. The first year is playing that "I'm new here" card when things get sticky and year 2 is "oh shoot! That card doesn't work as well, I guess I'll cut my teeth on Hebrew instead." Year 1 is waiting for friends and family to visit so you have a taste of home in your new city, while year 2 is playing tour guide for visiting friends and family, so you can show them your home. Year 1 is finding a place to live, a job and a favorite brunch spot; year 2 is paying full municipal taxes on that apartment, finding a new job (or 2- for me!) and making that brunch spot your Friday destination after a hard week of work. The luster and excitement that comes with everything new and shiny in your first year is followed by a tangible shift toward comfort and contentment. It's when you can feel your infatuation toward Israel becoming a real love of Israel.

Some scenes from Year 2

            I used to teach classes for an outreach program and one of the questions we asked was "What's the difference between infatuation and love?" And the answer we gave was this- "when you love everything about that person/place/thing- everything they do and say is perfect- that's infatuation. When you can see the bad in that person/place/thing- when you are aware of his flaws and shortcomings, in addition to his good qualities- that is love!" So last year I was the conductor of that infatuation train. I had to be! There was a war, I was living in the fantasy-land of Ulpan, I was just getting my feet wet in Israeli society- everything was heightened and important (and I had a heck of a lot more to blog about!) This year, I was dealing with the mundane- paying bills, socializing (although now in Tel Aviv a lot more, go figure!) and working every day. Although I broke that up by traveling, and a trip to the States, life here went from aliyah fantasy to Israeli reality, without my even noticing it.

           I know more seasoned Olim will see this and scoff "It's only been 2 years, Jords. Relax. Come back to me in 10 years." And I intend to! And I know each year will bring its own victories, its own epiphanies and, realistically, its own failures. But the same would be true if I were back in New York, or living in London, or Timbuktu! The difference here is that I have the motivation to make this life I create here the greatest possible life I can have on earth. Because nothing beats the fact that I am living in the Jewish state and the truest home I have ever known. Nothing beats the fact that I know that with all the hardships and loneliness, anxiety and stress- I have finally ended up in the place I am meant to be. So hopefully next year when I recap Aliyah Year 3, there will be less lows, higher highs and the same certainty that Aliyah was the greatest choice I've ever made. 

Next year in Jerusalem! (or maybe Tel Aviv? Who knows!) Stay tuned...

Thursday, May 12, 2016

The 68 Reason I Miss Israel (Most)

Hello from NYC! I have been on my yearly pilgrimage to America since before Pesach, but honestly, it feel like forever! Not that I haven't been enjoying- it's been so lovely and full of incredible memories (more on that in a blog to come). But when I was planning my trip and people would ask when I was returning home to Israel, they would inevitably exclaim, "WHAT?! You're missing Yom Ha'atzmaut? How could YOU miss that here?" Emphasis on the "you", since I am a vocal and rabid Zionist who enjoys just a regular Tuesday in February in Israel. Imagine my sadness in realizing that my sister's sheva brachot wedding festivities would coincide with Israel's Independence Day! But, as one of my best friends put it, "Yom Ha'atzmaut comes every year, your sister only gets married once!" Good point, Donna. And so here I am, missing Israel terribly, feverishly checking Facebook to see how my Israeli contingent is enjoying, and counting the ways I miss my country- I chose 68 for Israel's birthday specifically, but I probably could have gone on a lot longer. Here they are, the 
At my sister's wedding, with my flag

68 Reasons I Miss Israel

1) I miss getting to Ben Gurion Airport, where customs will say "Welcome Home."
Welcome home from DBG
2) I miss getting onto the bus as it pulls away, the bus driver rushing me on with a smile, knowing he's made my day a little easier.
3) I miss searching for hidden lions all over Jerusalem, sometimes just chilling out on rooftops.
4) I miss all the kosher options. Sure, New York has lots of kosher- but is the entire food court on the mall kosher?! I didn't think so!
5) I miss going from the biggest city to the second biggest city (Jerusalem to Tel Aviv) in under an hour- can you imagine getting from NYC to LA in an hour bus ride?!
6) I miss the bus ride from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv. It's long enough to snooze, browse Facebook and chat with a friend, but short enough that, before you know it, you're there!
7) I miss the weather. Today is beautiful in NYC, but I was in a coat for 2/3 of my visit- in MAY! Weather report in Israel? Sunny with a chance of gorgeous.
8) Speaking of weather change, I miss not having allergies. I forgot all about the intense suffering I had at the hands of New York pollen. Luckily, I haven't had one seasonal sniffle since my aliyah!
9) I miss my tiny studio apartment (which hasn't been robbed- I checked, thank G-d!) Just me and my 30
meters of personal space! And my shoes.
10) I miss being a round people who don't think making aliyah is insane. G-d bless my friends and their support for the Jewish state, but when I say I moved to Israel, half the time I get a look of utter shock. It's not that crazy, guys!
11) I miss Chabad and Breslov dance parties- in town, at the bus station, on top of their vans. I love seeing devotion to G-d set to an awesome techno beat, tzitzit flying everywhere!
12) I miss watching awesome street performers, like that Hasidic man who sings classic rock and the electric violinist lady who wails on some Josh Groban.
Street performers are the norm
13) I miss the street names, and the fact that I can live on a Sholom Aleichem instead of an Avenue U.
14) I miss how safe I feel in Israel. As I always tell people who worry, Israel is totally safe, with just a touch of terrorism! (Weirdly, this doesn't calm them...)
15) I miss using my Chofshi Chadshi (my monthly metro card.) Once I've paid it at the beginning of the month, I feel like I'm riding for free every time!
16) Speaking of the bus, and as much as I love driving, I miss the bus! I miss getting a ride back at the end of a long night, not having to worry about driving and ending up at my door- like magic!
Buses in Israel featuring the Shema prayer!
17) I miss the Mediterranean lifestyle! I miss seeing 5 Israeli men at a cafe at 2 PM on a Wednesday, not a care in the world! Do they work? Probably! But for now- Turkish coffee!
18) I miss hummus at every meal. You don't realize you are missing this Israeli staple until it's gone---and even worse, when it's there but it tastes bad!
19) I miss the little jingle that precedes the Israeli news on the radio.
20) I miss listening to the news, trying to understand the gist, and getting excited that half the words are names ("blah blah Barack Obama blah blah Benjamin Netanyahu blah blah California")
21) Speaking of politics- I miss our government! Dysfunctional as it may be, I can't wait to escape the Donald Trump/Hillary Clinton juggernaut that dominates the news here.
22) I miss hearing little kids speak Hebrew. In general, I love the sound of the language, but tiny people speaking it more fluently than I will ever in my life? Adorable!
23) I miss the artists' markets on Fridays. Even when you don't buy anything, it's beautiful to see such talent coming from me fellow Israelis.
24) I miss the Tel Aviv bus station- just kidding it's gross. But where else can you buy a coffee, get a tattoo, send money Western Union, pick up an outfit to go clubbing and catch a bus to Eilat- all in the same place?
25) I miss Goldstar. I'm so happy I love our national beer (sorry, I've never tried Maccabi) and I love that it's a delicious and economical choice!
26) I miss continuing my quest for best Israeli breakfast (pssst- it's Cafe Greg or Caffit so far)
(Israeli) breakfast is served!
27) I miss the desert. I don't spend that much time there, but every time I go there is such a peace in the silence. And G-d knows, I need to be silent sometimes.
28) I miss the North (of Israel). Like the desert, I don't spend enough time there, but every time I go- I'm dazzled by the green and the air and the natural beauty- I just love it.
29) I miss being a tour guide for visitors. Nothing better than a friend from NYC coming to visit and asking me what to do, where to go or what to eat. In my past life, I was a tour guide for sure. Now I'm just a frustrated tour guide. Who has eaten at every kosher restaurant in town.
30) I miss the indescribable feeling you get when beating the bureaucracy. Like when I figured out a bank issue or got my Israeli driver's license with only minimal agita. Priceless.
31) I miss Mizrachi music, my non-secret, non-guilty, guilty pleasure. Yalla Habibi!!
32) I miss having my Hebrew corrected (constantly and without remorse) every time I speak (or text.) In America, everyone thinks I'm fluent and back home, Israelis think I speak like a 3rd grader with a concussion.
33) I miss watching awkward dates of Hareidim in lobbies. I don't feel bad saying this, because for a long while, I had those dates myself. Hello from the other side!
34) I miss the arsim who always make me feel hot, even when I am looking definitely not.
35) I miss the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv rivalry and how I started off firmly Team Jerusalem and now I'm a bit less sure.
36) I miss Sarona Market in Tel Aviv. I went to Chelsea market here in NYC, which is almost exactly the same, but it's indoors! Total win for Sarona!
Sarona is a paradise
37)  I miss not having to hear about how expensive yeshiva tuition is. We get it, America, you pay a lot for your kids to not learn Hebrew very well. Move to Israel already!
38) I miss Israeli slang, now that I'm starting to understand it. Yes, I do "chaya b'seret/live in a movie" thanks for noticing!
39) I miss seeing tourists do double takes at the guy on the beach with the swim trunks and the rifle.
40) I miss rooting for my new favorite basketball team- Yalla Hapoel!
Love my team!
41) I miss discussing with tourists (especially non-Jewish European ones!) how different Israel is from how it's portrayed in the media.
42) I miss people being happy on rainy days. They know that the rain is a blessing, so they enjoy it. I still don't, but maybe one day!
43) I miss being wished a "Shabbat Shalom" or "Chag Sameach" by everyone- not just the religiously observant. And I miss saying it right back!
44) I miss the shuk on Fridays- I won't actually go there to shop, just to soak up the energy once in a while, when I become jaded about living in Jerusalem.
45) I miss watching the kids on Birthright fall in love with Israel. I often miss being the one who gets to show them Israel, but I miss seeing their faces as they come home for the first time.
46) I miss the shuk at night! Who would have ever thought Jerusalem would become a hub of nightlife? Certainy no one in Tel Aviv did! And yet here we are, with this awesome market that turns into the greatest place to spend a chill Tuesday (ar any) night, listening to music and gettinga drink with friends.
My man, Menachem Begin, spray painted at the shuk
47) I miss the quiet in the streets of Jerusalem on Shabbat. Though we're not all observant in the city, most people observe shabbat in some way, and the streets become very still and traffic is super slow, You don't get that in many places on a Saturday!
48) And I miss how the city comes alive on a Thursday night. As a country where the day off is Friday, not Sunday, Thursday night is our Saturday night (you follow?) Thursday night is the night to party, and I rarely stay in- although

I used to love to stay in Saturday nights in NYC. There's just too much going on in Israel on a Thursday night!
49) I miss roof parties! With awesome weather for over half the year and limited indoor space, roof parties are probably my favorite kind. Other than wine parties, Those are really my favorite.
50) I miss wine parties. Particularly on Wednesdays.
51) I miss the views from the bus heading into or out of Jerusalem. There is usually a noticeable quieting as everyone on the bus gazes out onto a truly breathtaking view out our windows
This view!
52) I miss starting renditions of Israel's national anthem, Hatikva, everywhere I go and having my friends roll their eyes before they join in too for the big finish.
53) I miss starting singalongs on public buses during festivals like Purim and Yom Ha'atzmaut, where the whole bus joins in a sings "David Melech Yisrael" at the top of their lungs.
54) I miss Cofix! I miss being able to get a beer, a sandwich, a soup or an iced coffee for just 5 shekel! In a country where we try to be frugal- it's the best!
55) I miss staring at the boys in Tel Aviv- some of the handsomest in the world. I actually think that's a fact I read in an article somewhere, but even if it's not, it's true. 
56) I miss "Chag Sameach" for whichever holiday it happens to be flashing on buses and in all store windows. I'm still new enough here that seeing "Chanuka Sameach" on the bus makes my whole day.
Happy Purim! Love, Jerusalem
57) I miss the festivals! I can't wait for the summer and my favorite, the Summer Wine Festival and the Arts Festival-Chutzot Hayotzer. But really, there's always some festival happening in Jerusalem at any time- anyone remember Japanese Culture Week?
Summer Wine Festival- best night of the year!
58) I miss seeing a mezuza on every door. It's still weird to head into a room here in the States and automatically kiss every doorway, and not have a little mezuza there to greet me.
59) I miss the attitude. I know that seems crazy, but being in NYC, where politeness is certainly not a virtue, I miss the kind of well-meaning aggressiveness Israelis have. Maybe it's because I'm from NYC, and not short on chutzpah, but I don't mind the rough Israeli style, I can handle it just fine.
60) I miss the diversity of Jews. I never realized it, but in my New York bubble, my Jewish friends are a bit...homogeneous. They are wonderful, beautiful and amazing- but we are all pretty much the same. Israel boasts Jews from every country, speaking every language, with every culture, living in one tiny space. It's pretty awesome.
61) I miss the bubble. I miss not knowing what movies are out, what songs are popular, and what are the must-see shows. There are probably Israelis who know all these things, but I don't! Don't get me wrong, I'm still pretty up on pop-culture, but I do like the extra degree of separation that comes from living 6,000 miles away from the US.
62) I know this will sound a little crazy coming from me, but I miss the coexistnce. sometimes there are times of fear or mistrust, but generally, the different cultures of Israel get along just fine. In the malls, the supermarkets, on the light rail or at the bank- citizens of Israel generally get along just fine with one another, and it's a good thing.
63) I miss our soldiers. Some of my favorite people in Israel have served or currently serve in the IDF, so our army is made up of people I truly love-whether I know them personally or not. May G-d bless them and keep them safe.
64) I miss my friends who have become my family, especially my fellow olim. There is a bond that comes with moving to Israel alone. I may not celebrate the holidays with my mom and dad and sisters, but I have some incredible new friends in my life who help me miss them a little less around the holidays.
65) I miss how everyone here feels like your family, and how they may yell at you one miniute, but they will kiss and hug you and invite you for shabbat the next minute- just like your real family.
66) I miss wishing someone who has just made aliyah a "Mazal tov!" Who says that when someone moves to Canada or England? I also miss making people "Mazel tov on your Aliyah!" posters!
My family hasn't made aliyah (yet!) but I can dream, right?
67) I miss learning new things about Israel every day. Whether it's a new Hebrew expression, a new historical fact or a new place to get the best cafe hafuch, I can't wait to learn more!
68) I miss feeling like I'm home. I will always love America deeply, for it's freedom and because the people I love most live here. But I live in the homeland of the Jews, and that is the great gift.

   So HAPPY 68th BIRTHDAY, Israel! You are beautiful and you are brave, you are ancient and you are young, you are traditional and you are innovative. You are a home to us all- and we love you!