There’s a third camp…

…the people who just live here.

I’ve seen one too many Western aliyah/Anglo-bashing/Anglo-praising/Anglo-centric articles in the last week so now I’m just gonna mouth off a little.

It seems people are either complaining about Anglos who need to get over it – ‘yes life is a struggle here in Israel, deal with it‘ – or people are complaining about… what a struggle it is to live in Israel, from the bank lines to the bureaucracy to the… Israelis.

Guess what? They’re both valid whine-fests. And it’s been that way for years. And it will always be that way.

Vatikim – I wholeheartedly agree, the complaining is annoying. I can’t read another ‘it’s so hard here’ article. But you know what? I remember when you and me used to say the same thing.

Does that mean we should belittle the newbies’ feelings? Offer superficial cries of ‘get over this’ ‘deal with that’ ‘forget the things you loved’? Did that help you when you got here 5, 10, 15, 30 years ago? Is it what you needed to hear from the others who are most like you in culture of origin?

Therapy is expensive. Why shouldn’t people feel like they can vent on their blogs, in their emails, at their Shabbat tables?

Newbies – Level with me. Did you really think it would be golden here? Picking up and relocating would be a breeze and everyone would be nice to you because the citizens here all have circumcisions? Did you really believe everything the aliyah reps gushed about? All the stock photos on their websites? Or the photos of people getting off planes? Did you consider what comes a year down the line? Five years?

Where was your research? Talking to people who have been here 5, 10, 15, 30 years and have made it? Overcome/live with the struggles? They could have explained it. Organizations get funding to get you here. Come on, Westerners – we of all people know how advertisement works!

I went through the same initial phase of wonderment – everything an anthropological study, everything a sigh of amazement at being Home… I fell in love with Israel over snippets of visits, like every other good college student of the 80s-today. And I tried really hard to temper my expectations. It’s the first thing a potential oleh must know when they’re ready for the practical living conversation. Stay open-minded if you plan to stay. Easier to do when you come young, single, with no clear career yet, (like I was lucky to have done).

We just live here now. If we’re lucky, we have a mortgage. And if we’re luckier, we can afford to pay it. It’s challenging here, it’s challenging there. I have homeowner friends in the States with big houses to tend, but I don’t dream of that. Maybe some do here, but I don’t. I like my manageable lifestyle. I work to live. I’m happy here. I have some real struggles – and I’m not talking the superficial ones I’ve seen mentioned in some of these articles – struggles any of us have. But I like living here. I don’t want to be anywhere else right now. I actually am home.

Do you feel at home? If you do, I’m really glad. If you’re doing what’s best for you, you can really be happy here.

And, yeah, the whining annoys me too. It does. Whining in general annoys me. Ask my three-year-old. I’m not saying I agree with the whining, the complaining, the cries of ‘how rude’ at every turn. B’ktana, Israelis say. There are big picture days and days that get lost in the details.

But I’m saying, Seniors, let’s not forget our own humble beginnings here. Let’s not be mean. This isn’t high school with freshmen haze. Let’s strive to be helpful and guiding, or mind our own business if we can’t manage that much.

And in my 7+ years here, I’ve watched dozens of people leave. I have a 1:3 theory but it’s not based on much. They leave for so many reasons… boredom. Bad fit. Looking for love. Academia. Adventure. Loss. Family. Work. It’s personal, it’s serious, and it’s most of the time none of my business, yet still deserves to be treated with respect.

So tossing out the ‘so go back to the U.S.’ comment is silly and pointless. Leaving is complicated. Like making aliyah.

I guess I just did exactly what I am, er, whining about. Going on about the newbie ‘haters’ and the ‘hater’ newbies (still can’t believe someone used the word ‘hate’ against fellow olim in one of those TOI comments).

It’s Sfirat HaOmer. We’re in a period of introspection, of preparation, of reflection. We’re in it together, Westerners. And that goes for you too, Mizrachim, Holocaust survivors, Ethiopians, Russians, lost souls and adventurers.

And by the way, potential olim – ask me anything about living here. I feel confident enough to have nothing to hide.


Also – Times of Israel – I’m rooting for you. But I’m not sure what your strategy is here… It’s obvious these are topics that your audience, local or abroad, care about very much. So that’s a good strategy, but maybe make it more obvious these articles are in the blogs section?

Speaking more broadly, TOI as a whole seems pretty blog-heavy. Community-focused. There are definitely beautiful things in that. But it seems there’s a risk here of the publication becoming an opinion factory over serious news source, as opposed to offering all sides of media to give a really deep content experience. At least, that’s what I assumed it’s about. Most of the articles I see shared are the ops/blogs which is natural but I’d love to see you blow Ynet out of the water when it comes to interesting, well-researched feature pieces (not that it would be hard…).

Or at the very least more like this ;)





7 responses to “There’s a third camp…”

  1. Liz Avatar

    Ok, disclaimer: I 100% made up the 1:3 number. It’s based on my own feelings of ‘for every two friends I seem to make, a third leaves.’ I miss you guys, though.

  2. Yosef Avatar

    I’m one of the three. Two, three, soon to be four of the three, if you count the whole family, and deciding to leave Israel was a shock to the Zionist that had come to be suppressed deep within me. When I got to Israel I was young, pioneering and ready to devote my life to the country. Did I complain? Sure I did! Did we have an awesome time spending our Israeli money in Israeli bars in our Anglo bubble while complaining? Absolutely! I close my eyes for just five seconds and YEARS of good times, shabbat meals, parties, bbqs, hikes and laughter flashes before my eyes.

    Do I regret my five years in Israel? Absolutely not! Do I regret leaving? Not at all.

    We reach a point in life where we make decisions. For me, “just being there” was no longer enough. My blue and white goggles were filled with murky water but I am grateful for the five years, most of which I remember favorably, that I lived the dream. I’m living the dream now, a different dream, but the dream of family and home ownership in a community I love.

    You have to let people whine. There has to be an outlet. There has to be hope that you CAN make it, get through the struggle and get to the other side. I didn’t feel that. My frustration was taboo. Without an outlet, it became anger. I’d been cheated. My dream was becoming a nightmare and I couldn’t wake up. No longer did I see the streets built by our ancestors for the reckless drivers that ruled the road.

    I applaud you, wholeheartedly, for encouraging people to turn to the people that have been there long term – those who made it, and those who made other choices. Big life decisions deserve full disclosure. Olim deserve honesty and it’s that honesty that will give people the strength to make it in the long run.

    Congratulations on your 7+ years. Next month it will be two years since we packed up and moved stateside and I can say I am ready to visit again. My feelings of anger/disappointment/self-loathing/frustration have subsided enough to the point that I could visit. That first trip will be difficult, we’ll be flirting with an ex, we’ll fall in love again, we’ll wonder why we left – but sometimes absence makes the heart grow fonder and I had fallen out of love with Israel. That’s a sad truth that I would hope olim and vatikim can avoid by whining, venting and being there for each other.

    1. Liz Avatar

      I, for one, would welcome you and the fam with open arms… even if it’s just for a visit ;)

  3. Ilan Avatar

    Walked 10 miles each day in the snow (even in July). Right. I remember feeling unhappy when told by someone “Israel is gained by suffering” when half my family came down with hepatitis right after we made aliyah. On the other hand the same source arranged for families to cook for us to take of some of the burden. I think that pretty much encapsulates my 15+ year experience here. Some things are hard and some are easier in Israel, but it is a package deal. I agree with Liz that listening with a sympathetic ear is also helping. Sometimes a person is just asking for some affirmation. Even sabras know that life in Israel is not perfect (some are even harsher in their criticism than I’d ever dare be).

    1. Liz Avatar

      I like that – “I think that pretty much encapsulates my 15+ year experience here.” Something that’s true for so many of us… Thanks for sharing… (And I’m sorry it was rough in the beginning!)

  4. Rachel Avatar

    I completely agree, and I am FAR from a vatika – I made aliyah a little over a year ago and adopted the strategy of “prepare for the worst and hope for the best.” And you know what, it’s been pretty good to us. Will we stay here “forever”? I don’t know, there’s a long time between now and then, am I going to complain about Hot and the post office and all the other little things? Yes, but I do that in the States as well. It is hard, but I have not regretted my decision for one minute.

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