Am I supposed to be here?

It’s been 15 years since I came out to my family that I’d be moving to Israel after university finished. It was two years before the ‘disengagement’, it was during the second intifada, a couple years after Nefesh b’Nefesh started. I was searching for a lot of things, but I knew this much was true – I was definitely going to live in Israel and I was most likely not going to leave.

You could take any 15-year cross section of modern Israeli history and you’ll get more than a fair share of critical events, national milestones, ups, downs. It’s not that my 15 year cross section is any different or special. But it’s mine. And it leaves me hanging, grasping to pull myself up off the edge of a cliff and the thing is, I’m not really sure what is back up there where I have assumed I belong.

It’s different than being an American, I guess. Firstly, I’m an expat; I can get cross-eyed all I want at the State of Things but at the end of the day, aside from a bare annual tax return, I go to bed in my Israeli village. And America is a Big Problem, a Vast Problem. I’m not here to be part of that solution right now.

But Israel… it’s small. It’s mine. Isn’t that why I committed to here?

According to the acting government, it is – by birthright – and it isn’t – by standards I don’t share.

According to the citizens, well, it’s shred to pieces. King Solomon would be so sorry.

According to the Palestinians, it sure isn’t but it’s not clear what it indeed is, then.

According to everyone else, it’s no one’s really. It never really was ours and it never really was theirs.

I’ve watched promise after promise, government after government, coalition after coalition, liar after liar… polarization gets deeper. If the people who hold the power had their way, would they want me here? Am I supposed to be here?

So what happens next? I work hard and pay taxes and watch it all go in a direction I don’t want to be a part of? I always tell other people the pendulum swings back… but how long will this one take? Fight or flight. What’s the fight for this time? And how do we get started?

I used to feel like moving here allowed me to be a free Jew. I could pray freely, eat freely, practice freely. Except I’ve never felt so unfree ideologically. Whose Israel? Whose Judaism?

I don’t know. 15 years isn’t that long. It’s also really long if your Israeli and [secular/ national religious/ charedi/ reform/ liberal/ conservative/ unsure/ of European origin/ of Russian origin/ of Mizrahi origin/ of Arab origin/ of African origin/ gay/ refugee/ mentally ill/ physically disabled/ war veteran/ grieving mother/ chained wife/ farmer/ venture capitalist/ country folk/ city folk].

For better and worse, we’re all here. Beyond/despite/within 15-year intervals, I don’t think any of us are free.

To Be Israeli is to Be Free
2004. It’s really… just a dream.






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