Thursday, January 12, 2012

"Life in Israel," The View From Here

Bat Aliyah, a much more recent olah immigrant than myself, just posted a long list of the things she finds most special about living here in Israel, Eretz Yisrael, the HolyLand.  We're different generations and made aliyah decades apart.  The America I left is nothing like it is today or a decade ago.  My husband and I got married in June, 1970, and docked at Haifa Port as olim chadashim, new immigrants early September, 1970, before Rosh Hashanah.

I had to google to find this picture of myself in Maon Betar, Old City Jerusalem, 1970
That was over forty-one years ago, which is ancient history for many.  At that time, pre-internet, cell phones, fax etc, there was an enormous difference between daily life in Israel and most of the "Western world."  When we went on shlichut to do youth work in London, we discovered that some things in London were even more primitive than in Israel.  Living there (London) would have had been much harder straight from NY.  Hot and cold water came out of separate faucets, and refrigerators were the size of washing machines for example.  The Golders Green furnished apartment didn't even have a washing machine.  A couple of times a week I'd schlepp all of the clothes to a laundromat, and that included the diapers after our third daughter was born.

Back to Israel...
I can't imagine living any place else.  I don't feel "at home" in the states.

Some of my favorite things about living here:
  • being able to ask a salesperson in a housewares store instructions about what get "tovelled," (mikvah-dipped)
  • the public/school/work holidays are Jewish ones
  • Hebrew idioms are Biblical or based on Jewish Law
  • there's an inescapable feeling of solidarity
  • streets names, from the Bible, Jewish History, Land of Israel, Modern Jewish heroes and most exciting... people I've actually known.
  • unshaven men on TV, in important public positions etc because it's sefira or the "3 Weeks" or they're in shloshim (first 30 days of mourning a close relative)
  • men and women working in all types of jobs wearing religious hair-coverings
  • knowing that the rain is a blessing from G-d
And what are yours?


rutimizrachi said...

Beautiful! And I am very impressed that you kids got married and came on aliyah before you were teenagers. Well, it must be so, since you are such kids yet today. ;-)

Batya said...

yes, Ruti, before we were born...

Hadassa said...

The two-shekel coin is colloquially called a shnekel.
My husband would post these:
When you have a big beard and a kippa a complete stranger stuck on a crossword puzzle will come up to you and say, "Religious song, four letters, begins with 'p' and ends with 't'." (The answer, which my husband knew, is piyut, and has four letters in Hebrew.)
When a complete stranger stops you in the supermarket, list in hand and asks, "Excuse me, do you have any idea what's written here?" and you answer, "Argh, my wife does that too!" you both laugh together.
People pray anywhere, and no-one thinks it's strange behavior - unless, of course they think that prayer in general is strange..

Anonymous said...

i too cant imagine living anywhere else, but i also think you need to distinguish living in eretz yisrael from living with a large concentration of religious/traditional jews. a number of your items can be true anywhere there are a large [and insular] conglomeration of jews.

Hadassa said...

a, Honestly, do you believe that all or even most of the items listed here and on Bat Aliyah can be found anywhere outside of Israel? Even the solidarity of Jewish communities outside of Israel is very different. In Israel it's a "we're all at home together" feeling. Outside of Israel it's a "we're all hanging together as a minority" feeling.

Batya said...

a, what countries have Jewish holidays, including shavuot, as an official day off?

Ruti, Hadassa, there was something I had been planning on including but forgot:
"I don't have to make excuses to justify and explain why I'm not living in Israel!"

rutimizrachi said...

Good one! I identify completely.

Mrs. S. said...

Excellent list!

"I can't imagine living any place else."
That's exactly how I feel!

Batya said...


Kimberly said...

The street names are something that always calls my attention. Last year I was in Argentina, and got this apartment rental in Buenos Aires in a street called El Alfabeto = The Alphabet. It was funny to be staying in such a lovely street!