Life in Israel
I am writing this story from the perspective of a five-year American immigrant to Haifa, Israel. Many of my years in America were spent on the beautiful Western Slope of the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. By many people's standards I enjoyed a quiet, idyllic life of peaceful serenity. Many of my thoughts and those of my neighbors-were filled with green surroundings, beautiful lakes, and regional wildlife. My life as an Oleh (immigrant) is certainly far from serene.Why did I make this dramatic change in my life? There are many reasons. The most important is that I firmly believe that the return of the Jewish people to the land of our roots is destiny. It is a destiny with spiritual, religious, social, and political implications that have already proven to have historical implications. Haifa was my choice of city in this incredibly complicated and diverse nation due to the beautiful scenery, balmy weather, and cultural harmony of this glorious metropolis. Haifa is located on the sea and hosts a wonderful tiyelat or boardwalk.
At some point in your first few months as a new immigrant in Israel reality sets in and challenges replace idealism. You realize that, even though your decision was the correct one, you still must overcome some hurdles that you hadn't expected before your sojourn to the holy land. My experience has been that dealing with the differences in culture are the greatest obstacles to overcome for new Olim to Israel. I have also learned that my prejudices are an obstacle for me as well. I brought a series of expectations of life in Israel that turned out to be very different than reality. Israel is a nation of seven million people from numerous social and cultural backgrounds. Twenty per cent of Israelis are Muslim, Christian, Druze and other faiths in addition to the Jewish citizens of this new nation. There are three national languages: Hebrew, Arabic, and English. Russian is widely spoken.
Gossip is a favorite pastime of many Israelis. I learned very quickly upon immigrating to Israel to protect personal information with great diligence. The purchase of a new shirt can often be the subject of great interest in my community. My love life is shared with my closest confidants only, at times to my regret.. Judaism considers gossip spoken without a constructive purpose (known in Hebrew as an evil tongue, lashon hara) as a sin. All the tenants in your building know how much you earn and the size of your monthly payments. What will be the eternal fate of my neighbors!
Even though they teach you the word "savlanut" or patience, no one seems to have any. There is no shame in asking. You can negotiate a parking fine and generally get out of it. No one will refund your money, once you've parted with it, it is gone for good. Refunds, even at many large stores tend to be a difficult battle at best.
My greatest frustration in dealing with some of my new neighbors is the "all Americans are friars" mentality. Friar is the Hebrew word for sucker. The belief is shared by many Israelis is that all Americans are millionaires and easily part with their riches. In my five years in Israel, I've been asked to buy homes by non-owners several times. Strangers have begged me for loans on countless occasions with vows of poverty accompanied such pleas. Much of the time I discovered that my neighbors were far better off than I am financially. There have been many occasions that fellow diners in restaurants tried to stick me with every one's bills. I try to confront these obnoxious behaviors and always get the same response. "Your a rich American, what do you care!" I have come to learn with time that all French, Spanish, and Russians tourists and immigrants are rich also! I should have no difficulty meeting a nice and wealthy Jewish girl in this country.
I have given great thought and received much counseling on the subject of Friarism. I must remember that many of my new neighbors come from the most difficult backgrounds in history. Indeed, the old axiom that money is the root of all evil may also apply in Eretz Canaan. Perhaps the scarcity of natural riches in Israel concerns all of us. Let us blame Moshe or Moses for our errant behavior. Let me tell you something that we Israelis have against our famous forefather. He took us through the desert for forty years to bring us to the one spot in the Middle East that has no oil!
It might seem to the readers that I am frustrated or even angry at the spiritual nature of my new neighbors. I have learned to ignore the gossip and occasionally greed surrounding me. I try to remind myself that many of my new friends come from backgrounds where it was prohibited or even dangerous to speak openly or enjoy opportunities that we all take for granted. I have learned to truly appreciate the freedoms that I enjoyed in The United States and now enjoy in Israel.
"Above all, this country is our own. Nobody has to get up in the morning and worry what his neighbors think of him. Being a Jew is no problem here." Thank you Golda Meir!