Tuesday, June 05, 2007

The Top Twelve Reasons I Don't Live In Israel

Apparently Nefesh b'Nefesh is hosting some sort of event where people list great reasons to make aliyah. Jameel even made this neat book cover to go with his list.

Unfortunately, this sort of thing inspires the Balabusta to flip out. I'm not sure why. On the face of it, I don't plan to make aliyah--OK, nu, so I don't plan to make aliyah. People who have done seem awfully happy, and I'm happy for them (the Balabusta is a hard-core theoretical Zionist), and maybe I really should make aliyah--but herewith are some of the major reasons I don't.

1. Throughout the past couple thousand years, the Diaspora has produced vibrant, glorious, kickass Jewish cultures. I am still part of one. I believe that it is important. I belong to an old and constantly evolving Jewish community, one that has demonstrated its ability to thrive without being rooted in the auld sod. Jews are like tumbleweeds. We pull up roots easily, but each plant carries with it the potential to create a whole new world of tumbleweeds. (Also, we push over people's fences, and...OK, I am not going any farther with the tumbleweed analogy.)

2. Also, I don't speak much Hebrew, at least not modern-type Hebrew. Tanach I can manage. I realized the flexibility and the limitations of my Chumash-based vocabulary the day I realized I did not know the Hebrew word for 'car' (although 'tank' I could manage), but when one of my father's oddball Lutheran friends asked how to say 'How many camels to make that little girl my wife?' I could answer with ease.

3. I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m freeeeee,
And I won't forget the men who died, who gave that right to me.
And I gladly stand up, next to you, and defend her still today.

‘Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land, God bless the USA.

This reason loses something on the screen, since you cannot hear the Balabusta's gleeful offkey singing in an assumed Southern accent, and you also lose out on her final yell of "PROUD to be an 'Murkin". It is, nevertheless, true. I am so absolutely gone on this country it boggles the mind.

4. I'm not rich enough to make aliyah. Please note Jameel's little jab about 'leaving wealth and luxury', well, as I already whinged at Jameel's site, I don't have enough wealth and luxury to leave it behind.

As I also whinged at Jameel's site, I think I was scarred for life by a column in the JPost a couple of years ago. It was written as a welcome letter to two typical new American olim, and I kind of freaked out badly about it. It burbled on quite a bit about cleaning ladies and 'good' schools.

5. I am not smart enough for Israeli politics. I cannot deal with all these teeny-tiny political parties, and shifting loyalties, and the way Sharon is a big hero to the settlers one day and a big villain the next, and the weird British-inspired thing where you have elections any time a bunch of people get a bug up their nether bits. It's too confusing. I am proud to be an 'Murkin, where at least I remember the name of the two important parties, and when the next election is.

6. I enjoy the intense frustration on new employer's faces when they realize they can't get out of giving me the High Holidays off. I would miss that, if we ALL had yontiff off, and they didn't even think about it.

7. I have an addictive personality. If I give in to the pressure to go live in Israel where the action is, soon I will get pressured into living in the West Bank. And then I will get pressured into moving into a not-quite-legal settlement. And then a not-quite-legal settlement without running water. And then (and all this could happen in just a couple of weeks) I will be living up a hill smack-dab in the middle of Ramallah, in a shelter made out of a couple of shopping carts. Or sleeping on Jameel's couch.

8. If I were a convert, the Israeli rabbinate wouldn't recognize my conversion, and if I married in Israel they wouldn't recognize my marriage, and frankly, I'm just not in the mood for all of that. And if my Conservative shul is to come under attack, frankly, I'd just a soon that Gentiles be behind it.

9. Do you have any idea how long a flight that is to be back in San Francisco for the chagim? I would be a WRECK.

10. When is the last time two ######## whales unexpectedly took a wrong turn into the Gulf of Aqaba? Thought so. Also, the Jerusalem Pride Parade seems to be having trouble getting off the ground, while in San Francisco we line downtown with rainbow flags for weeks in advance.

11. If I leave now, the terrorists win.

12. I do not believe there is a single Trader Joe's in all of Israel. And if you think I am driving to frickin' Amman for my kosher chicken, my Tuscan Italian salad dressing, my organic tomato sauce or my really cheap palm hearts, you have got another think coming.


aliyah06 said...

I can't believe we used to be almost-neighbors!! (San Rafael, the Other End of the Bridge).

Seriously, moving to Israel isn't so grim. Even at my advanced age, I am picking up the language altho I admit I understand far better than I speak.....

The NBN meme is Just For Fun...and its also an exercise for us olim to remember why we want to be here. Believe me, I miss the fog there. I DON'T miss begging for the holidays off, or worse, begging for my kids to get out of tests; I don't miss Santa Claus, tinsel and mass consumerism around December 25th, complete with Muzak carols; you don't need Trader Joe's because (1) everything in the markets is kosher and (2) you can shop at Ramy Levi's, which is just as cheap if not cheaper. It's as multi-ethnic and multi-cultural as the SFBA, and don't sweat the Rabbinute--do what everyone else does: ignore it. While Jerusalem is having its issues with the Gay Pride Parade, Tel Aviv is very gay-friendly; if Masorti and Reformi don't come to Israel, then the Hareidi win. No one comes to Israel that I know with wealth and luxury--we're all struggling (which was kind of the point of NBN--to help the younger folks who could no way make it here without help). I don't have a cleaning lady. If you can figure out the Electoral College and the jury system, you can handle Israeli politics. You will live where you can afford to live, and the closer to cafe, school, and bookstore it is, the better. Remember, Tel Aviv is a "settlement" to the Palestinians...It's 20-23 hours back to SF unless you catch the direct-to-LA 13 hour flight....a better plan is to layover in Paris, London, Copenhagen or NYC for 24-48 hours, sleep a bit, shop a bit, eat out, then continue. We have no lost humpbacks, but we have the best diving in the world in Eilat, and you can swim with the wild dolphins down there. Kibbutz Harduf does all things organic and it's products are very popular and universally available.

See? Its not so bad here---but everything happens for its reason, and maybe you're supposed to be in El Cerrito. I'm perfectly fine with that, because on my next trip home, I'm going to look you up and meet for coffee if you're up for it! {grin}

Anonymous said...

So what kind of Zionist are you, if you honestly believe that Aliyah is only for rich Jews who already speak Hebrew?

FWIW, my list is pretty similar to yours, but I wouldn't call myself a hard-core Zionist. More like a tepid Zionist of the left-wing variety, who's much more into the whole 'Am Yisrael' thing than the 'Eretz Yisrael' thing...

Balabusta in Blue Jeans said...

aliyah06--You make it sound pretty good...as good as the Bay Area? Hard sell. Call me next time you're in town. We'll have coffee.

anonymous--What kind of a Zionist am I? Well, for starters, I am not the one who believes that aliyah is only for the rich. But can you swear that the way it's promoted doesn't encourage you to think so?

Also, I do NOT accept that 'Zionist' means that I have to believe all Jews should live in Israel. I believe that a Jewish state is an essential. I believe that I have an obligation to such a state, wherever I live, although not necessarily a greater one than to Jews everywhere. I don't believe that once we have one, everyone going is the only way to go.

aliyah06 said...

Bravissima! Zionism, as Dr. King put it so well, means that the Jews have the right to self-determination in their own country. It doesn't mean we all have to live together in a super-ghetto because the Diaspora got ugly, or that we should shun Diaspora life and the cross-pollenization that it brings.

You're on for coffee next time I'm in town. {grin} Thanks!

BTW--Lehrhaus Judaica has some relatively painless one-night-a-week excellent courses in Modern Hebrew if you want to start early, whether you're making aliyah or just making vacation here.((-: It's only 5 minutes from you, on Bancroft underneath Berkeley Hillel.

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