Sunday, February 9, 2014

Happy Aliyah Anniversary....

Just last week was our 19th Aliyah anniversary.  Although it might not be a nice round number, like the 20th or an important numerical Hebrew anniversary like the 18th (chai), I felt it was an important one.  Firstly, as you know, the Hebrew and English calendar coincide every 19 years making the English and Hebrew date exactly the same.  So this past week, our English Aliyah anniversary landed on exactly the same date as our Hebrew Aliyah anniversary and I felt that alone was reason enough to commemorate the date.  But this year, also felt like a monumental one as it marked the year our daughter was inducted into the army, making us - her parents - feel like full-fledged Israelis in a way I personally have not felt like before.
So, I thought I would jot down 19 personal reasons why I love living in this country....

1.  Food shopping.  No hunting for a kosher symbol on food anymore.  Walk into any supermarket and everything is at your fingertips.... My pantry is filled with hundreds of gourmet kosher food both made here and imported from around the world.  It's like a kosher food expo every time I do my grocery shopping.

2.  Weather.  After the CRAZY 40-below-0 degree winter that North America and Europe had this past winter, (and even we had our five day knee deep snow in Jerusalem) you can't beat living in a country where it's relatively warm for 8 months out of the year.

3.  Israeli chutzpah/kindness. This seems like an odd one, but while encountering tremendous chutzpah on a daily basis (read my previous blog about fraiers) you will encounter tremendous kindness in almost equal doses.  Those same people who will refuse to let you go ahead of them in the  supermarket because you have three items to their buggy-full of groceries, will help you change your tire if you discover you have a flat in the supermarket parking lot.

4.  Holidays.  If it's one thing this country knows how to do, it's to celebrate the holidays.  As much as I used to enjoy the vibe of the holiday season in North America, it's a relief to walk in the mall and not encounter Santa Claus with a line-up of kids wanting to sit on his lap (slightly creepy, if you ask me...), loud Christmas carols blasting from speakers and a huge Christmas tree with flashing lights in front of City Hall.  We've got sukkah decorations, gourmet donuts and hamentaschen and an enormous chanukiyah in front of our City Hall.  And no need to explain to your boss why you need to take time off work for the Feast of the Tabernacles....

5.  Nature.  This tiny country boasts amazing nature trails and natural wonders at every turn.  Despite its size, we have snow-capped mountains where you can ski during the winters, warm tropical beaches, natural waterfalls, the largest natural crater in the world and miles of endess desert.

6.  My community.  I love where I live.  Most of us, having made Aliyah alone and without our family nearby have made our community our family.  We care for one another and count on one another in ways that you don't normally find in other communities in North America.  

7.  Being the majority.  Growing up as a small minority in Toronto, Canada, it's nice for once to really and truly belong - to be part of a growing majority of Jewish people living in a Jewish country.

8.  Yom Ha'atzma'ut.  If you want to see true patriotism, stick around for our Independence Day.  Situated right after our Yom HaZikaron (Memorial Day), we appropriately mourn and remember our heroes who sacrificed themselves for the future of Israel.  And then the next day we celebrate our independence.  The country is inundated with flags, and families and friends from all over the country get together for hikes, picnics and BBQs.

9.  Living in the shadow of our history.  It's an amazing thing to be able to visit the Old City and touch the actual walls that were built around our temple, or to walk along the ramparts built by King David.  Our schools trips are not only to theme parks and science centers, but to historical archeological sites and ancient ruins of Jewish civilization that once lived here thousands of years ago.  You can't get that anywhere else....

10.  Restaurants.  Maybe with the exception of New York City, no other place in the world has the choice and creativity when it comes to kosher dining.  And these restaurants are open late, not closed by 8PM... (Hope you're listening, Toronto...)

11.  Safety.  I know many of you are snorting right now.  Yes, while there are still rockets occasionally being fired from the Gaza Strip into Sderot and other yishuvim in the south, our country is relatively a safe place to live.  Our army protects us in ways we couldn't possibly imagine, but I guess you have to live here to understand that....

12.  Bilingual.  While my Hebrew is not great by any stretch of the imagination (I understand almost everything, but I can't conjugate verbs if my life depended on it....), my kids are truly bilingual.  It's a gift that my moving here has given them.

13.  My tropical trees.  My husband and I went to Florida (to DisneyWorld) for our honeymoon and from the moment I got off the plane, I decided that one day I wanted palm trees in my backyard.  I knew that I couldn't stay in Toronto for that, and once we decided to make Aliyah, I knew that one day I would get my palm trees.  After three years of living in Jerusalem, we bought a house and had a gardener come to give us a quote.  I told him that he could do whatever he wanted with the garden, but that it had to have palm trees.  I have three.  I've also got a lemon tree with juicy succulent lemons at my fingertips and gorgeous birds of paradise that reach my shoulder.

14.   Quiet streets on Shabbat.  I love Shabbat - the food, the socializing, the reconnection with friends and family - but one of the things I love most is the quiet.  You don't get that in cities in Israel, but living in a yishuv like I do, the minute you light candles on Shabbat, there is a calmness, a stillness and a sense of serenity that takes over.  Men, women and children start pouring out onto the streets and the overall vibe changes.

15.   The view from my living room window.  While there is a large border-wall across the hill from my house, there are no houses.  I have an unobstructed view of hills, olive groves, trees and the odd donkey or deer roaming across the valley.  On a clear day, you can see straight to Tel Aviv and after a good rainshower, the rainbows that stretch out over the valley are breathtaking.

16.  Personal Independence.  There's something very healthy about leaving your hometown and your community and moving far far away.  I moved at the young age of 23 with just my husband and my infant daughter.  There's a lot of personal growth, independence and maturity going on when you're essentially on your own and I doubt I'd be the same person had I stayed in Toronto. 

17.  Weddings.  I love weddings here - not such a big fan of them there.  Anyone who's been to a chupah here in Israel knows that the minute the groom says, "harei at mikudeshet li...", everyone bursts out into song, cheering the newly married couple.  I guess being in Israel so long, I had forgotten what a somber and almost funereal event a chupah is back at home.  I started clapping and singing the minute my brother said those words under the chupah and my sister-in-law grabbed my hands to stop me from clapping and shushed me while my sister looked at me quizzically.  No clapping, singing or cheering there.  And to me, it doesn't feel like a celebration.  I love chupahs here and I'm glad that one day, G-d willing, my children will get married here where I can clap and sing along with everyone else without feeling like a freak.

18.  Supermarket checkout ladies.  This seems like a weird one, but it's true.  I love my supermarket checkout ladies.  I see them regularly and they greet me like an old friend.  They don't just pass your items under the scanner and tell you how much you owe, but they occasionally pick up something and say, "what do you use this for?"  And then they grab a piece of paper and jot down your comments.  A few weeks ago, I bought a frozen corned beef in Mega and the checkout lady said she always wanted to buy it but had no idea what to do with it.  I told her how to prepare it and she grabbed a piece of paper and began to write down the recipe.  I've known Vicky, the multi-pierced, multi-hair colored checkout lady from Mega for over 15 years.  She's seen my kids grow up, she's met my parents who've gone shopping with me in the past and she's helped me with my Hebrew while I've helped her with her English.  You know you have a relationship with your checkout lady when it's a week before Thanksgiving and she reminds you to order your turkey....

19.  The Law of Return.  Being the granddaughter of holocaust survivors, this law means so much to me.  To know that no matter what, Israel will automatically welcome all Jews is what is one of the reasons that makes this country a great one.

While these might not be your average reasons for liking where you live, they are mine....
What are yours?