Mesorah (Jewish stuff)

I Feel Guilty About Not Living in Israel

Last month I wrote this piece on Kveller about my kids’ obsession with Christmas decorations, and I noticed an interesting trend in responses, which prompted me to post this status update on Facebook:

Screen Shot 2016-01-17 at 9.05.19 AM

That led to a bunch of comments, mostly from chutzniks (people who live outside of Israel), though a few Israeli friends chimed in. For the most part, I felt validated and bolstered up by the comments, but there was a niggling feeling that I couldn’t shake: maybe I’m so bothered by comments about making aliyah because, deep down, I still feel guilty for not living in Israel.

You see, I was never supposed to live in chutz l’aretz (outside of the Land, the Land, of course, being Israel). When I was studying at Neve, I fully planned on living in Israel. Forever. I remember discussing on a date (not a date with my husband, I should mention), how I wanted my children to be able to play in the streets on Shabbos because there were literally no cars driving, unless it was someone going to the hospital or something along those lines.

I wanted to live under those blue, blue skies, among buildings built of Jerusalem stone and red roofs, a land of public transportation and public celebrations of the holidays, where the buses will tell me “chag sameach” and the secular cab drivers will give me mussar and say divrei Torah.

I remember being in a cab once, and the “non-religious” cab driver asked me some question about where the some verse from Tanach came from, and I didn’t know, and he remarked “what are they teaching you girls in that yeshivah?”

I wanted to live in a land where people I don’t know will tell me that my baby is too hot/too cold/should be in a wrap/should be in a stroller. I wanted to live in a land where I would have to become more aggressive to make it to the front of the line, where my children would play kugelach and speak Ivrit. Where the Kotel would be only a bus ride away.

When my Rav told me that I should try to date while I was home for the summer, I acquiesced, but was sure that nothing would come of it, because my bashert was clearly in Israel.

I was, obviously, wrong about that.

And so, after eight years of marriage, four kids, buying a house, selling that house, and buying a different house in a different American city, I have finally resigned myself to the reality that we are probably not going to be living in Israel anytime in the near future (bringing eternal delight to my parents and mother-in-law), with the exception of the arrival of Moshiach.

This realization wouldn’t be so difficult, perhaps, except there are things I really like about living in America. Lots of things. And, I have to say it, sometimes I feel glad that I don’t live in Israel.

Obviously, I live here, and I don’t think it’s healthy or correct to spend my days feeling guilty about enjoying where I live, about looking at the many good things about living here.

I know every location has its pros and its cons, and I’m aware that neither America or Israel is a utopia, but still, Israel is Israel. There is nothing that can compare. There are mitzvos that can only be done there, experiences that can happen only there. I’m happy to be American (don’t worry, Dad), but part of my heart will always want to be in Israel, even if other parts of my heart are happy to be here.

And yet, that pain I feel whenever I read a comment about it being time to make aliyah, or how all Jews belong in Israel, maybe the pain, the discomfort I feel is a punishment of sorts, for my waning desire to live in Israel, for my increasing comfort here in America. Maybe those difficult feelings are an internal rebuke of sorts, to keep me reminded that I should be yearning to live in Israel, on some level, even if I accept that right now my place to live is here in America. Does that make sense? Can you relate to that?

(Today is the last day to enter the giveaway to win two Zusha CDs – here’s the post where you can enter to win. You have until midnight tonight – Wednesday, January 27th)

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8 thoughts on “I Feel Guilty About Not Living in Israel

  1. My reaction here is — if it isn’t happening for you, you can still help make it happen for your kids. My super zionist-but-living-in-America parents raised me in a way that led to aliyah being my dream, goal, everything, and when I did make aliyah at 23, I had their full support. Like, people would ask me how my parents felt about me leaving, and I’d be all, “what do you mean? they’re so proud!”

    1. Yes, yes. This is pretty much what I’m hoping for, that my children settle in Israel and then we can retire there. I’m afraid to hope for it too much. I’m SO happy that you have your parents’ support! That is such a help, I’m sure.

  2. Oh my! Israel is wonderful. No doubt about that. I like your perspective on seeing both sides. Look at all the nachas you are providing for your parents and mother in law by living in the States.

    I feel your longing as I read this post. I empathize with the idealistic vision of living in israel and know so many who have realized that vision. This hasn’t come up for us because the bulk of my family and my husbands family lives in America. And family and parnasah seemed to trump idealism. But yes it’s a goal.

  3. While I can’t relate personally, I know you are soooooo not alone in this feeling. A lot of people I know, whenever they talk about moving to a new city, or are looking at a new house, or even having a simcha, they preface it with “I know it would be better if it was in Israel…” and I think that is coming from this place where they acknowledge that they are happy here, but that they do feel a bit of pain or guilt in their heart about not being in Israel. I honestly–and please don’t read this negatively–have no desire to live in Israel (and that has everything to do with me and nothing to do with whether or not Israel is a fantastic place because it is), but I take immense comfort knowing it is there. I think it is a brilliant, wonderful place and is, in my opinion, absolutely critical for long term Jewish survival. Maybe my kids will want to live there, maybe they won’t, but I am so deeply thankful that should they want to or should they have to, there is that option and we will continue to send our money and our prayers to Israel.

  4. Rivka, We made Aliyah. Hashem was kind enough to give us three months and a few days. (we are so thankful that it was long enough to be citizens). Because it was not the right time for us, we had to come back. I still wish I was in Israel and miss it so badly. For me it was a big difference between being in Israel and here. The whole feeling about Israel was Holy. I hope that Hashem will allow us to go back one day.

  5. You know where I live. :)
    And this is one of those things that I don’t miss about America,

    Over the years, I’ve come to the realization that each person, each family, has a place where they belong. I can’t see myself living in America. You can’t see yourself living in Israel.

    Maybe one day you will, and maybe you’ll decided to stay in America, near your grandkids. And you know . . . that’s okay.

    Just don’t forget about us, and don’t get all chutzniky about Israeli politics . . . Bibi can and should and would and could and the PA bla bla bla and compromise and whatnot . . . (not that I have anything against compromsie; I just don’t think we can compromise with people whose only goal is to kill us).

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