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:
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.
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)