Israel and the Dilemma of Choice
By Sylvie Chmielewski
The majority of us landed in Israel with a basic knowledge of the language, a big dream and a small suitcase.
We learned to adapt to a completely new way of life.
One thing is certain…you have made it here when you succeed in dealing with two major concepts: savlanut (patience) and balagan (confusion)…!
Trust me, depending on the thickness of your skin, it can take years to excel in those two fields!
As you get used to the unbearable heat of the summer months, the bare ‘behind’ of your plumber and the endless stories and prying questions from your neighbors, eventually things start falling into place - you find a job, get settled, maybe marry and later on you have kids and your life settles into a less abrasive pace.
You light the candles on Friday and go to the shul on Yom Kippur - there is a warm, communal feeling that fills you up on these holidays. It's something small, but it is something distinct. Stores close, everything gets a bit quieter and there is no necessity to manage 'balagan' and 'savlanut' because it doesn't exist in this alternate reality.
It might takes moments like this - if you are not one who relishes in the day-to-day low level of organized chaos, noise and confusion - to realize that Israel is most indisputably where you are meant to be.
You may call Israel your home, but what would you do when things get a bit complicated?
These days, turning on the T.V. is like walking into an ice cold shower. Reporting of abysmal news is rules the airwaves: acts of terror and the economy seem to consume the nightly segments. People are getting let off, shopping carts shrink as months go by, jobs are hard to find, employees go on strike combined with terror attacks in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and in general, the moral is low.
Although the sun is shining, it feels like cloudy and grey most of the time.
It is very difficult for others to understand our choices as Olim Chadashim (new immigrants) - actively choosing a lifestyle that many may not understand or support or that we ourselves might not be able to thrive in.
We have made a conscientious choice to come and live in this foreign country while often leaving behind the security of a comfortable life, a steady job with a sizable paycheck and intangibly but most importantly, our families.
This act of actively choosing where one can live is an immense privilege. Friends and colleagues constantly remind us that if they could, they would leave in a heart beat. They don’t understand why we still live here or moreover, why we would come at all.
No doubt, life in Israel resembles more a survival contest rather than an all-expenses paid vacation. But, even the most positive minds among us from the European Jewish community are able to see the dark cloud slowly shrouding our way of life there. Economic issues abound but the real issue is a new wave of Anti-Semitism that has successfully stuck fear in our hearts and minds.
Nowadays, when I go back to Brussels, all I hear is the rise of Anti-Semitic acts which, on the whole, are being left unaddressed.
Many from the older generation are recalling a period they tried very hard to forget.
There is an exodus in motion as many Jewish families living in small districts around Paris are leaving or have already left. It has been said that there are not many Jews that remain.
The French Anti-Semitic “Humorist” Dieudonne is still spreading is hatred of Jews despite several court orders while demonstrations of Anti-Semitic behavior - be it in words or through physical acts - are rampant.
As I read and watch what Europe is becoming I feel secure in my choice to live here in the Jewish state. I now understand the fundamental purpose of Israel's creation: we have a country we can live as Jews and pursue a life as a person of Jewish identity in bright of day.
So yes, we are going through difficult times, but for us Olim from all over the world, we have found here a haven where we don’t need to hide who we are any longer.
Why then should we leave?