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*** THE ALIYAH REVOLUTION ALBUM ***

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

American, Israeli, or neither?


After spending the last four years dreaming about living in Israel I've now spent the last four months actually living out that dream. This is a place where many people come to "find themselves" and I too expected that to somewhat happen to myself. One thing I didn't consider though, is that in order to find yourself, maybe first you have to lose yourself a little bit. When most people talk about the difficulties of moving to Israel, they speak of learning Hebrew, living with the arabs, or trying to make a living. Not always do they speak of dealing with a new and not so clear identity. Though it should be obvious that coming to a place halfway across the world with a different economy, language and overall society should affect you and by being surrounded by it change you somewhat as a person, it’s something that could in the excitement of things be very easy to overlook.

Though for some it may be simple semantics I tend to think there is a certain importance to the labels we choose to apply, or not to apply, to ourselves and present to others. And while this is the land I plan on making my life in, I’m not so sure if somebody were to ask me, “What are you?” that “Israeli” would be the first word off of my lips. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve made a point of traveling to places such as the Mearat haMachpela (Cave of the Patriarchs) in Hevron and Rachel’s Tomb, which has tremendously increased my connection to this land. Also as my Hebrew improves to the point where I can proficiently order a baguette of schwarma or argue with cab drivers without having to resort to English I start to feel much more like a native. Yet despite this, Israeli society and the many different mentalities of the people here can often be a far cry from what you find back in “the old country.”

So if I’m not an Israeli then I guess I’m just an American in Israel right? Maybe not. While I have no ill will towards America and wish it the best of luck so long as that doesn’t conflict with Israel’s success, in general I feel somewhat detached from it. This is my home now and I care what goes on here, how high gas prices are or who won the Super-bowl back in the States doesn’t have much of an impact on my day-to-day life in Israel. More than that, often I’ll see a bus load of American college students here on a trip making fools of themselves or American tourists doing some of the behaviors that has earned the American tourist a stereotype status around the world and I cringe while I mutter to myself, “G-d, they’re acting so American!” But wait, aren’t I American too? Does the fact I live here and not there give me the opportunity to get on a high horse and think I’m now qualitatively different?

Recently a new idea has crept into my head. What if I don’t need to be either? What if I’m just a Jew who’s come back home and while figuring out what that means doesn’t need to check either box A or B. And as I look around this country I’m in I realize that is the very essence of Israel itself. This country is only several decades old, made up of people from virtually every place in the world. In many ways the country itself still hasn’t figured out who it is. And maybe what it could use is more people who aren’t so sure of who they are yet either. There is a big comfort in the safety of staying wherever you are and however you are. Let's not kid ourselves, to go to a new place often involves becoming somewhat of a new person, which can be pretty scary. But while change can be a scary thing, it often is the best thing that could ever happen to us. It's also only through change that we ever grow. And maybe as more of us come home and find out who we are on an individual level, the fact that we are doing it together in the land of Israel will help our country and people to ultimately find out who we are as a nation.

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5 Comments:

  • At 9:40 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Givalt! Well said.

     
  • At 12:09 AM , Blogger Pinchas said...

    Uriah, welcome to Kumah! What a wonderful first post! We are all looking forward to reading many more!

     
  • At 6:41 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Uriah - Tink - What a facinating and thoughtful observation. Keep posting...I'll keep reading. Shalom. L.M.

     
  • At 10:00 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    We are wilted Jewish flowers replanting ourselves in the garden. But don't tell a guy on a bus that because it will just sound weird.

     
  • At 8:15 AM , Anonymous LilAZBT said...

    Mammish gashmak, Uriah. I'm proud- as par the course.
    10 days to Scottsdale.
    Not that anyone's counting.

     

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