This is a cross-post from Marc Goldberg’s blog at The Times of Israel.
It’s been 4 years since I returned to this crazy place. I guess this means it’s time to reflect. My life here is in 2 parts. I first came in 2001, descended back to London in 2004 and then ascended once again in January 2010. I have garnered some valuable jewels of wisdom since my initial aliyah and these I share with you.
When I first moved here it was to join the IDF. I came here to be with my people, to live in the Jewish country and be a part of the Jewish story. Because our country was under attack and no one seemed to care. Because being a Jew isn’t a religion or a nationality it’s an identity and my identity couldn’t be fully expressed other than by being in Israel. So I finished University and moved to Israel in 2001 the day after my graduation.
I came in 2001 and earned the red beret (you might have noticed I can’t stop talking about that one). I managed to make friends who changed my life. I found suicide bombers and watched them come out of their hiding places with their hands held high. I saw 20 innocent people, reprieved of their terrorist imposed death sentence in each bomber’s eyes.
I learned to speak Hebrew. I learned that I only thought I knew the meaning of the word chutzpah before coming to Israel. I learned that you can create your own path through life. While I was here I watched friends go back “home” in droves because this country had beaten their love for it out of them. Each time one of them left I shook my head and vowed I would never be like them.
By 2004 it had beaten me too. Israel just hadn’t been the country I expected to find. I learned about Israel in my youth movement. I studied in Israel for a year at age 18. I didn’t have a clue about this place.
I had been promised a land flowing with milk and honey. I had been promised politicians who weren’t corrupt, I had been promised an army with officers who cared more about the well being of their soldiers than their next promotion, I had been promised a country where Jews were perfect people, where soldiers of the IDF lived up to the wonderful stories the Jews in the diaspora told of them. I had been denied, let down and cast adrift. Heartbroken I descended back to London unable to look my beloved in the eye after she had cheated on me so shamefully.
While there I understood where I had gone wrong. Perhaps it was me that had been wrong to expect all of those things. Maybe it was okay that Israel was a land where the milk and honey was overly priced. Maybe politicians in Israel were even worse than in the UK and perhaps better than in other countries. Israel has murderers, rapists and a Mafia that could give New York in the 1920s a run for its money. But so what? This is still my country, my citizenship is still the birthright I claimed. Living here I still live with my people, in our country, sharing the trials and tribulations that living in Israel brings.
Both from within and from without.
I had ideas about Israel that it could never have lived up to. Only once I had let them go could I come back and live here happily. I guess that’s why I write the blog posts I write. To come to Israel with a false set of beliefs is to invite disillusionment or extremism. Most people go back home when they realise Israel isn’t all they thought it would be.
So 4 years after coming back the thing that I most want to say to you and really it’s a theme in all my blog posts; just do yourself a favour, shed the bright eyed dream of a Jewish state that does no wrong. It’s a phony bill of goods, an impossible ideal. There is no utopia on this earth, nor is there a Jewtopia. You’ll have a much easier time accepting the reality of this crazy, dynamic, beautiful country if you leave the bullshit behind.