Unsurprisingly – for anybody who knows me, that is – I decided to make the habit of staying in Israel for long periods of time a permanent change and made aliyah about 1 year ago. Well, to be honest about it, closer to two, if somebody wants to be really fidgety about it. The process, which involved tons of papers to be filled out, boxes ticked and check and double check of Jewishness, was actually quite smooth and all things considered, quick as well. So after about 3 months of doing the paper trail, my passport was adorned with an Israeli visa, where it simply stated, category: Law of Return. So, putting my money where my mouth is, I crossed the Rubicon. On closer reflection, I might have gotten my feet wet once or twice in the crossing, and it is questionable whether I have crossed the full distance yet.
It is a massive change. It does not matter how much you have lived here on a semi-permanent base for years, its not until you have successfully opened a bank account, started to pay national insurance and otherwise getting registered in the many and various offices that you start to appreciate the immense process of change you are about to embark on. Most of the technical aspects of making aliyah are very simple, like getting your national ID card (ready to collect once you arrive and all you have to do is to go to your local interior office to tick some boxes and you leave with your card hot off the press in hand!) and other such essentials. No, the real challenge is is getting involved in your community and getting out of your comfort zone even for buying a loaf of bread. Not to mention reconstructing your professional life, in particular when your profession requires licensing and sitting exams to obtain your permanent license for practice.
I have so far felt like I am on two parallel tracks: while starting my own small business in my professional capacity, and accepting that it will take up to three years before I can make a reasonable living from my endeavors, I work frequently in the UK, where getting a short term locum is fairly straight forward. And very well paid! So I often feel like I am trying to jet ski on two different oceans, where the British Isles frequently cause a somewhat uncomfortable feeling of being torn into an impossible split (gymnastically speaking), the super easy life where job offers sprout like mushroom after a rain storm, or the much more cumbersome project of reconstructing life in Israel, where I can live a full Jewish life, where nobody expects me to work on a Shabbat and where I don’t have to worry that accidentally pork meat or shrimp is hiding somewhere on the ingredient list on any food item bought in a regular store. My Jewish identity is of tremendous importance to me, and it gives me an energy boost beyond description when, blessings over a Shabbat meal is shared between various backgrounds such as Sephardic, Mizrachi, Ethiopian and Ashquenaz, and our different customs converge over the millennia old prayers and blessings that have kept us together as a people for thousands of years. But at the end of the month, when I check (with some trepidation) the bank statement, then I wonder if I am not mentally deranged to give up all the comforts of middle class England, or since in fact, I am as Norwegian as you get them, in Norway.
Not exactly being a spring chicken (if you count years, not attitude), it is a bit depressing that I have to consider dropping that swell looking dress and make do with something much simpler (in fact, restricted to window shopping only), when only 2 years ago, I would buy that dress, complete with the accessories and why not also, on top of it, entertain the idea of getting a new Audi or perhaps that rather smart looking (but gas guzzling, so guilt tripping) Land Rover? What part of my brain has gone bonkers?
But in the other balance, there is the Eshet Chayil blessing, which, when you share with with Persians, Moroccans, Iraqis, Lithuanians and Ethiopians, simultaneously, each in his or her own musical tradition, explodes like 1000 stars in my heart and drives home my identity and cultural heritage. And the appreciation from regular Israelis that I have chosen to make their destiny my destiny, although they still try to cut a crude bargain when seeking my services, so no slack there. I also adore going to the super market where nobody cares what head gear you are sporting; a fedora hat, a knitted kippa, a hijab or Druze head cover, white head scarf for ladies and colorful skullcap for men. So what if you want to do your green grocery shopping in such skimpy outfits that leaning over the courgettes reaching for the onions looks like a very rude invitation? The devout Muslim woman and Jewish orthodox woman, each packed into several layers of clothing look at each other with exasperation over such exuberance, roll their eyes and carry on, their toddlers anyway howling as they are straddled atop an impossibly full shopping trolley… (this in contrast to all the men, regardless of their religious costume, drop their jaws and drool over this display of flesh, treif or otherwise), while watching how presumably mentally stable Israelis completely lose it when they are fighting over a parking spot; this provides more entertainment than any sit-com in the world combined…
And did I mention how deceitful Hebrew can be when you try to make it your every day language? This is not readily appreciated until after you have accidentally flipped off a client, or misleadingly sent an SMS to a client saying that you are close to the grave, when you merely meant to say you will soon be arriving.
But for the time being, the sound of Eshet Chayil outweighs most of the inconveniences inherent in making a big change.