I’m an Alien, I’m a Legal Alien Part I

I am an immigrant. I have been an immigrant for almost 24 years. I was an immigrant in Israel. Then I was an immigrant in England. Then in the United States, and now, once again, I’m an immigrant in Israel.

I will always be an immigrant.

In October of 1998, a little over seven years after I arrived “for a year”, I left Israel. Sixteen years, 2 countries, a husband, 3 kids and a dog later, I’m back. New friends want to “hear my story” – why, if I loved it here so much, did I leave, and why, if I missed it so much while I was gone, did it take me 16 years to come back? Do I wish I had never left? Do I wish I hadn’t come the first time?

I don’t believe in regrets. In the words of the inimitable Jon Bon Jovi “you gotta believe, That right here right now, you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be” (From “Welcome to Wherever you Are” Have a Nice Day Album 2005)

We all make decisions based on current circumstances, and if we constantly look back and say “if I had only done x,y or z differently…” we would miss so many current opportunities! While I’m sometimes a glass half empty kind of person (I’m working on that, and these days usually see a glass that’s half full), I believe that you can’t go through life saying “what if?” I don’t like to use the word “fate”, because I prefer to view it as God’s Hand pushing us in the right direction, but if you prefer to think of it as “fate”, go ahead.

I left Israel for many reasons, but never because I stopped loving Israel. It took me a long time to move back because LIFE!

The country I have returned to is still the same in many ways, but is so different in other ways. Thanks to the Internet, social media and Waze, life here has become a lot easier. There are a multitude of Facebook groups specifically aimed at immigrants to Israel – offering advice on how to be financially smarter, how to network, how to find jobs that don’t require too much Hebrew etc. etc. etc. But frequently, in fact, daily, fierce arguments break out on these groups between those I like to dub the “complainers” and the “martyrs”. The “complainers” are the people who live here, but who have nothing positive to say. One wonders why they made aliya in the first place. They are like the spies Moshe sent into the land of Israel, to report back to the Jewish people. If we are to listen to them, there is not a single good thing about living here. You want to say to them “go back, if it’s so bad”, and yet, how can you ever tell a Jew to go back? This is our country, this is our land – we must try to help them want to stay. The “martyrs” are the polar opposite. To them, the “complainers” have no right to complain. Many of the “martyrs” have lived here for a long time, and they will tell you how much easier we have it today, they remember when there was a waiting list to get a telephone line, and when you had to live in an absorption centre for six months after arriving in Israel. They will remind you that they helped  build the country, while you are arriving in a paradise. They will reminisce that you couldn’t buy much in the way of personal care products, and that toilet paper was like blue newspaper. One imagines that they did a  fair amount of complaining back in the day, but now Israel is so perfectly modern,  there’s nothing for them to complain about.

There has to be a happy medium. This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently. My family and I are very happy here. True, we have been here less than a year, so perhaps we are still on our “aliyamoon”. But I strongly believe that how you manage that first year is indicative of how your overall experience will be. The majority of bureaucratic nonsense has to be dealt with within that first year: Misrad HaKlita (Absorption Ministry), Misrad haRishui (Driver’s License Bureau), Ulpan (Hebrew class), the first passport, the first time dealing with medical stuff, opening a bank account, perhaps financing a car, learning how to navigate the school system etc, finding your way around the supermarket, understanding (or not) the post office. It’s tough. It’s even tougher if you don’t have good Hebrew. But you have to go in understanding that you’re not in Kansas anymore. Things work differently in Israel.

I learned the last time I lived here, that getting angry got me nowhere, but staying calm, and acting as if you’re on “their” side gets you further. So when I had to wait in the Driver’s License office last week, in the middle of a heatwave, for four hours, just to have paperwork stamped so I can switch my license, when my turn finally came around, I took a deep breath, and gave the clerk a big smile, asked her how she was, and handed over my papers. In spite of being exhausted, dehydrated and pretty damn annoyed at losing an entire morning. I pretended that all was well, even when the computer system went down 10 seconds before she was done with me. After all, when you’ve waited four hours, what’s another fifteen minutes?

There is so much more to say on this, but it’s for another post. For now, if you’re here, and you find yourself complaining, remember you’re an immigrant. You’re in a foreign country where things are done differently. Sunday will always feel like Monday here, and Friday will never feel like Sunday.

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. janice
    Jun 15, 2015 @ 20:52:47

    I hope I’m in the middle there

    Reply

  2. Mark
    Jun 15, 2015 @ 20:57:25

    “Sunday will always feel like Monday here, and Friday will never feel like Sunday.”

    This is great!!!

    Reply

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