Monday, August 24, 2015

My Declaration of Independence

         One of the most obvious drawbacks of making aliyah is that you will leave your family and friends, many of the people you love most in this world. But not only do these people give you the most emotional support in your life, they often provide the physical support you don't even realize you need. This post is dedicated to the most independent person I have come to know these past thirteen months- myself. Now before you go thinking, "This narcissistic brat. Who does she think she is, calling herself the most independent?" I implore you to read on and let me explain.
        I did not move to Israel after high school. I did not move after college, nor even after grad school. I did not move after my first time leaving home. I left as a full-fledged adulting adult. So when I moved, I never thought of myself as anything other than a mature, together, self-sufficient woman. Boy, was I wrong. My first few months here I couldn't have really even known. I was living in ulpan, with all my basic needs and schedule taken care of, going about my business with my errands and tasks keeping me busy. It wasn't until I moved out and on my own that I realized how essentially alone I was out here. I never realized how much I actually depended on people back in NYC to help me in tiny little ways.
      If I needed furniture moved or fixed, my dad was always right there. If I needed to pick up a notebook or cardigan, my mom would gladly get it for me on her next Target run. If I needed a ride to the airport at 3AM, my little sister would do it with a yawn and a smile. And if I needed anything else, I knew there was an assortment of lifelong friends, willing and able to help out. This is not the case here in Israel. When I needed my disaster of a couch fixed for the umpteenth time, and the guy who said he'd help me stopped answering my texts, I starting eating cereal on a folding chair. When I need a notebook or cardigan, I schlep my weary body to Max Stock or Castro after work and I get it myself. When I need a ride to the airport, I undergo the brutal abuse that is calling Nesher (cab-share service) and allow them to berate me in aggressive Hebrew and then drop me off 4 hours before my flight. And for anything else, I weigh how much I really need it versus the discomfort of asking a new friend for help if I don't really, truly need it.
          Let me give you an example of my new- found independence that just occurred this week. I have been in the market for a small cabinet for months. I have been following all the buying, swapping and selling in various Facebook groups to find the right size at the right price. Finally, a friend was giving one away! But how to transport it? I called a few friends who reminded me "hi, we don't have cars either!" Then I called someone I'm quite close with who didn't have the time/didn't want to (we're still close, but it was touch and go) I called and called various friends until I had to let her give the cabinet to someone else. I realized in that moment that in America: my dad could have helped me move it, my mom could have bought me one from IKEA, and I myself could have heaved it into my own car. Here in Israel- nothing. You may ask- why didn't you take a cab? Excellent question! Fact is, I couldn't stomach getting ripped off and paying more for the 3 minute ride than the cabinet was worth. So sue me. Finally, yesterday, I found a cabinet! It's made of plastic (meh) and the size and price were right. I decided to do this alone.
          Do you know what a Bubby Cart is? Maybe you know it as a "grocery cart" but I call it a Bubby Cart because it's what all the little Jerusalem Bubbies (grandmas) use to schlep their groceries around the shuk/market. So I recently bought a rather fancy one (thanks, mom!) and I took off the bag to fashion myself a bit of a dolly. I took the bus to the seller's apartment and boom- first hurdle- no elevator. It's cool, she helps me bring it down the 3 flights and I put it on the "dolly." No ropes? No problem- I'll just hold on to it for dear life. Made it to the bus stop with little trouble and only mildly horrified stares greet me. What- haven't you ever seen people move medium/large furniture on a public bus? I get on the bus and I am chilling. I mean, I'm winning at life! Spoke too soon. See, school hasn't started yet for the children of Israel, so at a stop between there and home, not one, not two, but three moms with carriages and 2 spare kids each load the bus. And not just the bus. The exact area where me and cabinet are. How big is this bus, you wonder? It's a double bus with nothing but empty space for the kids to frolic if they so chose. Which they did not. They chose to stand directly on my toes. Live, love Israel, amiright? So one mom gets off, then the next and finally I'm thinking I hit the trifecta, but no, Mom #3 decides to try and let me out. But in the process, she blocks the door and knocks off 2 of my cabinet's plastic feet. Whoops. Finally I get out of the bus and decide to take the light rail down the home stretch. And good news! It's only 3 minutes away! And it stays 3 minutes away for the next 10 minutes. Ultimately, the sign switched to "train stopped" and I realize it's me and my cabinet, bumping down Jaffa Street at rush hour, with the judging eyes of all Jerusalem upon me.
Me, my cabinet, and the #74 Bus

          One things that's really fun (read: infuriating) about people in Jerusalem is that they stop for no reason, for any length of time, in the middle of the street, whenever. It is the most bizarre phenomenon. So there I go, bobbing and weaving around the human statues, trying to will the street shorter or the cabinet lighter or the weather cooler (it goes without saying that I was not enjoying the August Jerusalem heat at the moment.) I'm almost there, I can see my block, and the cabinet slips off the dolly with a thud. After some colorful language and a quick "why me?" a sweet girl offers to help me. I first say no, my independence speaking for me, but then allow her to help me so I can make the last few feet on my own. I schlep the cabinet up my stairs, alone, clean and stock the shelves and drink about 2 liters of water, unbelievably (maybe too?) proud of my accomplishment.
         Are all my tasks this huge and difficult? No way. Doesn't anyone ever help me? I would be remiss to not mention the amazing people in this country who help me in countless ways every day- the people who let me use their laundry machines and the kind souls who have me for meals. The generous people who give me rides when they can and the incredible friends who offer me support when I'm sick or sad. Israel is full of beautiful, kind-hearted people who I know I will grow to need and count on just as much as they people I left.
    But for right now, I am still new here. I haven't yet built my family and my friendships are still young. You can't make an old friend in less than a year. So I will continue to fix my own appliances and move my own furniture. I will pick up my own necessities and find my own way to the party. I will even figure out a way to fix my good-for-nothing couch somehow. Because I have decided to move away from my safety net and totally on my own- and I wouldn't change that decision for anything. And if you need me, I'll be eating cereal on my folding chair.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

A No Good, Very Bad Deal

I have been hesitant to write about the Iran deal for a while now, for a few reasons. One is that this blog is about my life as an olah, and I wasn't sure a political opinion piece had its place here. The other was that I have so much to say on the subject, and I haven't been able to adequately gather all my disparate thoughts into one cohesive post. The third reason is that, generally, I want this blog to be light and silly. All these fears have been put to bed. First, this deal affects every one of us in Israel and the US, most especially those of us who moved here to Israel from elsewhere and plan to stay. That makes it truly a vital part of my experience as an olah. Second, I've decided that this probably won't be the only post I write about this deal, so I may as well start somewhere. The third is that while light and fluffy may be my mood most of the time, serious times call for serious words. The world we live in is not always going to be funny cab drivers and Hebrew gaffes. Sometimes it's going to be crazy mullahs and their nuclear ambitions.

Today I was corresponding with one of my former Birthright participants about the Iran deal. This was interesting for a few reasons. One, this was not a participant I often chat with, about geopolitical issues or otherwise. Second, this was not someone I knew to be overly concerned with Israel specifically. Like many of my former Birthright friends, they are peripherally aware of what's happening here, generally positively inclined toward Israel and overall not too involved with Israeli politics. This time, though, I think even non-involved Jewish Americans are taking note of how bad this deal is for Israel as a country in general, and me in Israel on a personal level. 

If this were two years ago and I was sitting in NYC, following the intricacies of this deal, I have no doubt I'd be equally furious. I'd be calling my senators and attending rallies. I'd be posting on Facebook and engaging in constant debates with friends and coworkers. It would be a huge issue for me, just like it is now. But there would be a difference. I would be worried-- on behalf of my Israeli friends. I would be concerned-- for my family in Israel. I would be anxious-- for the foreign country I held so dear. All that is completely different from my current emotional state. I feel a numbing fear for the future of my friends, family and myself here in the Jewish state.

I am a realist to the end. Not a pessimist, not an optimist, just a realist. When a country bent on the destruction of Israel screams from the rafters "Death to Israel! Death to America!" I believe them. When the Iranian negotiators celebrate the amazing deal they made with the world powers, giving them the money, time and ingredients to realize all their nuclear ambitions, I take notice. The deal completely baffles me. From my understanding (and exhaustive research) I have concluded that: The Iranians now have tons of money and freedom to develop "nuclear capability", no oversight from the USA (as we are not an ally nation and therefore do not have the right of oversight), sanctions lifted and the stamp of approval from world powers to let a totalitarian Islamist regime join the community of democratic nations. Am I missing anything? Probably, but let's see what we in the free world get in return! Oversight of nuclear facilities (although not by the USA, and not for about a month from our request, and not for several years from now), and the assurance of a murderous regime that they will try not to destroy the world when they have the chance. Sounds like a bargain to me!

But why would America agree to this? What do they actually gain? Why the desire for this clearly lopsided agreement? From what I gleaned, the USA gets 1) probably a Nobel Peace Prize for John Kerry (score!) 2) a signature from an extremely hostile country (knew we could do it!) 3) a legacy for Obama (I got Iran to sign an agreement! So what if it's only good for them- they signed!) and... that's about it. "But Jordana," you protest, "we had to sign this agreement for the peace of the world! There would have been war!" Well, friend, now I'm confused. Where was I during this impending war declaration? I keep myself quite well up to date with current events- I'm a total news junkie. I hadn't heard a word about Iran gearing up to take on the strongest country in the world. I did hear about the sanctions strangling them and keeping them from furthering their nuclear development. I did hear that even with these sanctions, they were the leading funder of terror in the world, via their proxies in Hezbollah and Hamas, among many others. But I did not hear about this phantom war that was thankfully averted by this dismal agreement. "Well, Jordana", you continue, "none of you war-mongering, right-wing Neocons (as many are wont to call anyone who opposes this deal) had any better ideas for how to deal with Iran." Well, that's not at all true. How about tougher sanctions? How about no agreement without Iran promising not to annihilate Israel? How about Iran releasing the 4 American prisoners they currently hold? How about more oversight into their current facilities? How about anything at all to reign this regime in, just a little? Was securing the signature of a violent Islamist regime (committed to world domination) so important that you don't care at all that Israel will be collateral damage? For many American Jews, the answer is of course no. Millions of dollars are being spent to damage Israel's credibility and push forward this terrifying deal, by my fellow American Jews. And to me, that is a tragedy.

Because I know that if I was still in America, I would do everything in my power to protect my Israeli brothers and sisters. Even the spectre, the possibility, that this deal could bring the Iranians closer to a nuclear bomb would chill my bones. The remotest possible prospect that in 10 years time, a country entirely bent on Israel's destruction could have the capability to do it, would compel me to try and stop this travesty by any means. When a radical regime says they want to destroy Israel, American Jews, why don't you believe them? When they scream in front of tens of thousands of their citizens "Death to America! Death to Israel!," why don't you listen? When the overwhelming majority of Israelis, Left and Right-Wing alike, fear and oppose this deal- why don't you at least question it? When the possibility of Jewish life in Israel is in danger of being destroyed by those who currently fund world terror is rapidly becoming a probability, why don't you stand with your Jewish brothers and sisters? And why do I need to even write this, to implore you to stand with us? Why don't you care enough about our well-being that you want to keep us safe without question? Why do you feel it necessary to not only not stand with us, but actively stand against us? That is what breaks my heart. You have the ability to fight on the front lines for us- in New York and LA, Washington, DC and wherever else you are. You have the power to stand up for your friends and family in Israel like American Jews haven't had to in 70 years, why won't you do it?

Wow. I just got emotional, I know. I'd imagine if you're not in agreement with me on this issue, you're seeing me as overly paranoid, too pessimistic and basically an all-around doomsday alarmist. And it's possible you're right. But the realist in me believes Khameini when he shouts for my destruction. The realist in me sees the terror wrought by Hamas and Hezbollah now and imagines a world where their funders have 150 billion more dollars with which to target my fellow Israelis. The realist in me sees no benefit from this current agreement, both as an Israeli and an American. And the realist in me sees the possibility that in 10 years, the family I hope to have in Israel and raise in Israel could be gravely threatened by this terrifying deal. And what use will this blog post be then? I don't want to ever say "I told you so." I want to say "Thank G-d we were saved. That was close."

May G-d bless Israel and America, and keep His nation safe.