So, as I think is required for every Oleh blogger, at some point you are going to write something akin to the following.
When I first was getting ready to leave the states to make aliyah, my friends came over to say goodbye. They would hug me, talk with me for a while, and invariably ask, "What are you, nuts?"
"Um, no." I would say. I landed in Israel, went through the whole process (or lack of actual process) to become an Israeli citizen. I went over to a taxi and handed him my slip for a free ride to anywhere in the country. He looked at it for a minute, looked at me and said, "What are you, nuts?"
I have been in the country for a while now, but this phrase still pops up. Whether it is because I got married in the middle of training for the army, whether its because I'm in the army at all, when the majority of my commanders are younger than me, or if it's just the fact I made aliyah at all, I hear it from everyone. If I got a dime for every time I heard that expression, even after I got the hideous exchange rate from my local money changer, I'd still have a decent handful of shekels.
The best story does not involve me at all. We were in the middle of a training exercise in the middle of the country, and the Chief of Staff of the Israeli army flew in to speak with us. He spoke for a while about the need to be prepared... and then I dozed off. You don't usually get to sleep during training. When I awoke, he was talking to various people in my unit, and then he asked if there were any lone soldiers. He spoke to some of the Frenchmen from one of our other units, and then the only other American in my unit. He asked him a number of questions, about his family and about if he had a girlfriend. My buddy told him, and the Big Man looked a little shocked. "You are in Israel, your family is in Chicago, and your girlfriend's in Norway?" He gave him one of those looks that you typically see him make in a tough debate on TV. "What are you, nuts?"
At first, it bothered me. Am I? I came to the other side of the planet, where people speak a totally new language, where they have thirty new words per week to describe that word you just toiled so hard to learn. Where they go, "wow, we're at war? Humus? Techina?" Where you can travel twenty minutes from the holiest spot on earth, and be in the middle of Mardi Gras Jerusalem. Where, if you want to accomplish anything at the Misrad Hapanim, you have to go to every single room just to get the man who has the number of the guy who isn't working today to fax your information to the woman who's been at her grandmother's funeral since last year just to find out that the person you really needed was the security guard out front, whose sole porpose is to tell you that you really are just wasting your time and would be best probably taking his brother's cab at 'special oleh discount price(wink wink)' back to your house where you can go cool off and forge the document yourself.
But as time wore on, I began to answer "Yes!" with a big smile, which would invariably cause the questioner to bolt in terror, because the heavy machine gunner of the unit had just agreed to being nuts, and well, better safe then sorry. But the truth is, I am proud to be that crazy, silly, nuts American who doesn't understand the language, trips over the simplest sentences, asks for Sherutim and wonders why he doesn't end up in a cab but rather on a porcelain cruise through the local restroom. I am proud to admit that I am still awestruck when I travel the country and see the fun, exotic sights.("Look, Chana! A camel!" "That's a picture of a camel, Josh.") I love to be confused as a clergyman from another religion. (you won't get this if you've never been called a 'friar') I love to sit fourteen hours in the misrad ha-whatever with a number that will never show up because it's from yesterday's reel, waiting for a passport picture which won't come out, to go in a passport that has already, even before printing, gotten lost in the mail.
Because being 'nuts' in this country is the sanest choice I ever made. I have come home to the seat of my religion, to the heart of my people, and day by day I see the effect that I have, that the other olim have. I see us bring in hope. I see us bring in laughter. I see us bring in young people, who start their own families. I see us fill the land, 'pioneering the Gush' for those of us who missed the American West Expansion, and always wanted to be cowboys. I see us bringing our food, our culture, sparing me the indigestion I normally experience with 'schug' or 'jiblimeywha'. (I may have made up that last one.) I see us joining the 'cholent pot' of Israeli society. I see the future of this country in the hands of the brave and special people who come here to visit and to live here.
So of course I am proud. I am proud of all my brothers and sisters who have made the Aliyah leap, and I am proud of all those who dream and wait for their chance at home. I am proud to be one of these so-called 'nuts'. So with that I close, (never a strong point with me) with a hope that the Aliyah movement continues to grow, that everyone should have a speedy klitah into this land, and may we have been sufficently nuts to warrant the coming of Moshiach in our time. Amen.
I know EXACTLY what Bat Aliyah is describing here:
"I don't wanna go!" I plead through waves of tears and searing pain. It's like leaving a lover with whom I know I can't stay, but from whom I don't yet have the strength to part.
I can't believe how sharp my grief, how hot my tears. From where does this come?? Walking away from my life in Israel is like tearing myself in half.