This is the fourth post in the series “Why I moved to Israel.” In this series, immigrants to Israel tells us why they came here and what makes them stay. If you haven’t seen them already, take a look at the first, second and third posts in the series.
Guest post by Becky Feinberg
Zionism has Never Tasted So Good
I used to joke that I moved here for the Milkee. America has some great food–Tex-Mex, curly fries, and Dr. Pepper to name a few–but there is nothing quite like a Milkee. That chocolate pudding with the just the right amount of whipped-cream on top–Zionism has never tasted so good.
But on a serious note, Milkee, the world’s most excellent tomatoes, and the exquisite concoction known as Shakshuka, are not a strong enough draw to pick up, pack up, and move your life to the “war-torn” Middle East. So, what was it? I like to think of it as serendipity: the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.
I didn’t grow up in a Zionist or overly Jewish home. In fact, three out of four parents were not Jewish. I grew up in Hebrew school and knew L’kha Dodi like the back of my hand, but Pensacola, Florida–otherwise known as the “Redneck Riviera”–was not exactly the hub of Jewish culture or learning. My search for a more Jewish life took me to the University of Florida, where I began to learn modern Hebrew, participate in Hillel and the Jewish Student Union, and learn more about Israel both from books and first-hand. My first trip to Israel, during my freshman year of college, introduced me to a place of beauty, pain, spirituality, contradiction, and mystery. My first memory of Israel is reading Torah in the morning mist of the Dead Sea a mere 18 hours after I had landed in the country. The rest of the trip was a blur, and while I enjoyed myself, I wasn’t exactly hooked.
It would take several more trips, a lot of Israel activism, and my simple love of adventure to get me back here on aliyah. In an experiment of sorts, after graduating college in 2003, I decided to come to Israel for a year to decide if aliyah was really an option for me. I said to myself, “If I can learn the language and feel comfortable, I’ll think about moving there.” I ended up in Arad, a mere ten kilometers from my Torah-reading experience several years before, and experienced the land of Israel through my soul and my feet for the next year. I learned Hebrew, because in Arad, it was either that or Russian. I learned about Judaism, because in Arad, it was either that or camels. I learned about how friends can become family, and how when you’re far away from home, it’s either that or nothing.
After a year, I returned to America, to my family, to my hometown. And I realized, despite the comfort that came from understanding everything around me, and the calm that came from being close to my family and friends, and path that could have been so much easier for me had I just gone to law/business/medical school, it wasn’t my life anymore. I came back to Israel because here I feel alive. I feel excitement, frustration, challenges, fear, anxiety, joy and so much more. Like the weather, and Israeli tempers, and yes, the matbucha, life here is hot–it has spice. There’s never a dull moment, whether you’re dancing salsa in a Tel Aviv club or at the Kotel during Kabbalat Shabbat.
While it’s hard for me to pinpoint why exactly I came here in the first place, the reasons I stayed are clear: Israel is the soul of the Jewish people, with all of its good points and its bad. It’s a place that we must care for, cultivate, and improve, but one that gives back ten-fold to those who love it.