Why I Moved to Israel (2)

This is the second post of a series entitled “Why I Moved to Israel.” Guest posters tell their stories and offer their perspectives on aliyah. The first post in the series can be found here.

Guest post by S. David De Zwirek, Karmiel, June 2009 – Aliyah in 1993 from Canada

First of all – tachlis – after 16 years we can say it was the right decision for us to move to Israel. Although our move has been terrible for my wife and me culturally and financially, for our careers and standard of living, etc., it has been fantastic for our four children who were pre-teens when we came and are now in their mid twenties.


The preponderance of those who identify as Jews in North America, no matter their religious or political slants is Pro-Israel. Most of those in the pre-boomer and boomer generations are also Zionists. This is due to being witnesses of those who came out of Europe and Arab lands, convincing us of the practical need of a Jewish homeland, our right that transcends history.

So did we come to Israel because we are Zionists? To say so exclusively would negate the Zionism of hundreds of thousands of others who do not make the step of aliyah. However it is fair to say that being strong Zionists, in the classic “Herzlian” sense was a prerequisite. Both my wife and I had been to Israel various times. My wife and my sister were both volunteers during and after the Yom Kippur War. Half my grandmother’s siblings were in Canada and half were in Israel, for whom we had strong feelings. My wife and I, before we met were both active privately and publicly with Zionist and Jewish causes.

So Zionism was reason number one. However, it takes a lot more than Zionism to bring the multitudes on aliyah. What were the other reasons that made us specifically move to Israel?

I think I can define four reasons other than Zionism that in combination brought us to the Promised Land. I suggest also that we are far from unique and that we share these reasons, perhaps better called attributes, with quite a few of our fellow olim from western lands, although most of them would not admit it! In no particular order they are:

  • Because we are misfits
  • For Jewish continuity
  • For the adventure
  • If not now, when?


My wife and I felt we were “misfits” in the North American Jewish community. We saw and felt the accelerating forces of social conformity to suburban Jewish life with its “expensive Bar Mitzvah culture” and “Jewish American Princess” aspects defining what Jewishness is. As an alternative we saw the Baal Tshuvah movement. We did not fit in to either alternative. There was of course a third model which many take, which to us was not acceptable. This was the assimilation route, where nowadays one can still be Jewish, but by name only. In retrospect it can be called the “Seinfeld” or “Friends” model, where Judaism is not denied, but neither is it proclaimed.

We saw our Jewish identity differently. Although traditional and kosher observant, we did not and do not wear our religion on our sleeve (or on top of our heads). Neither were we enamored with Jewish suburbia, with its cost of Jewish education and social involvement, not just in money terms but in the aforementioned persona defining aspects. Thus we felt ourselves misfits in our own Diaspora Jewish society and how we saw its future. In some respects this also drove us away from the dynamo that is Jewish Toronto to Western Canada and then to the Arctic.

So, where else can Jews live as Jews and yet choose to not be part of these alternatives? Israel!

Jewish Continuity

Even with a smidgen of knowledge of Jewish history, and the miracle of Jewish survival, one can see that the continuity of the Jewish people is both a personal responsibility and important for the world. In many ways the Jewish people are a “light unto the nations” in moral values and in science. As a result, simply and personally put, we wanted our grandchildren to be Jewish! At the time we married (1980) we saw an accelerating intermarriage rate. In our eyes, to ensure Jewish grandchildren meant either a commitment to the aforementioned “Jewish suburbia” or “Baal Tshuvah” alternatives. However as misfits, neither was attractive.

So where else did we have a sporting chance that our grandchildren would be Jews? Israel! Of course, the downside would be that they’d be Tzabarim!

The Adventure

Rational reasoning is important. However personal decisions are primarily made by gut feel. Does it feel right in the “kishkas”? Both my wife and I were and are adventurous and risk taking. We were living in a mobile home on the tundra with -40 weather and 24 hour darkness a large part of the year, maintaining a strictly kosher home with four kids 1500 km by road, a lot of it unpaved, to the nearest Jewish community in Edmonton. We even had our youngest son’s bris in the Arctic bringing the mohel in by plane. That son is now a combat Officer in the IDF.

It is very hard to leave one’s surroundings, especially one as comfortable as North America, for a place where you may not have the language, do not have the “protectzia” or have not been to the Army. To come on aliyah from North America, it helps to be an adventurous soul, or to put it bluntly, to have “baytzim”. To live here, where history is a participatory sport rather than a spectator one, one must be able to handle the pressure. Having this attribute made it possible for us to come and stay.


A critical reason for not coming to Israel is improper timing. Although frequently given as an excuse (or as a joke), it is a serious consideration. Many wait until they graduate, or for when they are financially secure, or until after their parents pass on, or until after their kids leave the house, etc., etc. For us, it was truly the case of “If not now, when?” Our eldest was 11. Time was of the essence for him to make a successful transition linguistically and culturally so that he’d be able to get a bagrut and join the IDF at 18. It was literally now, or never.

Our eldest son did serve in a combat unit during the 2000 Intifada and received commendations. He is now at Hebrew University. Our daughters too had successful klitot: the eldest was a helicopter mechanic in the Air Force and soon will be an RN; the youngest was in Field Intelligence overlooking Lebanon, including during the war, and is now at Ben Gurion University. As mentioned, our youngest, the officer, has also made the transition. My wife and I on the other hand . . .

Over and above our Zionism, it was our personal attributes and the timing that made my wife and I decide to move with our four young children to Israel. For the two of us it was a stupid decision.

But the real reason why we moved to Israel?

Tachlis: Today, 16 years later, our children say that we made the right decision.

Explore posts in the same categories: Opinions

6 Comments on “Why I Moved to Israel (2)”

  1. Misfits – yes, I understand that concept so well. That is the perfect word to describe how I felt in the States as well. Excellent and well written explanation why so many of us moved here.

  2. For me I’d choose the word “out-of-place” instead of misfit — but in the end, the “pull” was stronger than any “push”.

  3. Aliyah De Zwirek Says:

    I know that I am biased since David is my father, but the article really put everything into prospective for me, especially the “misfit” concept that I knew but could never describe.
    Although over the years when asked why I left Canada, the easiest was to answer “because my parents are crazy” which is true in a sense- you have to be crazy to suddenly get up and move, and like my Dad said, if not now- then when?
    As for Jewish continuity, the morals and ideals from home along with the many options of cute guys here. Make a Jewish future a lot more realistic then northern Canada.
    The adventures gene may take me away from Israel, but like my parents, I see my future children in the army and growing up in Israel.

    • Marty Ginsherman Says:

      As one of your Dad’s oldest friends, I could have told you that he is ‘crazy’. In a way I envy your parents. They made a very brave choice and it has worked out for them.

  4. David Rose Says:

    I, after having lived in Israel for almost 30 years, call Aliyah “a disease of the blood”, I mean where else can a nice Jewish boy live and feel really Jewish. Pittsburgh where I grew up is a wonderful city, the Economist says the best in the USA today, but it still doesn’t compare to my barren hill in the Galilee and any North American who lives here knows what I am taking about.

  5. Jamie Cameron Says:

    My name is Jamie Cameron. My wife and I became friends with David and Sandi in the Arctic of Canada.
    I have always wondered exactly why David chose to move. This article articulates the reasoning better than I have seen before.
    I can understand the term “misfit”. Perhaps this term applies to anyone who would move to the Northwest Territories!
    Perhaps one has to be jewish to truly understand the reasoning.
    What is most important, however, is that David and his family will always be my friends.

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