Monday, December 26, 2005

My cup runneth over.....

I found the incredible negativity of this article in yesterday's online Jpost and today's print version a real downer. I can't help but feel that Noga Martin's response to "Why I am making Aliya" by Calev Bender, a British almost-Oleh (and former Bnei Akiva Chanich of mine), totally misses the point.

The gripes presented; bank opening hours, being ignored by clerks, people shouting, dog shit on the pavement etc, suggest to me that this is one oldish immigrant for whom America is being seen very much through warped rose coloured glasses. Yes this country is far from perfect, but if you think that its far worse than the rest of the world then you need a severe reality check. Yes this country has crime - and other places don't? Yes sometimes the waiter gets your order wrong - but does this happen every time - and does it not also happen occasionally in London, New York and Paris? Come on lady - get real.

"Insanely overpriced appliances" - last time I looked, the costs had dropped drastically and were very comparable to pretty much what I'd pay in the UK - if not cheaper - maybe things cost less in the consumer paradise that is the USA but don't get confused into thinking that the USA is the same as everywhere else in the world - it's like bemoaning the fact that petrol is expensive here - well it might be - but no more expensive than anywhere else in the world - apart from the States where an irresponsible energy / environmental policy keeps the prices down.

If you were living in the States by the way, you'd be paying at least $10,000 per year per child for a Jewish education - so where does that leave your fat wages? Forget I asked - as a secular humanist you probably wouldn't bother, just leaving your kids to marry out by the next generation like your friend with the Druse boyfriend / husband - who clearly has very different ideas to myself about what Aliyah and being Jewish is all about.

I have no clue what on earth could have possessed a non-observant secular humanist who never attended Hebrew school or had a bat mitzva, to pick up and move to Israel at age 19 - but if you think that you represent the majority of Olim then you clearly haven't checked the demographics.

The vast majority of Olim are well connected to their roots and come here out of a love for the country, have done their research and have a pretty good idea of where it is that they are coming to. They are choosing to live in a country where they are surrounded by Jews; where they can wear outwould symbols of their religion without fear; where the Supermarkets stock kosher meat and the policeman wishes you "Chag Sameach" whilst he's handing over your speeding ticket.

It's tough - many don't make it but the number of Olim from the US, Canada, Britain, Australia, France and many other strong Western democracies, has been steadily rising and recent polls suggest that a very significant percentage are happy with the decision that they have made.

So stop griping about the small shit, your glass may be half empty but no need to put the rest of us on a downer - you've clearly found enough reason to stay here for 11 1/2 years so cut the negative crap and get some perspective.



Anonymous said...

do you have a link to Calev's article?

Gilly said...

anon - as far as I can tell it never made it to the web edition.

Datingmaster, Jerusalem said...

Well hello Gilly
you are in luck
i've discovered your site and like it

A friend said...

First, here's a link to Calev Bender's article:

Second - Gilly, isn't it a little disingenuous to argue that costs of, say, electrical appliances in Israel are the same or less than in other countries? Granted, things have changed in recent years, and your average telly probably costs no more in Israel than it does in the UK in absolute terms. But as a function of average earnings, a telly of similar absolute price is far more expensive in Israel than in the UK. This is because most people in Israel earn bugger-all. Even in relation to the things that really ARE cheaper here - like kosher food.

Don't forget that things are generally cheaper elsewhere in Europe than in the UK, which makes the UK a bad comparator: even if things in Israel aren't much more expensive than the UK in absolute terms, that's not much of an accolade. UK prices are hardly something to aspire to.

If you're bored, take a look at this OECD report on the topic:

Like the blog otherwise, though.

A friend

Gilly said...

Thanks friend for the link to Calev's article. Your point is fair and no-one is going to deny that we earn much less so that in relative terms the cost is more - using the term "insanely priced" doesn't cut it however - even if the UK is not a good benchmark.

What troubles me is that there is the tendency to see everything overseas as wonderful and here as bad - if we're talking insanely priced I'll direct you to the costs of education overseas - tens of thousands of dollars per year when you hit the University level, of the cost of health care in the States - which is also 5 figures for a regular family - of the cost of buying a property in a decent part of London or NYC. That's insane - if you have to choose between NIS 100 and $8 (or whatever) for a pop up toaster - that's basic consumerism.


Still a friend said...

Fair enough. Worth noting that if terms of buying electrics, clothes etc., anyone who can - such as most olim I know - buys their stuff abroad in their country of origin, thereby benefitting from any price advantage anyway. Healthcare, education and expensive housing isnt generally imported...

Also, tens of thousands of dollars in tuition fees only reflects the true cost of education - and is reflected in lower taxes. You pay less income tax in the States, but you get less for it too. No doubt there ARE reasons why I should subsidise the university education of other people in society. I'm just not convinced enough to get my wallet out.

Gilly said...

Bottom line my friend is that if you can have the best of both worlds that would be the best possible choice - more and more people are figuring out how to earn a UK or US salary whilst living in Israel - particularly by e-commuting. My mother in law teaches on line at a US University. I'll write something about it soon.


A secular Humanist said...

Here Here Gilly - Yishar Koah - great post.

I am myself all too guilty of occasionally bitching about the things in Israel which piss me off (mostly other drivers on the road), but I could not agree with you more - as an Oleh, I am hugely hugely satisfied with the move.

As a secular humanist however, I would have to disagree with you about some of the things you said.

This stupid moany woman has every right to moan - we all do. And some of the things she said are true - there is a tyranny of theocracy in this country which discriminates against the non-Orthodox. The irony is - we secular Zionists are at fault for having allowed Haredut to prosper, because of Ben-Gurion's faulty understanding of their resilience. But now humanism, humanity and Zionism are all suffering in Israel because of the priveleges granted to the theocratic rabbinical establishment.

I am a secular humanist and that is why I made Aliyah - because in Galut, there is only one option for Jewish Identity, and that is religious - here in israel, Jewish identity belongs to all Jews whether Secular and sane or religious and irrational. But there is an ideological battle on - to keep Jewishness for everyone and not to allow it to be abused and distorted by the religious minority and stolen from the people.

Karl said...

In my (limited) experience, the rich Israeli's, are the ones with investments & buisiness(es) in Chu"l. I don't think people (especially Calev) are making aliyah because things are cheaper or easier in Israel, but because it is the correct thing to do, despite all the hardships.

amechad said...

While certainly there was much to criticize, I have two major comments.

1: according to the bio, Noga is from the UK and not the US so your comparisons with the US are wrong. (And, btw, I also disagree with them because gas prices and the like are that way because the US isn't socialist and - for the most part, though of course there are exceptions - doesn't have "sin taxes" on numerous things but is a free country. And some of us think being a free country is the ideal, for the most part.

2. Some of the criticisms she made were very legitimate. Others, admittadly not so, and some of the problems she pointed were true but the way she pointed them out was probably not the best way.

tafka PP said...

Gilly- I have to admit that I feel very similarly to the author on some of her points- with regards to the crime, dishonesty, corruption and politics as opposed to the rudeness and smaller gripes, (altho those can always get me down too) and I really, REALLY despise this country sometimes. But not in an "ok, so I'll pack up and leave" kind of way, because that isn't realistic at this stage- I can't speak for the author of the article, but even those of us who are very disillusioned have too much emotionally invested in our lives here in Israel to just abandon it.

I think that is the problem, actually. Many of us move here under an impression which isn't always that related to the reality on the ground, and so take it very personally when the country/government so very demonstratively and frequently screws up. And yes, you are right, things are rubbish everywhere. But that's the problem- there is still the expectation that here it should be less rubbish. I think Noga Martin (in her own special way) was trying to say that the sooner Olim or potential Olim realise that the Zionist Dream isn't the reality, they are more likely to stay the distance and make it as Israelis.

ifyouwillit said...

It's funny that you mention Calev was a chanich of yours. He was my madrich the first time I went to camp.

You think we could try find a madrich of yours that made aliya before you? I know chanichim of mine have come already, it'd be interesting to see how far the chain could reach.

Gilly said...

Karl - yes plenty of Israelis have business interests overseas - confining yourself to the limited marketplace here is not smart - Bill Gates doesn't confine himself to the US for the same reason. I think that the vast majority of us are here for ideological reasons coz there's only so long that you can sing "leshana haba beyerushalayim" without feeling hypocritical.

Amechad - Noga writes: "Last month marked 11 years since I made aliya from the US." - quite how you've extrapolated from this that she's from the UK I'm not exactly sure.

Parrot - crime gets a mention but corruption, dishonesty and politics never come up so hard to understand how you agree with the author's points on them.

Will it - I'm sure we could go back and back - I have seen plenty of my madrichim this week (I was at a BA wedding last night) - there are lots of us who had our brains effectively washed apparently.

Shabbat shalom,


tafka PP said...

I guess I saw the crime reference and started projecting all the things I hate: Clearly my brain has been un-washed since I got here! Aside from that, I stand by my points.

Tamar said...

Gilly-I've kept up with your blog for a while now. This is a great post.
To the secular humanist-who are you? I am planning to make aliyah this summer. As an Israeli-born, American raised secular humanist myself, you just managed to sum up so many of my thoughts. Thank you.

Zeh Sefer Toldot Adam said...

Goodness. mazal tov to calev!
(was always sure he would make it)

wrt what makes israel good or bad relative to somewhere else is always going to be a personal issue.
I would take all the garbage that most people seem to hate about israel over the 'wonderful' new york anyday.

it always seems odd to me that the things that drive people nuts about israel are just as much in evidence in chul as they are in israel, but we just let it flow over us.

here in ny this week we have had corruption scandals on a huge scale, the city is dirty beyond belief, public transport strikes, murders crap weather etc etc

but that's just my take on it.

Cori/Shoshana said...

Hi, ya don't know me, but I enjoy your blog. I'm a 20 year old American college student making aliyah in August-- I'm secular, and just wanted to share that there are plenty of reasons for people like me to pick up and move to Israel. What better place to learn what you werent able to learn as a secular Jew in the states? Also, Jewish identity and Jewish education are not inextricably linked-- I know that for me, being Jewish is sort of like a journey. I have no desire to be where I started in terms of observance, knowledge, etc. just because those were the choices that my family made for me at a young age. Trust me, not all of us make aliyah and go straight to Yeshiva. Anyway, hope all is well-- keep writing, I enjoy :)


Gilly said...


Just to clarify, I completely appreciate that there are plenty of secular Jews who make Aliyah (albeit the majority of Olim from Western Countries classify themselves as Orthodox or Traditional) - but a lot of secular Jews still take part in some type of Jewish practice whether it be a Seder at Pesach or going to Synagogue on Yom Kippur. They have a connection in other words. For someone to be so disconnected from their roots as to not even have had a Bat Mitzva is something which I rarely encounter (if at all) and that, more than her secularism is what caused me to make my comment about not understanding why she would want to make Aliyah in the first place.

Anonymous said...

Gilly: Noga Martin wrote that she made aliyah at age 19, and at age 19 you are an immature adult with little experience, quick enthusiasms and hasty judgment. Now as a mature adult she penned what she saw as the straight dope to Calev whom she saw as green as grass. The question is whether she told the truth, and whether that truth may aid in making a sound decision to emigrate, not whether she had a bat mitzvah. Life is about being right, not about your roots.

Gilly said...

Anonymous - she may see it as truth - I personally don't think not getting the right coffee is a reason to bitch about Israel (and it really doesn't happen every time does it?)

The "straight dope" is one thing but the gripes brought up are largely so petty that they have no place in a serious article.

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