Happy to be here

May 2, 2012

Moving house let alone moving country at any age is agreed to be one of the most traumatic experiences in life. Most people know that my move to Israel was not easy. Nearly everything that could go wrong, went wrong! Nevertheless, after six months, I can say hand on heart that I am happy to be here and have no regrets.

Why am I happier here than in London where I had a comfortable life?

And I am not alone. In a recent Gallup poll Israel rates 7th out of 155 participating countries in a happiness poll. This is higher than Holland, Ireland, the USA and Brazil. The UK came in 18th!

The USA has tripled its gross national product (per capita) since 1960 but the happiness needle hasn’t budged.
Affluence has brought eating disorders, obesity, diabetes, tobacco related diseases, drug problems and addictions to tv, drugs, alcohol, shopping and gambling.

In London, I began to become aware that people, especially the elderly were going days without speaking to another human being.

The tubes and buses were filled with people with earphones avoiding eye contact.
When I was young, one paid a conductor and said good morning. Now one swipes a card.

In the supermarket one can scan and pay oneself without any assistance. Or one can order online and have one’s shopping delivered.

Who sees or speaks to a postman, a milkman or the local bobby?

Even on the phone it takes a long time to get through the options to hear a voice that sounds human and then it might come from India.

Many bank online and cheques are under threat.

So I asked myself why a tiny country surrounded by enemies constantly comes higher than 8th in these polls.

There is obviously no link between affluence and happiness. That has been agreed by Gallup and the UN ( the best equipped toilet in New York).

I can’t be sure but I think that it is being part of something bigger than oneself. Being part of History.

There is great progress here too. The building of housing, schools, shuls, mikvaot, and roads continues apace.

The service here is very slow and at first the woman on the till at my local store discussing cake recipes with the lady two spaces in front of me, and reminding the man in front of me that he didn’t have onions amongst his vegetables used to annoy me but I’m hopefully over that now. Especially if I think about the alternative.

Jewish humour is self-deprecating and the ability to laugh at oneself really helps. This country is full of wannabe standups (including yours truly)!

The amount of charity and chesed activities amongst all shades and stripes of the populace is absolutely breathtaking. People care here – sometimes too much.

There is a feeling that we are all in the same (small) boat and that in an emergency we would set aside our religious and political differences and pull together. This has happened time after time.

People are interested in you and want to help. I had three offers of help as I was unpacking my shipment including names and telephone numbers. That didn’t happen in London.

It has been proved that the religious, especially those who go to shul regularly are happier, less stressed and live longer on average than those who don’t.

The old boys who don’t have family nearby have the shul (= men’s club) sometimes with breakfast thrown in though I did see this in Flatbush as well.

It does my heart good to see beautiful, healthy, kippa wearing, Tzitzit flying boys coming out of school in the afternoon as well as swarms of modestly dressed, pigtailed ” Bet Yaakov” girls going to and fro school. “lo alman Yisrael” the Jewish people is not widowed.

My Israel wife is still getting used to the fact that the language of the shopping malls is Ivrit and that 50% of the men wear kippot. Despite the fact that the shops are the same and if you close your eyes you think that you are in Brent Cross!

For me personally, the fact that I can just turn on the radio at any time of the day or night and hear a nice dvar torah or some Jewish music is a great source of pleasure.

Oops! I’m British and I haven’t mentioned the weather yet! Do I need to explain? Even this white boy is getting a slight tan without any effort.

The Land of Israel has everything that anyone could want. From water sports to snow.Mountains, valleys, forests, rivers, the Mediterranean sea, antiquities, holy sites, and every kind of art, craft and activity. Every kind of fauna and flora, and flocks of birds on their way from Northern Europe to summer in Africa. In fact many of them have decided to summer in Israel instead to the chagrin of the farmers! From Kosher for Passover pizza (ugh) to prize winning wines (yum). Every kind of tasty fruit and vegetable to hot, spicy Yemenite foods.

Aliyah continues. People fom all over the world including NYC, London and Sydney still want to join us. There are queues at the misrad klita (absorbtion ministry) in tel aviv and it takes 3 weeks to get an appointment and Ulpan Gordon in Tel aviv is opening more classes.

So yes. I am happy to be here despite the difficulties. It’s high time those Jews still in the Diapora made a move.

By the way – the firework display in Rishon-le-Zion on Yom Ha-atzmaut was absolutely stunning – followed by a free concert in the park.

Next year in Jerusalem

Rabbi Meir Wise


One Response to “Happy to be here”

  1. Simon said

    “Next year in Jerusalem” – why wait so long, after what you wrote?!
    After your own teething Aliyah experiences, things can only get better (-:

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