Aliyah, teshuva and Israelis: What do they share in common? They can be: Stressful! Scary! Humbling! Frustrating! Challenging! Hard work! Anger-Inducing! But ultimately all three can bring us into greatness if we open ourselves up to truth.
When the initial shock of making Aliyah begins to settle in and you recognize you are living in the Middle East, surrounded by enemies, struggling to figure out every aspect of your life, one could say a pushy, direct Israeli who doesn’t mince words, is the last challenge you want. However, when you begin to understand that your association with him holds the key to your future success, it becomes vital to accept and appreciate them in order to solicit their help in moving through the maze of adjustments. In order to be successful in each endeavor, self–abnegation and reaching out for help and guidance holds the key to successful Aliyah, teshuva and learning to deal with Israelis.
Since we are in the ten days of teshuva, and the hot blog topic for many new immigrants appears to be the challenge of dealing with Israelis, I wanted to present the connection it shares with both doing teshuva, as well as making Aliyah, in the hopes that as we go into Yom Kippur or settle in as new immigrants, we make peace with all three.
Jews, as new immigrants exposed to Israelis for the first time, clearly state their aversion to being identified as Israeli, due to negative perceptions associated with Israelis. Perhaps as facts are revealed and our deeper understanding shifts, we may find teshuva is in order, due to the negative judgments we have placed on the host citizens of our new country—the place we now call home.
Aliyah, teshuva and learning to deal with Israelis are processes, whose end result is not achieved overnight. They require knowledge, awareness, honesty and a willingness to suspend self, in order to achieve a new way of being, as we strive to become better Jews by serving G-d and our nation in our ancient homeland. Maintaining shalom is imperative throughout each process, as the second Temple was destroyed as a result of baseless hatred. We have too many enemies including our yetzer hara, to create undue animosity between ourselves and our new Israeli family, as we work at settling in.
In an online business article about Europeans working with different cultures, the following observations are made based on their perception of Americans:
Americans consider themselves to be: professional, polite, boundary conscious, and respectful to others.
However, other cultures perceived Americans as: bureaucratic, artificial, self-indulgent, politically correct, people pleasers who apologize all the time, lack personal power, are spoiled as well as passive-aggressive.
On the other hand, their observations of Israelis were:
Israelis consider themselves to be: caring, creative, direct and honest while other nationalities perceived them as arrogant, stubborn, rude and pushy.
Interesting? Which perception is correct? It depends on the individual because the truth lies with our perceptions and experiences based on our own core values and personal bias. The article clarified that as time went on each group learned to value and appreciate the positive values inherent in the other cultural group, in spite of their initial negative judgment and perceived differences.
On November 29th, 1947 ,when the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution calling for the establishment of a Jewish state, it was the ancestors of today’s Israelis who worked through the great struggles that ensued to create, through the grace of G-d, today’s thriving country. Israel did not become the nation it is today by sheer luck. Immigrants came to help build the land and the nation and their self sacrifice was enormous. They performed difficult, back breaking manual labor while at the same fighting for their lives, their land and their sovereignty. If we can begin to comprehend for one precious moment, the massive efforts required on the part of the Jewish community in Israel to establish a Jewish state and the skills and personality traits that were developed as a result of living through constant struggles and wars with enormous loss of our people both young and old, I believe, we will come to value and appreciate Israelis, as we strive to learn from them. If we can suspend misconceptions and negative judgments, we will make Aliyah, teshuva and dealing with Israelis more positive and beneficial for everyone and we will with certainty COME INTO THE LIGHT of our soul powers along with making G-ds name great.
According to published articles, as well as my own perceptions and experiences, I will enumerate the many outstanding qualities that make Israelis who they are.
Israelis are real! This trait alone can jolt the inner nervous system of most unsuspecting Americans and send them back to the airport on the next plane out. I happen to be married to a New York born Jewish husband, who is very much like Israelis. (Yeah G-d, I love it). Israelis have a genius for improvising and creating. They have brilliant minds. They have a taste for the good life but can live without it. They work hard caring for their communities. They are not afraid to be whom they are and they are not apologetic about it. They are loving and intimate with their friends and family…they establish close, life-long relationships and nourish them. They are affectionate. They have learned the art of living successfully under threats. Israeli’s are bonded by shared experiences which makes them strong. They are courageous. They are warriors. They are direct, pushy if need be, and fight for what they want and do not give up easily. They will strive mightily to figure a way to make what they want happen and they are incredibly resourceful. They are rule breakers. They are playful and love to joke and laugh. They smile easily and are full of kindness. They are warm and friendly and welcoming. They are taught to serve the community from their youth. (65% of high school students are required to do weekly community work for the full school year).
Israelis are not afraid to take risks or even fail. In America and Europe failure has a very bad name and is considered to be a liability against success. Israelis consider it a tool to simply do better. Israelis are gutsy and not afraid to use their voice nor challenge authority. These are a few of the reasons why the Israeli start up rate is soaring. The IDF shapes the mentality of the young people in Israel to be community minded and nationally aware. Israelis are not spoiled. They work hard and play hard. They are passionate and direct and honest. They are extremely curious and creative. They are friendly and helpful if they want to be and that challenges most Americans. They do not play the game of pretending about anything. They have acquired the ability to push forward against all odds. They love to argue and to negotiate. Most will go out of their way to help you. Israelis do not always follow through on what they say they will do, but there is always a reason behind it.
The most truthful aspect of new immigrants dealing with powerful, non PC Israelis, is that when you are operating in a weakened emotional condition, and are unable to advocate for yourself, you view those who are NOT helping you in the way you need it, as the enemy. I believe the emotional volcano that has lain dormant rises to the surface and erupts in the face of the numerous settling in challenges and the culprit becomes The Israelis and/or Medinat Yisrael. This is a normal and common psychological response but can be deeply problematic if it gets out of hand. It is perfectly understandable that behaviors of others can often cause distress but it does not give us license to condemn them. In fact, when we stand unsure of ourselves, swirling in emotions, and uncertainty, feeling the deep loss of our selfhood and home connections, we tend to judge those closest at hand.
Making Aliyah, teshuvah and dealing with Israelis tends to remove all the layers of our hiddenness and our essence and character stands bare and vulnerable. They force us to face the truth of who we really are as they confront us with ourselves and break our illusions. In our discomfort, we often strive to find ways to justify our behavior or judgments in order to absolve ourselves of guilt. The key to Aliyah, teshuva and success in dealing with Israelis according to noted teacher, Rebbetzin Tzipora Heller, is to take yourself out of the center of everything. She states that most aveiras are a direct result of pride and arrogance because they cause us to see ourselves as being perfect and see others less than perfect in comparison to us. If you choose to be intolerant towards Israelis and disparage them, this will be negatively impactful to our entire nation, for we return home to the Holy Land to build not destroy. When we approach Yom Kippur to be forgiven of our sins, we can hardly expect forgiveness if we have not been willing to forgive others. Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach OBM says if you can see the good in others, it means you have merited the highest level of teshuva.
In the extraordinary Book, “Garden of Gratitude”, Rabbi Lazer Brody relates the following, “Hashem knows exactly what we need to move us into the realm of character refinement. Hashem knows that in a life of pampered pleasures, a person won’t make any character improvements and won’t fulfill even a small portion of his personal potential and certainly won’t seek Hashem. He will be light years away from teshuva and spiritual awareness. Such a person will be spoiled and weak; he will probably develop an over-inflated sense of entitlement and an intolerable personality who demand much of many people. On the other hand, life’s difficulties especially upon returning to the Holy Land, will not only strengthen a person but stimulate his search for meaning and spiritual growth.” Aliyah, teshuva and learning to deal respectfully with Israelis has the power to lead us in spiritual maturity which leads to true freedom.
To summarize: Making Aliyah to live in Eretz HaKodesh and teshuva are two of G-ds greatest gifts to His beloved nation. Israelis are the residents of Eretz HaKodesh and have lived, worked, died and sacrificed to make it what it is today. Just as we owe Hashem an enormous debt of gratitude for our incredible land inheritance and for the chance to do teshuva, we owe our Israeli family acceptance, respect and appreciation. Just as G-d extends His love and Divine mercy through His gift of teshuva because He wants us to straighten ourselves out, we too must extend love and compassion to our Israeli family in spite of the differences. Our motivation should be love and fear of G-d. The challenge is awesome, but it is completely possible to shift perspectives and release negative judgments. Be encouraged by the fact that this is what G-d wants for our nation especially in our biblical homeland. During this time of the ten days of teshuva, G-d is asking us to carefully avoid the pitfalls of sin through positive, refined interactions with our family, friends, community and nation.
May we merit a soulful, deeply connective, and restorative Yom Kippur with a deep teshuva that enables us to accept and rise above our challenges with a renewed spirit and dedication to the King of Kings and His beloved nation in His beloved land. May we merit to see the connection between Aliyah, teshuva and Israelis and restore each relationship to wholeness and perfect balance.
With Blessings of love and light. Chag Sameach Gmar Chatima Tova, Ariella Bracha
*Note: Please refer to blog post of November of 2012, titled “Becoming Israeli” as it has additional insights which may be helpful.