I divorced Israel in September of 2008, about nine years after making aliyah (immigration to Israel). I left him, intending to make a clean break. That was the only way I could really move on.
I often liken Israel to a lover. Anyone who makes aliyah is essentially embarking on a marriage with the Jewish state.
It’s easy for Diaspora Jews to fall madly in love with Israel. Israel is so very seductive, especially during the first dates, whether they be educational trips or summer vacations. Just touching the soil revived by the Jewish people after two millennia causes butterflies.
Jews experience intoxicating romance with the land while taking walks along the Tel Aviv shore at sunset; they revel in the land’s beauty at getaways in the plush North; they get frisky on the beach of Eilat and at Tel Aviv nightclubs; they delve into their past and dreams at Masada, the Golan Heights, and the Old City of Jerusalem. Most of all, they engage in heart to heart talks about life, humanity, and the Jewish soul while praying at the kotel.
But once the Jew ties the knot with Israel by making aliyah, the honeymoon quickly fades and the reality of married Israeli life kicks in. For non-Hebrew speakers there are communication barriers; the government bureaucracy is like a pesky mother-in-law who kills the romance with endless, prying demands; it’s hard to go out on dates when bogged down by financial worries because the oleh has trouble finding a good job.
But through their love, the Zionist “couple” sticks it out, reminded of their love and passion with every stroll down a street named after a Jewish sage or hero; with every Jewish holiday celebrated by the entire country, which always feels like a loving family, no matter how many arguments; and with the undying sense of belonging to each other.
Fairly fluent in Hebrew, I communicated openly with Israel. For the most part I found fulfilling employment as a publicist and journalist. Our financial situation was manageable, but we had our ups and downs. We simply went through too many crises: the intifada, the Disengagement, the Lebanon War—all so saddened me, like miscarriages that set me back from truly focusing on my creative output. I felt infertile.
My relationship with my hometown of Los Angeles may not have started as a whirlwind romance. America is like my dependable best friend. He was the shoulder I cried on when I felt jerked around by Zion. He was there for me when I needed him—understanding my language, spoiling me with cushy malls and fabulous spas, entertaining me with great TV shows, and allowing me to focus on my self-development and dreams.
With America, there’s so little drama. I may not cry as much for America as I do for Israel—but I got sick of crying, so much so that I never knew if or when I wanted to go back.
But I’ve been given the chance to get some closure. Nefesh B’Nefesh (NBN), the organization that has assisted over 20,000 Jews in making aliyah since its founding in 2002, has invited me on their charter flight to Israel on September 7 to follow the Zionist love stories of the latest batch of newlyweds.
I will blog about the newlyweds and my reunion with Israel as part of “The Nefesh B’Nefesh Second Annual International Jewish Bloggers Convention - Powered by WebAds” (WebAds is Jewish Internet advertising firm organizing the convention). It will be held on September 13 in Jerusalem and online. The theme: “Uniting the Jewish Community through Social Media.”
NBN is like a Zionist marriage counselor, assisting Zionist newlyweds with living together, communication, paperwork, employment, and social networking. Any good marriage needs preparation, and I never really had that when I officially made aliyah in 1999. So I thank NBN for giving me the chance to smooth things over. I wonder if they want us to get back together.
I don’t know if that will happen, at least not in the near future. When I’m back there, my “ex” and I will probably have a fling and remember the good times—easy without the pressure of commitment. Yet even as I’m beginning to fall in love with my best friend (America), I wouldn’t mind if Israel swept me in his strong, sexy arms for a few weeks.
Orit Arfa is an American-Israeli journalist, writer, and actress currently living in Hollywood. Check out her work at www.oritarfa.net.