Jewish Journal

Leaving Israel is becoming a trend, so why do I choose to stay?

by Noga Gur-Arieh

October 23, 2013 | 12:11 pm

After spending Friday nights in Tel-Aviv and calling each other “brother” or “sister,” comes the most recent Israeli trend: leaving Israel.

It is now THE Israeli thing to do: pack, fly, start anew abroad. This phenomenon is not new, but it has recently become impossible to ignore. It is catching like fire in a field of hay. Every day you encounter someone stating he/she is leaving, and everywhere you go abroad, you meet a small community of former Israelis that use every opportunity to explain why “here, life is so much better – no war, no noise, no heat, no hate.”


I am not going to call them “pathetic” or “traitors.” I don’t think they are. I think they got so tired of the problem-struck Israel, that they decided they can handle their fair share of anti-Semitism in return for a somewhat simpler life. Some people are not handling this recent trend very well. Our Finance Minister, for example, recently called the departing Israelis a series of unflattering names. He reminded them of the events of 60 years ago, and demanded to know why they still choose Berlin or Budapest over our homeland.


As a response, they presented him with a long list of troubles and distress in our homeland, which makes the danger of history repeating itself much less worrying. Here, we live under the constant threat of destruction courtesy of our neighbors, we are being targeted by BDS groups seeking to leave us as outcasts of the enlightened world, we are a target by the looking-for-some-action foreign media, it is almost impossible to live here with an average paycheck, it is ALWAYS hot, and this is only a short list.

Truth is, I understand why people leave, but I also know that the reason they’re boarding the plane so bravely, spitting in the eye of raging modern day anti-Semitism, is the acknowledgment of Israel as a sanctuary.They all know that if and when the day for history to repeat itself will come, they will have a place to run back to. If this trend will continue to grow, there may not be a place for them to run to, but fortunately, many of us have no intention of abandoning the fort. The urge to leave for “a better life” exists in us all. I know that living in the US or in Italy would be much more comfortable and easy, but I, like many others, don’t give in to “easy” so easily. We know we must grow roots here for our fellow Israelis, who could not do this themselves.


I see no other option for me other than a fully-Israeli life, so Instead of thinking of the life I could have in a place far away, I focus on the things that make me want to stay.  I think of the diverse, unique scenery: deserts, cities, snow, beaches, nightclubs and Kibuttzes - a local destination for every mood, in no more than a couple of hours’ drive away. I think of the warmth. Not the challenging humidity, but the warmth of the people. We may push in lines sometimes, or steal hotel shampoos, but when a fellow person is in need, you can count on the closest Israeli to provide assistance. Once you meet an Israeli you become his/her friend, before he/she even knows your last name or where you are from. It's the willingness to think of others, friends or strangers, before oneself, that sure puts a smile on my face.


I also think of the solidarity: in this small piece of land we are forced to share many experiences, such as serving in the army, taking a class field trip to former concentration camps and death camps in Poland, and knowing we, together, still write the history of this young country. This makes us united so tightly, that we always look out for each other, and never leave a “brother” or “sister” in need. I think of our great contribution to the world through original Israeli creation: life-changing inventions such as the ReWalk, award-winning films, inspiration for excellent American TV, Nobel Prizes, Olympic medals and more.


I think of Jerusalem: this magical city that brings all religions together. This “something” there that can take your breath away, from the vision of the Tower of David at night, through the smells of the Ben - Yehuda market, to the feeling of the Western Wall at my fingertips. I think of the optimism: how we always believe that “everything will be all right.” This sentence, combined with the strong belief that everything will, in fact, be all right, is the Israeli essence. No matter what, we stick with our home, with the country that our parents and grandparents built.


Put together, all those thoughts make me more confident than ever in my decision to stay here. While I find great enjoyment in touring the world, I know I only have one home, and this home must wait, intact, stronger and better, to my fellow Israelis' return.

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My name is Noga Gur-Arieh, and I’m an Israeli Journalist, currently studying for my B.A degree in Media and Political Science, at Tel Aviv University.

I am very socially...

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