It wasn't easy. After several years of serving as a career officer in the Israel Air Force, I arrived at a new place, with a new language and a new culture. Everything felt foreign to me. I got quite a lot of criticism and comments that leaving the country was not okay. People asked why I thought it would be easier for me to study medicine, stressed that this was the Jewish state and warned me against assimilation.
They asked if I wasn't afraid to leave my family, my friends, and accused me of offending may parents, who educated me to be patriotic. They said that if my great grandparents were alive, they would likely be disappointed with me, because they were the only ones left from their families who were murdered in the Holocaust. They said I was about to miss out on many important moments in the lives of my loved ones, and that I was betraying the values I was raised on.
Leaving the country was very painful for me, I felt a lot of guilt, but my parents – who gave me deep roots and strong wings – told me it was my time to blossom without any inhibitions.
Today, after several years in Italy, I am sitting in a small café in Rome and reading the articles written by my friends, the members of Generation Y. I want to scream that the writing was on the wall: Today I know that I am the one who was betrayed and that I am lucky to have dared to follow my heart. On the other hand, my heart goes out to my educated and talented friends and siblings who can't find a job and are unable to develop in Israel
– but that was expected.
Several years ago, when I saw that the entry requirements for studying medicine in Israel are so high and that I would have to pay a lot of money for preparatory courses for the psychometric test and improve my matriculation exams, I decided to change direction. I wondered why it was almost impossible in Israel to be admitted into such an important and necessary profession in every society. How is it that on the one hand there is a shortage of doctors, and on the other hand the admission threshold isn't reduced by a single point. In what normal society do doctors face difficulties? After all, every person needs a doctor.
I understand my friends who complain that they have no job and about the cost of living, and rightfully so. I don’t want to tell you that you're whiners (but I will tell you that one year of university in Rome costs one-fifth of a year of university in Israel). I want to tell you that there is another way – my way is neither shorter nor easier, it's simply possible.
I won't preach and won't complain about politicians and torch bearers who instead of leading, rest at the top of the ivory tower. They have no idea what it means to rent an apartment or have an empty fridge, and yet they say that we are leaving because it's "easier" elsewhere – it's never easy not being in your home.
It's not easy for me not to speak Hebrew, not to be with my family every Friday evening around the Shabbat table. My heart yearns during the holidays, not to mention birthdays and weddings which I can't attend. I feel uneasy wearing a necklace with a Star of David, and it's not easy that there are always soldiers next to the Jewish kindergarten and synagogue. I feel uneasy concealing the fact that I'm Jewish.
I am not here for reasons of comfort, but for lack of a better choice. I could not ignore all the no entry or dead end signs I saw in Israel. I left because I felt the difficulties and challenges were not in line with reality.
In a few years, God willing, I will no longer be that medicine student. I will already be called a "drained brain." But I really did not run away. And as for the ones who did run away, and there are quite a few of them, it's time for all those attacking the "new emigrants" to get off their high horse and ask what can be done, how can we help them. I am not calling on my friends to leave the country; I am calling on the country not to leave us.
I left hoping that it would be just for a few years, until I finish my degree, and that then I would come back. Today, those same people who criticized and blasted me say to me, "Stay there, what do you need to come back here for?!" And that's sad.
One of the things that amazed me was that in the midst of the smear campaign against the emigrants, two of them won a Nobel Prize.
On the one hand, there is no problem criticizing and strongly denouncing those who emigrate from Israel. On the other hand, there is also no problem calling them "Israelis" and taking about pride and achievements when it comes to emigrants who win a Nobel Prize.
And I wonder, if the winners of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry would not have emigrated from Israel, could they have contributed so much to humanity? Sometimes a change of place is a change of luck.
Noa Cohen, 27, is a fourth-year medicine student at La Sapienza University in Rome