Exactly seven years ago, I was sent on a assignment abroad and relocated to the United States; more accurately, to St. Louis, Missouri. Yet this month we’re coming back to Israel. Throughout my stay overseas, I followed events in Israel daily, although not as closely as in Israel.
I didn’t suffer here, most certainly not. Nice salary, reasonable taxes, decent fuel prices and proximity to work under any weather or traffic conditions serve to create a high quality of life.
The salary also enabled my wife to be a full-time mother, and she enjoyed every moment. During my stay I also acquired a taste for cycling; I started with a mountain bike and continued on the roads. Plenty of rain that clears the air of dust and waters the grass, and everything is green with the exception of winter months.
About two years ago we decided to return to Israel. It wasn’t an easy decision. My employer was offering me a Green Card. The visa I arrived with was to expire and cannot be extended. Yet despite the tempting offer, we decided to go back. In between, I had the opportunity to relocate within the US for a similar job, this time in Chicago.
The decision to move to Chicago before returning to Israel wasn’t easy either. Yet the interest in a new job and a new location encouraged the decision. In the Chicago area, it was possible to see other sides of America that we did not see in St. Louis. First and foremost traffic jams, high taxes, poorly maintained roads and so on.
So why am I returning to Israel? Believe it or not, my parents and my wife’s parents are asking the same question. Why do you insist on coming back? What did you lose here? Well, to all those who are having a difficult time in Israel, who complain about high meat prices at the supermarket, about traffic jams, public transportation and all the other subjects for whining, ask yourself this: Who will you be eating dinner with on Friday? Who will you argue with at lunch over politics or sports? (A side-note: I haven’t argued sports or politics for almost six years now, with the exception of brief visits home.)
Where will you find the best friend you can speak to even late at night and discuss painful secrets? Today I know where you can’t find it – in the US. I and many of my acquaintances did not find these friends here.
Comfort isn't everythingThe friends you make, and your family, are the real thing. At times you need to compromise and nonetheless have dinner with colleagues from work, managers and employees, celebrate holidays together, go on vacations together, cycle together. Indeed, there is another choice. Usually this choice is known as solitude.
Don’t get me wrong, we enjoyed most of the meetings we attended. We chose friends and bid them farewell, the ones who come for a year and then travel to the next job. The feeling of transience was part of our daily routine.
Life here is comfortable and easy. Especially if you are employed by a large software company that pays all your medical insurance bills, including $4,500 after you crashed with your bicycle and broke some body part. Yet not everyone has this insurance. At the same time, life here has a different meaning; a very materialistic one: When should we buy things, where can we get the cheapest stuff, and when will the iPhone 5 come out already?
After almost seven years I can say that yes, I can go on like this, but I don’t want to do it. I want my three sons to learn Hebrew and I want them to grow up in an Israeli environment, despite the difficulties, the disagreements on where to build, how many prisoners to release, which minister of former president should be imprisoned, how to fix this junction better or take over the Marmara quicker with fewer fatalities.
Israel is an environment that knows how to come together at difficult moments and at touching moments. It’s hard to see it when you live in the midst of it; it’s hard to notice the energies this pours into you. Yet when you are not there and are not getting it directly and in large doses, only then you realize what is missing.
My advice to people who wish to try living in other places is as follows: Go there, try, experience, mature. Israel is not a place, it’s a feeling; a feeling of home. And there’s nothing I can do about it, I’m just fed up with being so far.
Yoav Dobrin, a software engineer working for a global software company, is a married father of three