Friday, October 17, 2014

Returning to Israel

I've recently returned from a 10-day trip to Portugal. I learned a lot about this country and had a good time. However, I'm not going to describe the trip here, rather discuss insights I got by just being away. It's good to go away sometimes and get new perspectives.

One thing I realized is how much our lives here are abnormal in some ways. Normally, I would be the last person to admit this, but what seems natural when living here, feels different when you return. Our days are full with [bad] news, grief, politics, self-proclaimed importance of our agenda, cost of living and so on. These topics envelop us invisibly and we are either unaware of them or have canned excuses, like "we deal with important issues, rather than trivial ones of plastic". I admit being guilty of both coping techniques. Anticipating that in a couple of days the abnormal will become normal again, I'm capturing the feeling of the moment.

I have said many times that "our important issues" give additional meaning to our lives, a sense of purposefulness, for a price I am ready to pay to keep Israel up for Jews to "come home" in case of need. I never thought I deserve a prize for this or regretted the better life I could have had elsewhere. This is my choice, this is right for me. However, a Tel Aviv University professor has different ideas. He claims that we provide free insurance to Jews in the diaspora. They live their good lives, knowing that when need arises, they will just hop on a plane to Ben Gurion airport and be welcomed here, no questions asked. So basically we go through all the difficulties to act as shelter for them and not for ourselves. He is proposing to put a time limit on the Law of Return, say 5 years from now. Whoever wants to come after that date, should be subjected to immigration policy, like in other countries. He knows that such a change in the law would never be voted for, but it makes sense to him.

This reminds me when we went through some old photos and documents of a relative of mine, who lives in the diaspora. One of the documents was her parents' ktubah (marriage contract). "Please don't touch this, this is my proof for being Jewish" she said and quickly slipped the insurance policy back into the drawer.

It's complicated. Israel and the diaspora need each other. The wealthy will always have more options to go elsewhere and the poor should perhaps have that free insurance. For now, there is no differentiation and chances are it will continue to be so.