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Aliyah : It’s painful to abandon long-held hopes, dreams, and ideals

For many people, moving to Israel is an emotional ‘coming home’. The hope for acceptance, familiarity, closeness, and brotherhood. I remember making Aliyah in ’96 accompanied by strong feelings of pride and love nourished during my teenage years at Habonim Dror. After arriving, the immediate connection to people was so refreshing; everyone seemed close and warm. It felt like there were movement and freedom.

It is no surprise then that some Jews end up deciding to make Aliyah. Olim come to Israel for many different reasons: to find belonging, love, or a future among its ‘own people’. In the early stages, it’s easy to mistake the closeness to people, the ‘balagan’, and the general high intensity here as a dynamic movement with a touch of the oriental mystique. What I’ve understood as an Oleh and also by working with people in my private practice is, that behind these elements lies a deep collective trauma.

Suffering always creates a dark side

This country has seen pain and hardship for many years on both sides, Arab and Jewish. For Jews, the suffering throughout long stretches of its history has culminated in the creation of Israel. But suffering too has a dark and aggressive side and works in the shadows. We’re conditioned to take care of those suffering and lose sight of the natural consequences of suffering. It makes us feel both innocent and self-righteous. These are not judgments, but rather the understanding of how trauma affects our individual and collective souls.

What revealed itself behind the romantic longing for a home, was a country and people faced with deep trauma. Like all unresolved trauma, the one common amongst Israelis develops personality traits of its own, and every personality comes with its shadow sides. The same is true for collective trauma.

The shadow is what we resist is us and repress; it includes our feelings of superiority, aggression, righteousness and more, as well as the fears that lie at the foundation of all these feelings. In Israel, existential fears, palpable at every corner, turn into carelessness and aggression, while the lack of trust in structured systems creates the selfish ‘I won’t be a frier’ attitude, which spills over into daily interactions.

What felt as closeness turns into a lack of boundaries

After some time of figuring out that the felt closeness and openness actually represents a lack of boundaries, and that living in this small and isolated country also brings a limitation with it, the romantic love receives a setback and the honeymoon is over or at least some cracks appear. This can take anywhere from 2 to 5 years until, what was perceived as reality, changes; after all, the Jewish bond and shared suffering promised to be a meaningful and significant love affair. This doesn’t mean or suggest that Israel doesn’t possess its unique qualities, but as with all that is idealized, we hit limitation at some stage and face normal human behavior in its light and darkness.

Especially looking at love relationships and professional careers, new and even not-so-new immigrants to Israel can experience a clash that leaves us confused. The chaos, limited professionalism, and never-ending unpredictability start weighing on daily life. We may ask ourselves, “Why can’t my longing, love, and excitement to settle in Israel outweigh the limitations and challenges I encounter here?” It can become more difficult to reconcile the contradictions and many Olim start to feel a mix of anger and defeat. Facing the question, “Can I really make it here and can I bridge all of these differences?” starts to come up more.

Leaving the safety shore of romantic ideals becomes critical for making conscious choices

Most of the time, we are caught up in our own stories and can’t see the larger external influences of a different culture and the acted out trauma impacting us. You may think to yourself, “But I’m having a relationship with Avi or Noa,” but there’s a deeper dynamic unraveling in intercultural relationships. This may be hard to grasp because as Olim, we come here as Jews and expect a common denominator to bridge all gaps and allow for love to flow.

Living, loving, and working here requires us to become aware and look, without judgment. We need to put romantic ideas and ideologies aside and find the willingness to see honestly what is and what is not possible.

Picture copyright: http://www.palestineposterproject.org