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It's not Israel, it's YOU (and other ugly lies of aliyah)

"It's not Israel, it's you."

At least, that's what I tell myself sometimes.

"It's all your fault," I tell myself.
Most of these thoughts start with the words, "That's what you get..."

That's what you get for living in an older building, without a vaad bayit.  A building that isn't maintained.  A building where the tenants seriously don't care about anything as long as the thing doesn't fall down around their ears.  A building where the neighbours physically threaten us

if we ask them to turn down their music.

That's what you get for having a cheapskate landlord who doesn't want to shell out for a new air conditioner, a filter to keep rocks out of the water heater, light fixtures that work, an electrical system that doesn't set fire to the whole panel, an exterminator so our floor doesn't have to be paved with ants.

That's what you get for buying cheap appliances, rock-bottom prices, and then when they fall apart, telling the guy I'd rather spend 300 to fix them than 1200 for a new one.  And then nodding and smiling when he tells me it will be 50 more because we're paying by cheque, because that's what I get for not guessing the price ahead of time, going to the bank machine, and withdrawing a whole hunk of cash just in case he wants to relieve me of it.

"It's pretty much all your fault."

Sometimes, I'm happy to take responsibility, hang my head in shame. 
“You're right,” I say in my head. I should have bought better appliances.  I should have moved to a better neighbourhood.  I should have done my due diligence and prodded the 40-year-old nightmare that is my building's plumbing before signing the lease.

But sometimes, it doesn't feel fair. 

Sometimes I feel like we're the only olim who aren't rich and successful, and then I’m resentful.  Why are we the only ones forced to make these tough, tough decisions -- an extra 500 for sealed stove burners so they won't accumulate grime so fast?  Or a stovetop I can afford right now?  Replace the whole oven, or keep limping along knowing it'll blow another element six months from now?

Yup, it doesn't feel fair that we're the only ones.
Every other oleh is happy to brag about their success story, to talk about how much they love living in Israel, how it's just like living in North America, only holier, how they have all the modern conveniences here now.  Life's great.

And then, when things feel their most unfair, I start to blame Israel.

I tell myself:
It's our Israeli apartment building
It's our Israeli appliances
It's our Israeli neighbours playing that godawful music late into the night
It's our Israeli landlord
It's our Israeli ants

It's not me, it's Israel.
I don't deserve all this hassle.

Because honestly, the last couple of years -- even apart from coronavirus -- have been a whole heck-ton of hassle.

Sometimes, it seems like there are service professionals, if you want to call them that, in and out of our apartment every single week.  And even corona times haven't been an exception: just since mid-March, the washing machine, oven, and water heater have broken down and demanded service calls. (respectively: our responsibility, our responsibility, landlord's responsibility)

Did I mention the three guys outside right now digging up the burst pipe?

(see picture up above – it was spraying everywhere, apparently for 3 days running…)
That is going to be one costly repair.

Now, I know pipes burst in Canada.  We spent thousands digging up our front yard one year because a tree root busted our ancient ceramic water pipes.
Appliances break in Canada.  Sleepy Maytag repairperson or not.
Heck, we were even invaded by pantry moths in Canada.  (shudder)

But in Israel, I admit, it feels like it's happening all the time.
And if we're the same people here in Israel that we were in Canada, then it can't ALL be down to us.
Some of it has got to be -- I tell myself -- Israel's fault.

Social media is hit or miss on this.  Sometimes people agree, and sometimes people slam me for slamming Israel.

Sometimes, if I gripe about our frightening electrical wiring, people will chime in and be like, "Oh, yeah, my electrical wiring is so scary too.  How come in a country with a billion engineers, they can't wire a simple household electrical panel without it exploding?"

Other times, if I kvetch about how all this shouldn't be happening at once, people are like, "We don't know what you're talking about, never heard of those kinds of problems.  It's just you.  It's just your building.  Quit complaining and tell us again about your aliyah success story and all about how much you love Israel."

Which makes me weep because of course I do love Israel.  The same way you might love a crazy, bedraggled relative who makes you miserable but you'd never dump because hey, family is family.

And an aliyah success story is simply that you came on aliyah and you are still in Israel, period.  If you're here, you've succeeded.  Even if you are (temporarily) mad at Israel.

Even if you're mad at Israel and everything it dishes out.
Even when it starts to feel personal.
Even when you wish, a little or a lot, that you could be elsewhere.

This is a crazy, intense country and I've come to the conclusion that it DOES sometimes gang up on you.  And it's okay to take it personally.  Doesn't the Torah, after all, refer to Israel as "אֶרֶץ אֹכֶלֶת יוֹשְׁבֶיהָ הִוא", a "Land which devours its inhabitants"?

(rhetorical question: it does, because it IS)

Some days, I feel more than devoured.  I feel chewed up, spit out, and entirely OVER this place.
Other days are a triumph, of course.

But you can't expect every day to be great
(naysayers: "who ever said THAT?")

and you can't expect to feel the holiness every single minute
(naysayers: "maybe if you were on the right spiritual level!")

and sometimes you're allowed to cry and order takeout
(naysayers: "as long as it's falafel!")

and no, it's not falafel,
and no, you don't have to have hummus with every single meal,
or even like hummus at all.

Because you're Israeli no matter what you do and if it helps you survive here, go ahead and cry and eat what you love and you'll be a better, more loving, healthier, more patriotic Israeli tomorrow.

And if that's you, know you're not alone.
Even if sometimes I'm not so sure myself.

If you know where I'm coming from, even a little bit, I'd love to hear what you're struggling with right now in the comments.


Tzivia / צִיבְיָה




  1. I want to cry when reading such a post.
    Maybe it's time to try another corner of the Holy Land. Have I suggested that before?

    1. Batya,

      Definitely thinking about it! But the plan for now is to stick around in this area for the next 6 years so both kids can finish high school with a minimum of disruption.

      Also -- what I don't mention here is that we've already signed a lease and are moving in not very long to what I consider a really nice building. Not "really nice" for this area, but empirically pretty nice. Costs a little more, hopefully so, SO worth it.

      Thanks for reading!


  2. Well, you answered my question with your answer to Batya. B'hatzlacha with the move!

  3. Six years, very long time. If the new building/neighborhood not better, know what I want to say.

    1. Yup. A lot depends on where our grandkids eventually turn up as well. B'ezrat Hashem!!! :-)

  4. Just comping up on two years in Israel and two years of reading your entertaining posts.

    My only comment on this one is "Service professionals" is clearly an Israeli oxymoron.

    1. Yup- like "Customer Service". ;-)

    2. p.s. Thanks for reading!!! And mazal tov on your upcoming aliyahversary!!!

  5. You're moving to another building? Yay! I used to console myself that at least I didn't live in Tzivia's building! ;-) Mine was bad enough though....... remember the upstairs neighbor throwing his garbage and toilet paper down to my place? It's really hard Tzivia. And I think if you have money it's definitely much easier. Met some Olim living in TA who had plenty of shekels and they were having a wonderful time. Struggled to connect their lives to the lives of many Olim around me that I knew in KS. Like a different planet! Be well,and I hope the new place is an improvement.

    1. Nice to hear from you! There are definitely sociological / demographic issues with the periphery of the country. And many olim don't even know these disparities exist. When we first made aliyah, we received a small grant from Nefesh b'Nefesh from their Go North program, but one condition of receiving the grant is that you had to physically take a pilot trip to the north so you could see what it was like and understand how it was different from other parts of the country. Having spent almost 7 years here now, I can see that 3 days in the north isn't enough of a pilot trip, but at least there was that requirement, that you not just ASSUME it's like everywhere else in Israel. Cuz it's definitely NOT! :-o
      Thanks for your good wishes, hope things are going well where you are now.

  6. Is it helpful to ask neighbors before you move in ? Does the municipality have records of complaints made of the landlord ? Would there be any recourse , like rent escrow ? I think I’m a little intimidated by not knowing the laws or culture of Israel , especially being a single senior . I still want to make Aliyah , but, I waiver thinking how unknowable I am . Bracha Vehatzlacha!

    1. Alice,
      Asking neighbours is probably the BEST way. And we have done our due diligence with the building we're moving to. It's just 2 blocks away, but way better, completely clean and nicely kept, and we know a couple of families in the building. Plus, we're taking over from some other English speakers who have been there long-term.
      To some extent, this isn't an Israel problem, but the difficulty in speaking with the neighbours because of the language barrier, at the very least, is something you should compensate for by taking along someone who does speak the language when you're looking at places.
      Also -- for seniors, to some extent I recommend living in areas where there are lots of other Anglo seniors. Nahariya is one area that has a more active English-speaking retired community. Places like Netanya are a better bet than this area, for sure.
      Good luck!


I'd love to hear what you have to say.