Thursday, December 27, 2007

Why I live in Israel

I grew up in a small city in Canada (Ottawa) in the 1950s and 1960s. There were only about 5000 Jews in a city of about 250,000. I went to a private Hebrew day school where we spent almost half the day praying and learning religion. When we stepped out of the school onto York Street, other children would taunt us, and on occasion throw stones at us. We were not allowed to sing Christmas caroles, although I recently learned that my younger sister snuck out of the house every December to help the neighbours decorate their tree. We were brought up to be separate.
I subsequently attended an excellent public high school (Hillcrest), where there were only forty or fifty Jewish students among 1,800. Many students had never seen a Jew before, and some had trouble believing that I could be one (or as my next door neighbour once asked me, "How could you be such nice neighbours, yet you killed Jesus?"). My best friend at school once told me that I was not welcome at his home anymore as his parents (of Scottish descent) had discovered that I was Jewish.
Being Jewish in Canada means being different. The moment I landed in Israel, I came to a place where everyone was the same 'different'. I no longer had to attend synagogue in order preserve my Jewish identity. So I could go to synagogue whenever I feel like it (which is rarely). I can keep kosher because I feel like it. Nobody will doubt that I am Jewish if I don't.
My children speak Ivrit from infanthood. To have a whole country of people speaking a resurrected Biblical language that is thousands of years old is a miracle in itself. So is visiting the old city of Jerusalem, the Sea of Galilee, and the Dead Sea.
Don't get me wrong. I love Canada. I just never felt truly at home there.
Here I do.

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