Sunday, October 5, 2008

Back to the Swamp

I really should have anticipated this, shouldn't I have. I thought everyone was going to be asking about Resolution Number Five, and instead the eyes are on Resolution Number One. "Why do you want to move to Jerusalem?"

Honestly, that is a really good question. I have been asking myself that question a lot. Apart from the suffocating, hideously sky-high rents, the smog and the months of July and August, Tel Aviv is fantastic. Of course, everyone knows about the beach, the wealth of cultural events and that the city is conveniently located smack-dab in the middle of Israel's strongest job market. But there is more to like about Tel Aviv. By Israeli standards (which are, admittedly, not all that high), much of the city is reasonably clean, reasonably well run and offers a good system of public transportation. Even the smog is scheduled to improve; the number of sidewalks which have been widened to include a bike-path increases on what appears to be a daily basis. Best of all, I am not peppered with emails advertising events designed to help me to fix whatever is wrong with me so that I too will be worthy of a beschert. In fact, if the truth be told, not only is no one concerned with my marital status, no one is particularly concerned with me at all. I can wear whatever I want, eat whatever I want and do whatever I want and nobody cares or even notices. There is something very nice about this feeling of anonymity. As for the rents, I easily find something more affordable in Ramat Gan while still enjoying many of the benefits that Tel Aviv offers.

So why on earth would I want to leave all that for Jerusalem? I do not even like Jerusalem! How do I not love thee Jerusalem? Let me count the ways.

  1. The hideously sky-high rents
  2. The months of December, January and February.
  3. The nickname "the swamp" is appropriate, but should probably be applied to the entire damn city and not just Katamon.
  4. The incredibly shrinking Jerusalem secular community combined with the growing percentage of Jerusalem residents that appear to think that using the Taliban as a role-model in the area of community building is a good idea.
  5. Unless one is interested in working as a waitress or as a clerk at a store selling overpriced Judaica (both of which target the rich retiree/ rich foreign resident population so eagerly courted by City Planners), the job market is crap.
  6. The powers that are in charge of public transportation, namely Egged and whomever is in charge of the light rail, seem to be blissfully unaware that their mission is to help people get from A to B. (Light Rail Official Motto: "Serving Jerusalem from 2008 2009 2010, someday before the Moshiach comes…we hope. And until then, just ripping up the roads and making you all fucking miserable! Baruch HaShem!").
  7. The ever-present expectation that of course you are shomer Shabbat, of course you love two-hour long, Carlebach-style Kabbalat Shabbat services and of course you would be wildly interested in such fascinating courses as "You and Spirituality", "Spirituality and You", "Getting to Know the Torah through Vile Touchy-Feely Expressive Dance Classes" and "Create Your Own Interpretive Midrashes that Read Like Really Bad Romance Novels, Just Without the Sex".
  8. The insane, all-consuming obsession with getting married. Because you are nothing, NOTHING! unless you get married. And have children. Because YOU HAVE NOT LIVED until you have children.

(I would mention Jerusalem's alarmingly high percentage of right-wing lunatics but the truth is that this is met by Tel Aviv's alarmingly high percentage of left-wing lunatics. The only way I am going to find people who are normal politically is if I move to Haifa. Which is not currently on my list of Things To Do.)

Anyway, so right… why the hell AM I moving back to Jerusalem?

It is because I am getting old. Well, not old. But I am settled. At least I want to be settled. Some people are baby-hungry. I am not. If I have children it will be nice, but it will not be an all-consuming tragedy in my life if I remain childless. What I am horribly, ravenously, family-hungry. I want a place to belong to. I want the weight of people pinning me down—at least a little.

The yearning really started to hit right before Pesach. I flirted with the idea of moving back to the States to be near my family. "You can watch your niece and nephew grow. You can spend more time with your parents" I thought to myself. I soon discarded that idea. Who am I kidding? Even when I lived in the States, and even when I lived a 30 minute drive from my brother, I saw my parents once or twice a year and my sister and brother once a year or less. Now that I am here I speak to them and to my parents every few months. We simply do not miss each other all that much. Besides, I like Israel and the very thought of moving back to the States literally gave me nightmares in which I had moved back to the States and was depressed and homesick. Israel is home. The US is not.

But as things are now, Tel Aviv may not be my home in Israel. The perfect freedom of anonymity and the binding ties of family are mutually exclusive. And that is where Jerusalem comes in. Jerusalem, for all of its faults, is where most of my closest friends are. I can go several months without speaking to my sister (and she probably go much longer without speaking to me) but when it comes to my friends in Jerusalem I cannot go a week without speaking with them. As my sister quipped, my close friends in Jerusalem are "siblings like siblings are supposed to be. It is as if you had siblings!" My real niece and nephew are far away, but my ersatz siblings in Jerusalem have plenty of kids for me to be an auntie to.

That is only a partial explanation, as I also have close friends in Tel Aviv whom I will miss once I move. Shockingly (and to my friends and I this is absolutely shocking) I find that I miss the community. For all of its faults, its foibles and its ability to be incredibly obtuse and irritating, I miss the feeling of belonging somewhere.

I went back and forth on this idea for quite a while. To move or not to move. Then, two things happened to help me decide to go with it. First, I got a job in Lod, making a move to Jerusalem that much less hideously impractical. Second, I received a dose of common sense from my friend Ellie. "I don't see what the big deal is. Try it for a year. If you don't like it, you can move back. It is inconvenience and it is money but it is not as though you are making an irreversible decision". She is right. Why not try?


RivkA with a capital A said...

Great Post!!

Captures it all -- the good, the bad, and the ugly...

FWIW, I LOVE Jerusalem. Of course, I do have the married with kids thing going. But I also have that "man, if I had more energy, I would be out every night doing cool things with my friends...."

You have that energy!

You might think there aren't as many cool things here as in TA, but there are... they are just different cool things! And I am NOT talking about earthy, crunchy, granola things, which have absolutely no appeal to me! (ok, maybe a little appeal, but I'd rather do, oh, so many other things....)

Mia said...

I agree with Ellie, you will never know if you don't try.

Thanks for the link, (although I am now out of Haifa and in Ramat Yishai in the Emek Izrael - I wanted more community too).

Safranit said...

My girls would love a local aunt! I think you and Benji should be roommates...

Anyway, we look forward to your return, and you can always visit us outside the bitza.

Benji Lovitt said...

Holy cow, I've been mentally preparing myself to write the same post. AYZE KETA. I feel very similar on a lot of levels about Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

Katherine said...

good luck! you're bolstering the anti taliban sector here by one at least :)
next post please - how will we ever be able to afford to buy property in jerusalem!

Gila said...

RivkA--okay, so what are the things that you would do. Ideas please?

Mia--Is there good biking near you? If so, I can come visit. :) Seriously, mazal tov and b'hatzlecha on the move!

Safranit--Oh, I love your girls. Your girls have Attitude. Cannot wait to see how Thing 3 is turning out. By all means--pencil me in for auntie duty.

Benji--you are moving to Jlem as well? Wild! When? Not really sure that I am in the market for a roommate, but be in touch--we can certainly pool resources in respect to the apartment search.

Katherine--Are you also known as Sarah's friend Cat? And as for your next assignment, apart from selling granny for parts, no real ideas. Sorry. :)

tafka pp said...

I would just like to make it known that I've lived in Jerusalem for almost 9 years (with 6 months in TA in the middle) and have never ONCE been on one of those crunchy spiritual Shabbatons that you describe... ever! See, it is possible :-)

And Benji's moving here too? Yay!

A Soldier's Mother said...

Things to do in Jerusalem:
1. Walk around the German Colony - I never get tired of this.
2. No, Gila, I'm not going to tell you about Mahane Yehuda..., never mind, I won't.
3. Just walk in and around all the alleyways of neighborhoods that call out to you.
4. Go to the museums - there are many.
5. Walk in the Botanical Gardens.
6. Have a picnic with a bunch of friends in the zoo - I never seem to be too old and you certainly don't need to have kids to just enjoy this.
7. Go shopping in the midrahov or in the mall and then just sit there and watch everyone doing the same.
8. Ok, this is a spiritual one...take a bottle of water, maybe some food, dress warm, and sit at the kotel at 5:00 a.m. and if anyone comes up to you and asks for money - tell them your Rabbi said you shouldn't give money to people who ask for it at the kotel because it's a place where people should feel free to pray and shouldn't be interrupted (to be fair, bring change along and if they ask for money in the open plaza area...give them a little).

I love Jerusalem because the people seem gentler, kinder. They move just a little slower than Tel Aviv and in most areas of the city, they don't care if you get where you are going a minute before they get where they are going. I love the older apartments and buildings; I love the cold and wearing tons of layers.

Yes, your friend is can always go back to Tel Aviv...but if Jerusalem calls to you...I'd answer.


Katherine said...

I am indeed - we met once at a lunch she gave one shabbat - our dog slobbered all over your toes if I recall correctly - you were understandably unimpressed :)
yeah I don't know - I completely love Jerusalem - I want to buy a house here - I don't think we will ever be able to afford it!

Ahuva said...

Fabulous post (as always). Your friend is definitely right-- you can always move back, so why not give it another try?

Batya said...

Truly great post.
We used to live in Jerusalem, and some of our kids do.
Community is everthing. It's family, and I didn't even italicize the word.

There's a mishna which says that a remnant of our Jewish tribal identity is like a magnet to the part of Israeli we're supposed to live in. If Jerusalem attracts you, don't look for the rational, follow your kishkes.

Mia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mia said...

do come visit and bring your bike. Emek Izrael is really the land of milk and honey. I know this because of the cows that roam around right outside our lot. (or is it steak and honey)

aliyah06 said...

We NEED you! We need to bolster the diversity demographic. I am moderately dati leumi but I'd die if I had to live in a city exclusively one way! We need different viewpoints and experiences for this city to reach its full potential for everyone....and the bikers need a critical mass with which to impress those idiots at Kikar Safra that the old Rakevet Road would make a perfect bike path while we're all waiting for Light Rail or Moshiach, whichever comes first!

The weather is better most of the time, and you can always go to TA on the winter weekends when its bone-chilling. There are cultural things to do that don't have to be religious. The rents are still sky-high BUT....they are everywhere where there are decent jobs.

Come back! Come back! You'll never know if you don't give it a yank!

Jerusalem Artichoke said...

Beautifully said. I'm looking forward to having you around as an auntie.
Other things to do:
- Concerts at The Lab and outdoor movies and events in the Old Train Station area. I feel like my coolness meter has gone up just by living near this place.
- Come hiking/biking with us at Sataf or one of the many places close to J'lem. OK, you already do this. And, well, you and H. can bike while I sit under a tree.

Baila said...

I am so glad you and Benji are going to single-handedly make J-m a cool place to be again. (Not to much pressure there). I already told Benji this--J-m needs more secular, Israel loving, Jews like you. Between the rich foreigners and the "Tzniut police", the demographic there is getting scary.

Of course, living in Modi'in, I am a hop, skip and jump away from both of these fabulous cities (don't mean to brag, but....)

PS I think "bezrat Hashem" would have been more appropriate than "Baruch Hashem" in the context you wrote. Still, it was a great *&$# post, Baruch Hashem.

Nobody said...

Old? ....... The Devil is old!

Anonymous said...

Ellie's right-Jerusalem is not MARS. (It just feels like it some times).--Kayla
P.S.-I'm only supportive of this move now that there is an alternate beach house at Ellie's.