Earl Shugerman brings every week a serie of stories about Anglo-Saxon immigrants to Israel. This project is aimed to promote a more realistic view of life in Israel.
Many Israelis follow the age old tradition of the Friday night dinner and prayers to honour the beginning of the Sabbath. Friends and family meet to share companionship and pray together. This Friday I celebrated the start of the Sabbath with my friend Zehava and her family.
Zehava and her husband Leon are French born, old timers in Israel. They immigrated to Israel in 1980. They have two teenage sons and a six year old daughter Shira who is the “Apple of My Eye.” They also invited their American cousin Linda to join us.
Linda is a fifty’s year old single female with a 16 year old daughter. Linda was born, in France, but lived in California most of her life. We enjoyed a wonderful meal and then went to sit on the veranda to drink coffee and chat.
Linda was married to a “wonderful Christian man for 14 years.” “We respected the differences in our spiritual backgrounds and praised our daughter for exploring faiths independently”, added Linda. ” I belonged to a Reformed [Jewish] Congregation when we married and my spouse was a self proclaimed agnostic”.
“However, in the course of time I found that I needed to be more in touch with my Jewish roots. I took classes in the Talmud and Torah through Chabad House and found [the] spirituality that I had been missing in life. My husband explored his Catholic heritage. I found myself, after a two-year process, even considering a life in Israel. I lived in a beautiful home, had a great job, and a fine partner but decided to risk it all to try life in Israel”.
“My husband insisted on staying in the States. We agreed to a one-year trial separation period to see how we did on our own. [This would] allow me to taste the life in Israel”.
“Three years later, I am still in Israel, employed as a clerk in a Tel Aviv bank. We decided to end our marriage and allow our daughter to spend the school year in Tel Aviv. She stays in California during her vacations. She sees this as a great adventure, and loves learning about new cultures and languages. Arabic is her second language in school”.
“ Did I make a mistake?” I ask myself that question many times a day. “Time will tell”. “Life here has many challenges”. “We need to learn a new language, a new culture, face a less luxurious lifestyle and there is still the struggle for peace”.
It is impossible to understand the invisible Hand that shapes our destiny. However, many Jews have felt the magnetic allure of Israel. The patriarch Abraham was the first. He left the comfortable trappings of ancient Babylonia to undertake an arduous emigration to the “ land that G-d would show him”. Evidently this demanded a great deal of faith. To mere mortals of the modern age, doubts can always surface to challenge our thinking.
Although Israel is not a Utopian society where the streets are paved with gold, it is an integral part of Jewish heritage. Today record numbers of Global Jewry are returning to their ancestral homeland. They are undeterred by the challenges that face them. The obstacles are merely there to be overcome. And after 60 years in the remaking, Israel continues to thrive thanks to the new found faith of Linda and many others.
About the author: Earl Shugerman is a retired American Government public relations specialist, currently spokesperson in Haifa for The Jewish Agency and a writer specializing in interfaith relations. He has worked together with the Catholic and Southern Baptist Movements, the Reformed Jewish Movement and Muslim groups in interfaith activities.