Saturday, 28 August 2010

For Gilad

Today is Gilad Shalit's 24th birthday.

He has been held as a hostage in the Gaza Strip since 2006, when he was kidnapped from Israeli territory during a cross border raid.

Gilad Shalit, aged 20, just before his capture in 2006

Although there have been repeated promises made by the Israeli government to work towards freeing Gilad, no significant progress has been made since Hamas released the video of him in October 2009. CNN, YNet and other news outlets have been reporting that pressure is increasing on PM Netanyahu to make a deal with Hamas that would see Shalit released. I sometimes wonder what Gilad himself would think of the efforts that have been made: firstly the Gaza incursion that did Israel no international favours and failed to get him released, and secondly the negotiations over prisoner swaps - the Israeli government being expected to release 1,000 or so Palestinians in return for Gilad's own release.

I am hopeful of his release inasmuch as is it surely the right thing to do and demonstrates a willingness on behalf of the Israeli government to take bold steps towards finding an equitable solution to the many issues that exist between Israel and the Palestinians. However, with Netanyahu as PM I find it difficult to believe he would go through with releasing the numbers of prisoners it would take to enusre Gilad comes home.

Please click here to find out what you can do to help raise awareness of Gilad's plight and help pressure politicans to push for his release.

Thank you.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Heading for the good life...?

It's nice to know that Newsweek has named Israel as the 22nd best country to live in out of 100 countries. They have measured education, health, quality of life, economic dynamism and political environment as the yardsticks by which the countries have been measured. Israel has scored particularly well on Health but what interested me most was the 'Political Environment' rating. Israel came 27th (the UK came 33rd here) and was scored on 'freedom house rating', 'political participation' and 'political stability'.

I will have to remember this the next time I meet a member of the PSC who claims that Israel is an apartheid state. According to the Newsweek research, Israel has a more highly rated electoral process, functioning government (!) rule of law, associative and organisational rights, personal autonomy and individual rights and freedom of expression and belief that our dear old Great Britain.

You can see the research for yourself here

Monday, 23 August 2010

Another one!

I sometimes feel like I am participating in an episode of Aliyah QI. The questions are very hard and the obvious answer is never the right one. Meanwhile the scoring system is completely random and the person who you think comes first usually comes last. With so many members of my family getting to Israel before me, I reckon I must be the Alan Davis of Aliyah QI.

As I've already (jealously) mentioned, Lucy my little sister made aliyah 3 years ago. My mum amd Anthony have now put their house on the market, and will up sticks as soon as they have a sale. Finally, I have just today joined the Facebook group of my cousin, Hayden, who has just set of for the land of milk and honey on a 5 month internship. Another one has beaten me to it! (I'm just waiting to hear that my Nana has quit Donisthorpe for Netanya ...)

Sunday, 22 August 2010

What is left?

Sometimes I think about what I'll miss about the UK once I've made Aliyah. When the Plan began, I would have said pubs. Now I'm (a fair bit) older (and a parent) I will say politeness, people indicating when they're driving and the friends I've made over the years who I will see a lot less often (but hopefully will not, thanks to the wonders of modern technology, lose touch with).

One thing I won't miss is the angry defensiveness I feel every time I see the Palestine Solidarity Campaign people at the stalls they set up in Brighton to 'spread the word' about Gaza (like it's never in the news...) and encourage people to boycott Israeli goods. Personally I buy fruit and veg I don't particularly need in Tesco when I see it's from Israel so I'm not the best person to try to convert to this particular cause. I was at the Brunswick Festival yesterday as Mark was doing spinal screenings for the clinic. It's a small scale, local community event that's been running for almost 30 years and is a really nice couple of days out (even if it's been a showery weekend this year...). Anyway, the PSC folks were there and I paused to read some of their literature about the blockade when a young lady thrust a leaflet into my hand that read 'Boycott Israeli goods'. I asked her if the PSC supported a boycott of Egyptian goods and she gave me a slightly puzzled look that sort of said 'uh oh' and I continued to remind her that Egypt is also blockading Gaza. She didn't have anything to say so I left, muttering to myself (as I am wont) about one sidedness....

Its strange really because I consider myself to be pretty left-wing and dovish when it comes to Israeli poitics, especially peace politics. However, it angers me that groups push such a one-sided agenda in this country. There was a half hour Panorama programme on the Mavi Marmara the other night which was generally very good (even congratulated by Honest Reporting so must've been good! (lol :-)) but still, the Egyptian role in the blockade was not mentioned even once. Maybe my dad was right that I would become more right-wing as I got older. Although I would like to disagree with him, I think that my views on Israel are more right wing here than they would be in Israel. It's probably a sort of defence mechanism for me, protecting my fellow Jews, that would be unneccessary in Israel, where the Jews all argue with each other anyway.

I am generally very proud of the British media, which gives a wide, varied and overall balanced report of the news when taken as a whole: and indeed this is something I will miss when I make aliyah. I will definitely be keeping up with the  British press online. One thing I won't miss is the trendy-anti-Israel rhetoric that's quite common in Brighton - at least when left-wingers protest in Israel, they know what they're protesting about.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Why why why?

When I mention to people (friends, colleagues, some family members) that I intend to go and live in Israel, I am often met with a puzzled, incredulous face and the question 'Why?'. When you consider the image of Israel that most people have in their mind's eye, formed by in no small part by the media, then it's not really that surprising.

However, when I think about Israel, I find myself thinkg, "home". That's how I felt in May 1988 when I landed for the first time at Ben Gurion airport with mum and Lucy. I was 11 years old and I felt like I had just got home. I was and still am a secular but slightly traditional Jew (Friday night candles and dinner, shopping on Saturday - you know the type) who at age 11 had had some experience of Jewish youth groups (Habonim Dror, YJNF) so had a vague notion of Zionism. The overriding feeling of being in Israel for me though was that I never had to explain to anyone about being Jewish - something I must've felt the need to do a lot at my 'other home' in Leeds, I guess. In short I loved it. Even the extreme sunstroke on Day 5 on an Egged Tour to the north couldn't diminish the hugely emotional response I had to being in Israel at such a young age.

An Egged Tours bus - not a good place to have sunstroke, eh Lucy?

I visited Israel twice more before I turned 18, another family holiday (with dad this time) and an FZY leadership course in 1994. I got the chance to stay (briefly) with an Israeli family in Nazrat Illit, with another family on a moshav in the Galil (shout out to Hazon!) and on a kibbutz near Eilat. This was another side to Israeli life, far removed from the hotels and restaurants of Tel Aviv that I'd experienced up to that point. I loved it.

In 1995 I started my degree in Jewish History at UCL and began to learn Ivrit. Then I spent my third year at the Rothberg School at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem. With each passing day I felt more and more like I was somewhere I truly belonged, even though living in Jerusalem could be tense in ways I couldn't really have imagined living in London (the Ben Yehuda triple suicide bomb exploded just 3 weeks into my time there). Although I'd begun my degree thinking I'd be focusing on Holocaust history, I took more Israeli-based courses in my final year and continued to complete an MA in Modern Israeli Studies.

The view from Mt Scopus, where I studied at the Hebrew U for a year - VERY hard to leave that place...

Since completing my teacher training in 2002, I've lost count of the number of times I've returned to Israel to see friends and family and in 2004 after a week in Herzliyya and returning to a rain sodden Brighton and losing my camera (I was soooo pissed off about that) I asked my headmaster if I could take a sabbatical, with the intention of making Aliyah and teaching in Israel.

Things moved quickly after that.

Headmaster said 'Yes'!! - how amazing! I could go and make Aliyah and my job would be waiting for me if after a year I decided to return!

I went on a date with an Israeli guy called Mark who lived in Brighton.

We got on - I mean we REALLY got on...

I changed my mind.

(I didn't want to leave you Mark, after I just found you!! :-))

Did I wuss out? No, we really knew we were going to be together and we both wanted to be in Israel in the future - Mark just needed to make his chiropractic fortune first ( - the only way to make a small fortune in Israel is to go with a big one in the wise words of my husband) and so began the Five Year Plan. Yes, I know that 2004 is 6 years ago, but that's the beauty of the FYP - it changes to suit your circumstances :) We officially started counting again at the beginning of 2007 when we opened the clinic in Hove so we should be in Israel for 2011 but really it'll be 2012 (I told him I gotta get out before the Olympics!)

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

The story starts here.. sort of

This is me, baby Roni and my little sis, Lucy in April 2010. Tel Aviv. That's where Lucy lives. With her husband, Avi, who is Mark's first cousin. They met a couple of days before our wedding in April 2006, at a party we had in the Crowne Plaza, Tel Aviv. Mark's mum, Yaffa, had put on a fantastic party for our families to get to know each other. Lucy & Avi took these instructions to heart and married in November 2008. Lucy's been living in Tel Aviv since 2007.

Lucky bugger.

I first decided that I wanted to live in Israel at some point between 1994 and 2002. So Stage One only took around 8 years. I am currently 4 years into a five year plan (that began in 2006 - are you keeping count?) Lucy beat me to it by .... some way (3 years if you're still counting...) and she never even planned it. At all.

But I will be there. Deadline April 2012.