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Are You Insane? Three Answers to Commonly Asked Questions about Moving to Israel

Are You Insane? Three Answers to Commonly Asked Questions about Moving to Israel

Most people thought we were out of minds to move to Israel. Here’s why they’re wrong.


God tells Abraham, "Go forth from your land, from your birthplace, and from your father's house to the land that I will show you," (Genesis, 12:1). I was inspired to take the same journey and move to Israel. From the Negev desert to the mountains of the Golan Heights and everywhere in between, Israel is the most beautiful place in the world. And the strength of the Jewish people in their homeland is tremendously inspiring.

I wanted to be part of this unfolding drama of the Jewish people returning to their homeland and do my part in writing the next chapter of our people’s incredible odyssey.

While it had been a lifelong dream to move to Israel with my family, most people who heard about my plans had this reaction: “Are you completely out of your mind?!”

As a clinical psychiatrist, I felt comfortable answering them with expert testimony that I wasn’t exhibiting signs or symptoms of insanity. I was just doing what Jews for the past 2000 years have dreamed of doing: I was going home to the land of our Forefathers.

Some brave friends (thank you Rabbi Chananel) and family (you’re the best Gramma ever!) supported us, but most people were skeptical and followed up their first question with one of the following three subsequent ones:

  1. Don’t you know it’s dangerous in Israel?

  2. Don’t you know that Israeli culture is different from American culture?

  3. Don’t you know it’s very hard to make the transition to Israel?

Each of these deserves an entire article on its own, but here are my short answers.

Don’t you know it’s dangerous in Israel? The answer to this is easy. Don’t you know that the world is a very dangerous place these days? Whether it’s the terror attacks in France, Germany, America, Turkey, or any of the other nations plagued by Islamic extremism, things are very different than they were 30 years ago when Israel was the lone nation constantly under threat from terrorism.

I will never forget my experience working in the emergency room in Boston at a major city hospital on April 15th 2013. It was a peaceful Monday afternoon until dozens of victims from the Boston Marathon bombing came in covered in blood and the entire city was immediately shut down in the face of terrorism. So when people ask me if Israel is dangerous, I ask them if they know that Boston is also dangerous. And then I ask them to consider whether they truly believe that any country on Earth is better equipped and more dedicated to defending its citizens from terrorism than the state of Israel?

Don’t you know that Israeli culture is different from American culture? This one is also easy. Are most people really happy with the direction that the Western world is heading? With levels of personal satisfaction declining in Europe and North America, heading to a place where life is a bit more simple and family-oriented is a breath of fresh air.

On my morning commute last week, I watched as a young mother brought her three young children onto the bus. Besides the people who made room for the children to sit together, the driver himself held her infant daughter and sang nursery rhymes while the mother folded up her stroller and secured it for travel. Could something like this possibly happen in Chicago where more than 500 homicides have rocked the city over this past year? The feeling of community and the sense of being one big family is absolutely priceless and 100% palpable in Israel.

Don’t you know it’s very hard to make the transition to Israel? Now this one is a bit more complicated. Transitions are interesting for everyone and mastering a new language is never easy. I often describe the immigrant experience as a mix between going camping (e.g. you don’t have any of your stuff or the creature comforts that you’re used to) and waiting at the DMV (e.g. there is no sense of time, structure, or efficiency). On a personal level, I was forced to stop asking why the Ministry of Health isn’t involved in obtaining health insurance, why the Ministry of Transportation isn’t the first place to get your driver’s license, and what the Interior Ministry does in general because that might have made me completely nuts. Thank God on most days my biggest problem is struggling to find out where to buy high quality trash bags that don’t rip on your way to the dumpster and other similar struggles.

So perhaps the most important rhetorical questions for anyone who asked me if I was crazy for moving to Israel are: What is the price of never getting up the guts to follow one’s lifelong dream of living in the Holy Land? What is the risk of being honest with one’s self that for many, the creature comforts of America are more important than the merits of living in the Land of Israel? What is the cost of another generation living in Exile?

And for everyone who doubted whether or not it was worth it, know that there is nothing to inspire personal growth like waking up each morning as a Jew in the Land of the Jewish People. And furthermore if this photo of the sunrise from my backyard isn’t enough to prove it, have someone take your pulse…

November 12, 2016

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Visitor Comments: 20

(14) Anonymous, November 30, 2016 9:12 PM

I think this is a great article that is very inspiring. It's great to hear that making Aliyah works out for people. However, I find that people who make Aliyah become "holier-than-thou" and start preaching that they are doing the right thing and they are better, and anyone living anywhere else is wrong. You don't know why others don't make Aliyah. There are plenty of valid reasons. For example, maybe someone has a child who is receiving services for something in America that the child simply cannot get in Israel. Or maybe someone has a family member who lives in America and needs to remain here for whatever reason, and the caring family members can't just up and leave. Or maybe the person has a job here that doesn't translate to anything in Israel or isn't viable in Israel. I personally know people in all 3 situations. Sure, you probably have a counter argument b/c you did it and you were successful and and people tend to think that what they experience applies to everyone. Like people who tell you what you need for your wedding b/c they loved it, when it's nothing you ever wanted. What you experienced and how you experienced it is not how I would experience the same occurrence. Making Aliyah is not as simple and clear cut for everyone as Olim tend to think and make it sound. I'm personally not against it. I just wanted to make people aware that something with which you might have great success could be someone else's greatest struggle.

(13) Chana Miriam Zelasko, November 19, 2016 4:27 PM

Very true

Baruch Hashem, I made aliyah 40 years ago. I pray that all the Jews in Galus will also move to Israel soon.

(12) YehudahLeib, November 17, 2016 6:54 AM

Peace upon Israel

Tehillim 128:6 "And may you see your children's children, Peace upon Israel" - i.e. your children's children's living in Eretz Yisroel will bring that Peace here to Israel. Make sure your grandchildren live and marry and have their children here - which will bring Moshiach.

Ben, July 31, 2017 11:24 PM

Tehillim 128:5

Tehillim 128:5 applies to your comment too! =D

(11) devorah mei, November 16, 2016 5:42 PM

Home is where our soul is connected and where our heart is.

Kol la kavod for your decision. I did Alyiah from find Paradise. Cannot understand how is possible for a Jewish soul to live in the galut, disconnected from the kedusha of the Land and from Hashem ! I love Israel, and give thanks every day for being home.- .we live in Ramat Golan....where sunrise and sundown is a major spectacle by itself. I feel and understand what are you talking about.
May Hashem bless you and your family!

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