Thursday, April 24, 2008

Changing perceptions

So here we are celebrating Pesach again. I can remember our last Seder in the UK, two years ago. When we read, “Next year in Jerusalem”, we did so with the thrill of knowing that, if not in Jerusalem itself, we would not be so far away.

It feels wonderful to (still) be here and to revisit and remember how our people were lead to the land of Israel. We now live in the biblical lands of Ephraim and Manasseh in Judea and Samaria. In Kfar Saba, our nearest town, lies the tombstone of Benjamin. Our connection to the land is strong and everlasting.

When we planned our aliyah we didn’t intend to live in a ‘settlement’ but ended up here after finding places that didn’t quite ‘fit’ us. We visited a few places and considered which might become ‘home’.

My mum recently came for a visit. She really is not the type of person who you would envisage walking these parts. She, to her own admission, is not the type of person, she would envisage walking these parts! When she tells her friends we live on a ‘settlement’, many of them have a preconceived idea as to what life is like here. Their only perceptions stem from the UK media, where ‘settlers’ are portrayed as angry, gun totting youths and ‘settlements’ are seen as dangerous, dusty outposts where the residents are regularly fired upon.

I took my mum for a walk around. We went to the ‘posh’ part of our community and I showed her tree lined streets and neat houses with lovely, well-kept gardens; a picture of suburban splendour. We walked along roads lined with detached villas, boasting grand entrances, long balconies, 6 bedrooms and big basements. It certainly blew some myths away.

I hope that my mum shows her photos and describes life here. The foreign media propagate such a narrow view of settlements and I am sure that her photos of villas and tree lined streets will surprise many.

I wonder how many others read, “Next year in Jerusalem”, over the Seder and either looked forward to their own impending aliyah or maybe even felt their first tug towards making their life in Israel. Certainly for us we feel we have made the right decision. We are not established here yet and have many challenges ahead but I can say with all certainly that Israel is ‘home’.

I daily marvel at the minor things in life that continue to give me a thrill; walking past (and smelling the aroma of) trees and bushes laden down with oranges, lemons, figs, grapes, olives; being a bus ride away from the golden beaches we used to travel so far to spend holidays at; being able to go to a supermarket and buy anything; being able to eat out at kosher restaurants wherever we go; or just walking around my neighbourhood and admiring the undulating hills and knowing that, generations ago, our forefathers walked these very steps. This is home in both a physical and spiritual sense. For all the hardships; for all the uncertainty; our hearts are now entrenched here.

Sharona B