Guest Voice: Sarah Lubelski, Birthright Israel Alumnus
Tell most people you’re moving to Israel and they will look at you like you have just lost your capacity for reason. When I announced I was moving, friends asked me if it was dangerous. Even people who see Israel as a great country to support and visit think my decision to live there is pure insanity. The question I’m most often asked is, “What’s it like?” And a few months in, I finally have an answer. Israel is a country of contradiction. It’s the home of the pacemaker, but last month it took me almost an hour to get a postage stamp. Solar energy was discovered here, but I’ve seen an old lady fight off an angry mob to defend her rightful place in line at my local Clalit healthcare clinic. Though Israel has some of the best military technology in the world, it’s damn near impossible to find a good piece of chicken.
Anyone who has tried to cook in Israel knows how difficult it is to find fresh, boneless chicken breast in central Tel Aviv.
What’s available boils down to pre-cooked options and pre-flattened pieces destined to become schnitzel. It’s as though nobody in Israel has thought of cooking chicken that wasn’t breaded and fried. I bought frozen schnitzel packages at my local market for months until I discovered the butcher’s counter at Mega, and I was finally getting the fresh, be it disturbingly flat pieces of meat I so craved. One day I was getting ready to cook when I uncovered a tragedy – the package of flat chicken I had lovingly defrosted for dinner contained one small piece, and I was cooking for two. In a tizzy of panic and anger, I demanded Yonatan run to the Mega and get more. Tears were already streaming down my face when he called me to say they were out. There was not one piece of pounded chicken left in the store.
He had just walked in the door when I started to cry. Not one of those tragic heroine cries where the tears fall silently and elegantly. It was one of those ugly cries, where your face turns red and blotchy. And as I clutched Yonatan, who was probably wondering why he couldn’t have found a reasonable Israeli girl to live with, I realised that I wasn’t crying about chicken. I was crying for everything that was hard in my new life, and everything that was different. I was crying about my inability to communicate, and the fact that I missed Kraft dinner. Crying because I wanted the Thursday night line-up and HBO. I cried because I was unemployable, because people pushed me on the bus, because I felt lost and sweaty and strange. With every tear, I mourned my old life, an easy existence where clean and plump chicken breast was bountiful, TV shows were current, and the malls stocked with recognizable brands.
Eventually the tears dried, but I know there will be more breakdowns along the way. As a new olah, the best days of your life can be punctuated by the worst. I’m slowly learning to savour the victories – alongside imported Keebler Elf cookies from Tiv Ta’im.
Sarah Lubelski is a Birthright Israel alumnus from CIE in 2007. She made Aliyah on September 13, 2009 and now lives in Tel Aviv with her boyfriend Yonatan, who she met as part of the Mifgash on her Birthright Israel trip.