Tag Archives: immigration

Come again?

I have mentioned here that I am in the process of acquiring Israeli Citizenship. Something that I didn’t actually realise was that important to me until the clerk who told me almost a year ago that at our next meeing I take out citizenship, suddenly changed her story and postponed the meeting.

I am highly suspicious of why. I know that the state of Israel is not wild about me being here. I guess I was getting excited about voting in February and now it looks like I won’t be able to. I realise that my vote would not excite pretty much 80+% of the Israeli population, in fact that I am allowed to vote and will not be voting along religious lines will probably infuriate certain people.

Anyway, I went into quite a slump as I got my head around ‘not being there yet’. I just want to scream from the rooftops that I don’t need any bloody favours. I can quite happily take myself and my family to anywhere in Europe or Northern America with the passports I have – I do not need to be here. Except that I met and married an Israeli man, and have build my life here. And this is where I am for now.

I guess I am still ambivalent about being here. I feel awful that my DH is able to exercise his right to marry a non Israeli/non Jewish person and that Israeli Arabs who would marry a non Israeli/non Jewish person are allowed to, they just are not allowed to live with them in Israel. This is justified as being a security requirement as Israel cannot risk having Palestinians coming into Israel through maraige. And so, Israeli Arabs and Palestiinians have a different set of ‘rules’ from Jewish Israeli’s.

And this does touch my life. I do not feel comfortable getting ‘preferential’ treatment. Although it is hardly a red carpet treatment. That is reserved for Halachically Jewish people who chose to make Aliyah (Assention – or immigration is other countries) to the Land of Israel and exercise their right to vote the second they put their foot on the tarmac at Ben Gurioin International Airport. So, yeah I am angry that I am mixed up in this mess. I have no answers for the deeply complex issues that are entwined in the history of this land and the modern conflict that is so pressing.

I think most Israeli’s around me prefere not to think about it. I am welcomed as a stranger who made a huge effort to be part of Israeli Society and as such I am accepted. That I am fluent in Hebrew and fairly well read on Israel (although this is in comparison to people who know *nothing*. My knowledge is still very limited) gains me access to friendships and conversations. But, I keep my personal pain of being repeatedly ‘told’ by the state of Israel that I am not equal, to myself. I do not think Israeli’s can understand just how painful this is. I am reassured that it’s not that bad. That we had to consult lawyers and invest a lot of time and money to get my name on our property when we bought our house is kind of forgotten. And I got my name on the property, so what’s wrong?

Yes, there is a law in Israel that when ownership of land is being processed, if you are not Jewish, the board processing the request can deny the request if there is any opposition to the ownership going through. This did not happen to me in the end. I have to assume because I do not have an Arabic name and my husband is Jewish. But I did go through a tough time trying to decide if I can live in a country that for whatever reasons (some of them very valid) is so catergorically racist? In the end I could not find enough of a reason to ask my DH to leave this country and we are still here.

I grew up in South Africa and was born to a father who left South Africa as a youth, not prepared to serve in the army and support the racist regeime. Only when I was 5 and when he was assured he would not have to serve in the army did we return to South Africa. I know about racism. It has been personal before.

I just do not know yet how to reconsile my life here in Israel. I feel like I am condoning things that I do not agree with just be living me life here. However, my life is more than the politics around me. My IL’s are all here, my DH has never called another city home, let alone another country. We, in our personal lives, have a good life (a VERY good life). But that does not quiet my longing for making sense of this country that I live in, and finding a way that I can explain to myself why this is the country that I should be living in.

So, G*d knows when and how I will get this citizenship. Perhaps I require some more soul searching before accepting this opportunity. And yet, I honeslty feel that only as a citizen and a voting citizen, can I have any hope of contributing to what I want to see develop here in the Holy Land.

Happy Holidays

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What to do?

I was not born Jewish. I chose to be Jewish in a way that I guess is very familiar to those who have taken this path. I met and fell in love with a man who is Jewish (that he considers himself more Israeli than Jewish was something that took me a while to understand). And I chose to move my life to Israel, at least for a 3 year period – as I learnt the language. If I remember correctly I had a notion that if we did not start our lives in Israel, I would never be able to do it at a later date with children. It would just be too difficult. Anyway, 4+ years later I am still here, and am likely to be here for some time.

Some background information. I had always been drawn to Judaism as a child. I really liked visiting my friends who celebrated Shabbat and loved the deep roots for the celebrations of Pesach and Rosh haShana. I like the mezzuzot on the doors. It was something that felt very comforting to me. I guess I also really liked my friends who were Jewish.

My first inkling of how hard it is to be a woman who is in love with a Jewish man came as an adolescent when I fell in love with my best friends brother. My experience with their mum was so strange. She was not at all happy about me being with her son. Now I am not so sure it was about me being Jewish or not, but the notion that I was not an appropriate choice if I was not Jewish became a notion in my mind. A notion that I have also learned is not universally held by all Jewish families, well both sets of my IL’s could not care less. And I had to overcome considerable resistance to go through with the conversion.

DH and I had a civil wedding in Cape Town, South Africa with close friends and family and I moved to Israel to start my married life, and a process that often had me in tears with frustration, deeply hurt by the system that did not want me. The Israeli Interior Ministry proved to be a place where we even got friendly with the clerke who renewed my visa each year, but the bottom line was that if you are not Jewish, you are not too welcome. Of course it is illegal to say an outright ‘no’, the High court gave my husband the right to marry a non Jewish person and have his marriage recognized in Israel. But, the overall feeling is not one of ‘yes, we want you here’.

Throughout this process I was in a deep conflict. One the one hand I wanted very much to convert to Judaism and ensure that our children would be unquestionably Jewish and on the other hand I did not want to bow to the ‘pressure’ to conform. I winced every time someone at work said something derogatory about non Jewish women and their offspring. I was very taken aback at the level of complacency in the Israeli society that said that it is OK to judge someone for not being Jewish. I was very very angry to be honest. I did not understand how a people who for so many generations have been subjected to such discrimination, I did not understand how this same people could be so comfortable discriminating against others themselves. The would not be the first conundrum I had with Israeli’s.

I found a path that felt right for me and started to convert in the Reform Movement. I was familiar with the Reform Judaism from my childhood and felt like it was more in line with my values than the Orthodox  Judaism that I was getting to know in Israel. The only problem was that the Reform Movement is not recognized by the state of Israel. For all things bureaucratic, Orthodox Judaism is the only accepted religion. In a way this suited me. I could convert to a Judaism that I felt matched my values, provide a community for my family and not bow to the state pressure to be Jewish.

My actual conversion was a wonderful experience of getting to know Judaism and becoming familiar with Kabbalat Shabbat, Shabbat itself, Havdalah, the festivals, the food, the traditions. And meeting Rabbi’s. A particular rabbi from the US totally captured the essense of why I chose the Reform movement instead of the Orthodox. The Reform Jews are inspired by the Torah and the Othodox Jews beleive that the Torah was revealved to them by G-d. I can work with being inspired. I am not comfortable believing any sacred text came from G-d.

So, back to my present situation. I have converted. I have my Jewish name and 18 months later I became a mother. The State of Israel has classified my son as ‘other’ when it comes to nationality and religion as I have yet to process my conversion for acceptance by the Interior Ministry. Another ruling by the High Court that requires the Interior Ministry to register me as Jewish in my ID if I provide a certificate of conversion from the Reform Movement. (my children just will not be able to marry in Israel and myself and my children will not be able to be buried in a state cemetary). Do I want my son to grow up as ‘other’? I am not sure. At home he will grow up as Jewish. He of course will know that my parents are not Jewish, but our home life reflects a Jewish way of life. So, how can I justify not giving him the security of being formally Jewish, when this is what his home environment will be?

I just do not know. Maybe I am just lazy and do not want to deal with the lawyers. But the issue remains, that I am not sure I want DS growing up thinking he is something that the state will tell him is not true. Gosh, I often come back to this. At loggerheads with the state. Overall I have a good life here and I am finding ways to make peace with the highly unlikely reality that I would live in Israel.  What should I care whether the state will call my son Jewish or not? Does it really matter? I keep coming back to how wrong it is that religion is so entwined with state and this goes to really really hard places. Places I have no answers for.

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