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The Real Reasons for Making Aliya
by Judy Lash Balint
Jerusalem Post
October 9, 2005

Besides the well-worn ideological Zionist reasons that compelled many of us to make aliya from advanced, civilized, democratic, organized, calm, tidy, clean and polite western countries--there are a few not so well recognized but important factors that Diaspora Jews might want to consider...

The short Yom Kippur: Every year on the Saturday night before Yom Kippur, Israel turns the clock back an hour to make the fast feel shorter. This year, when the Day of Atonement falls in mid-October, it makes for a particularly short day. The fast is over in Jerusalem at 5:46p.m, making the actual Yom Kippur daytime a whole three hours shorter than the mid-summer Tisha B'Av fast day.

The one day Yom Tov: Think about it...last week was the only time in the entire year that Israelis have a two day Yom Tov. Every other holiday is observed in Israel for only one day--Sukkot, Shavuot, Pesach (just one seder, thank you) We celebrate and enjoy the holidays, but don't go overboard into no-shower, food-overload land for 2-3 days at a time.

Day school tuition: Despite the sorry state of our educational system, you're still saving tens of thousands of dollars every year by making aliya if your kids attend Jewish day schools in the U.S. So, when they offer you that ridiculous salary at your first job in Israel, just smile and think of all the tuition you're not paying.

Finally, there's the one degree of separation phenomenon. Here in Israel you can meet absolutely anyone, if you have the chutzpa. Despite our unequalled security network, our celebrities may still be seen hanging out in cafes or on the beach; politicians live just down the street and you're guaranteed to find someone who's related to whomever it is that you'd like to meet.

One recent example: A writer friend of mine just hosted renowned author Yann Martel (Life of Pi) and his girlfriend at his Jerusalem apartment for the past three days. How did that happen? Well, Martel was in town to do some research at Yad Vashem for his new Holocaust-related novel. My friend had written to him after reading and enjoying Life of Pi. He received a short personal note back. Last Friday, Martel was giving a reading at Tmol Shilshom, our very own Jerusalem literary salon.

My friend went along and introduced himself to Martel after the reading. He asked where the author was staying. Martel told him that he'd checked out of his hotel and wasn't really sure where they would be spending the night. My friend invited them to stay at his place, hopped down to the Machane Yehuda market for some extra food before the stalls closed for Shabbat, and spent the past three days in awestruck writer heaven as Martel and his writer/editor girlfriend were gracious enough to read through and evaluate some of his short stories.

So when the aliya shaliach asks you why you're exchanging California, Florida or Vermont for Beit Shemesh or Modiin (they're Israelis, they'll never understand...) just tell him/her that you like short fast days, speedy festivals, no tuition and have a yen for meeting famous people....

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