Jerusalem is abuzz with the holidays, which are still raging strong with the festive celebration of Sukkot. Everyone is in love with this holiday, a commemoration of the sheltering of the Israelites during the 40 years of wandering in the desert with Moses. In addition, it coincides with the beginning of the rainy season here in Israel (there is a definite dry season, and then a definite rainy season – a Mediterranean climate). This is definitely a happy time, with everyone sleeping and eating in a Sukkah, basically a shelter with palm tops (i.e.- a holy shed).
The problem is that Sukkot is my least favorite Jewish holiday. I never felt connected to it. There is something too involved with it. You are supposed to eat every meal, sleep every night, literally ‘dwell’ in the Sukkah. It’s just not my thing. I really never even understood the meaning of Sukkah, whether it was a celebration of sheltering or celebrating the all-important rain. It’s just not my bag of tea.
Thankfully, really truthfully thankfully, one of my good friends is back in Israel for a couple weeks. She is an American-Israeli, and her sisters and mom and step-father live here in Jerusalem, all of whom I know. So, I’m eating all my meals at their comfortable apartment in one of the higher-class areas of Jerusalem. I feel relaxed there.
Last night after the first night of Sukkot my friend, her sister, and myself went out into town to have a drink. Jerusalem has a very condense, lively bar scene, but the problem is that it is often packed with 18 year old ‘freckas and arsim.’ Without giving a definition of those terms, I’ll just tell you that they are loud, physical, and generally have the same manners as gorillas.
Eventually a new friend of mine that I met on the plane over here called me, and she joined up with us at a tucked away, age-restricted bar. Eventually the group split up, with me and my new friend going to a bar owned by Shlomke, a 30 some year old guy who is obsessed with her and her ex-IDF boyfriend.
This is a good time to introduce the Israeli term ‘proteckzia.’ Basically, this is pulling strings for people, generally used in the army. This means that a guy that knows a big-dog in the army can easily get into a prestigious or desired unit, no questions asked. I feel that Shlomke is the kind of person that has proteckzia to get people what they want. He owns a very successful bar, which we sat at with him, surrounded by roaring teens. Every 20 minutes or so he would grab one of his waitresses, say a few words, and then they would bring us liquor. I was planning on having a beer, but it’s kind of hard to say no to a Godfather character. It really was an impressive scene, and I had the distinct impression that this guy could get me into the unit I want in the army.
During the course of the night I met a few Americans that have done the same thing I have, moving to Israel. They were friends of my new friend, Bethany. It’s really a lot more popular thing than most people in America realize. Jerusalem itself has quickly become an ‘Anglo’ city, where the most common language is English. Anyway, all these young Americans seem to have pretty good jobs.
Bethany just got a job as a glorified secretary, some type of administrative assistant or something, making the equivalent of $35,000 or so in America (which is great for the level of the work, and that she is 22 with no one to support but herself). Levy, another kid I met, is making the equivalent of $45-50,000. And so on, and so on.
I’m living off savings, a pretty generous grant from Nefesh B’Nefesh, and my ‘sal klitah,’ or absorption basket (read: welfare). I’m living and eating for free, but not really doing what I want to be doing. Hearing these kids, who all have their own apartments and jobs and lives, I feel like a blob. Supposedly learning Torah all day is more important than working for the man all day, but I’m at the point in my life where I want to work for the man. I don’t care who I work for, I just want to apply what I’ve learned, instead of sitting and learning even more. Granted, I do love learning about the Jewish traditons, but I don’t think that I need to read books and listen to lectures from 9am to 7pm for more than another few months.
I am the adventurous type, the guy at 19 that backpacked America for 2 months all alone (by bus), went to Israel for 2.5 months all alone knowing no one and nothing first-hand about Israel, spent 9 months in Israel studying and living, and now I have become an Israeli citizen, with no family and very few friends here. It’s amazing how far a person will go to pursue an ideology. It’s amazing that with a simple desire people can push themselves so far.
But equally amazing, and certainly more distressing, is how powerfully immobilizing comfort can be. I have a bed, an apartment (granted with many others, but my room is private), free food, a beautiful place with A/C where I study all day, and generally kind people all around. I would like to find a job and have my own place and work all day… but it’s just not going to happen for a while. It’s hard to turn down some free and comfortable.
If you thought I had it all figured out, you’re wrong! I have some solid plans though for January – and hopefully a job will be in the sights around then. For now I’m just another moocher, livin’ on the dole.