Follow Your Split Heart: Raising kids in Australia Or in Israel?
I was born and raised in Israel.
When Erez, our firstborn, was born we moved to live on a kibbutz in Northern Israel. For those of you who are not familiar with this form of living, I'd summarize it as a collective community that is traditionally based on agriculture.
"Father Capitalism" has left its footprints on the social and financial DNA of the modern kibbutzim. In recent decades, most of them have been privatized and massive changes were implemented in the communal lifestyle.
However, well rooted traditions survived these changes bravely. These traditions still characterize and set the kibbutzim apart from other forms of living today.
Among these are communal celebrations and rituals, like those of Passover by sitting around a long dinner table and singing songs from the Haggadah (the written narrative of the Israelite exodus from Egypt), or the beautiful tradition of marking the wheat harvest holiday of Shavuot with dancing in the fields.
When we lived on the kibbutz I witnessed a marvelous tradition. In one of the harvest holidays, local farmers would "dance" with their tractors while other farmers would hide candies in piles of hay. The kids would stand on the other side of the field, waiting patiently for approval before jumping into the hay in search of candy.
As a photographer, I love documenting special events like this. However this event was emotionally moving for me, and stayed with me years later.
There are some moments in life that leave a major emotional footprint on our soul and has the potential to change our life course. This was one of them. I will get back to it in a moment or so..
The modern human prioritizes thoughts over feelings. But major life decisions are driven by the tummy, rather than by the brain, it will take me years to get this...
I was in love with this moment in the field. It resembled many things I love, care and value in life: happy and independent childhood, joyfulness, tradition, and respect for mother earth. These elements were the berries which were wrapped in the most precious gift, Israel.
"Roee love, can you please enlighten us, why you Israelis, are so in love with your land".
We were sitting in a balcony in one of our friends' classic apartments of Amsterdam. A small but very close mixed Dutch-Israeli pack in their early 20's. The year was 1998 and I was just released from three years military service. Each member of the pack could catch a few words of the other language, and English was the bridge.
On my way back home I was sad and confused. All of a sudden the views from the tram seemed distanced.
"People are strange when you're a stranger
Faces look ugly when you're alone" (The Doors)
This afternoon in the court helped me to notice how I've changed. I used to be more passionate and Australia has calmed me down. I say thank you and sorry everywhere I go, and I actually love it. But this moment, this afternoon, pushed a certain button in me which I hide since we moved here. Back in the court I felt alive and a strong sense of belonging.
I grabbed a beer from the fridge and waited for an Israeli friend of mine.
When he arrived he calmed me down and said that it happens to most of the Israelis he knows. “It happened to me several times”, he finalized his intellectual argument with a personal spice, and distanced himself. “Most immigrants look for these types of cultural configurations”, he explained. It will pass over time, trust me.
So I did..
I returned my girlfriend's question with a questioning look while her girlfriend filled up my glass with more wine. Boy, they drink a lot...but, when in Rome, do as the Romans do...
"You guys mention the word Haaretz (The land in Hebrew), in every other sentence of yours. So, what's your story with this word", she double dipped her question.
As Israelis, I explained, we are raised to love the land, sometimes more than we love ourselves. Since an early age we are educated that this is THE only land on earth where Jews can feel safe, so we have to protect it. The military basically "leases your life" for three years, and its where the theoretical patriotism lesson from childhood is fully assimilated in our minds. "So, I guess this notion can only be understood by us", I finalized my pitch with a smile and a toast.
But years later, a bit after we moved to the kibbutz, I began doubting this nurtured bond and decided to challenge it.
Living in Israel is tough. The relationships we have with our neighbors makes life more energetic but frustrating and exhausting. Every few years a wave of violence is recorded, while leaving scars on the souls of both sides. In addition, Israel is an over-populated country, which adds more pressure to the overall lifestyle. The third vertex of this triangular argument was my bad experiences as a combat soldier in occupied South Lebanon. This triangle, my true passion to travel and living in a more nature-loving society, have pumped the desire to live elsewhere. As far as possible and as quiet as possible.
Down Under, 2017
It's a beautiful Saturday afternoon in the City of Melbourne, January 2017. The sound of Spanish, English, Hebrew and Chinese flavored the sound of the air with the spice of beers and fries. Fans from all over the world were passing between the courts in the Rod Laver Tennis Arena in order to enjoy the top tennis players of the world. In one of the side courts an unknown Israeli player was warming up before his match.
We made it. A few months ago we moved to Australia to live our peaceful life. It's clean here, nature is stunning, people respect nature and are polite to one another; there are no wars, no security checks in the mall and I can enjoy a good tennis match between Federer and Nadal. I was living the dream.
I joined the “Israeli gallery” and was happy to surround myself with passionate Hebrew speakers. I loved every moment in this afternoon, I felt home.
Living the Dream
In the next few months we traveled to Tasmania, enjoyed concerts in the park, had a great weekend in Sydney, and an unforgettable week in Byron Bay.
He's right, I told my partner as we hugged on the edge of Cape Byron’s Lighthouse cliff. A rainbow appeared up in the sky, approving our feeling. The moment we had in mind when we first thought about moving here came true. A sense of closure...
A few months later, Shavuot arrived. I played the holiday songs in the CD player and danced with the kids in our living room. After a couple of songs, I broke down crying for an hour or so. In this minute, I realized where my heart belongs to. The songs triggered my memories from the field of candy and tractors, and all the intense emotions associated to it.
The tears hosted the final decision.
A few months later, while playing with the kids in our new backyard the phone rang. It was my military buddy Ofer, a farmer who lives in Northern Israel. "I'm picking you up in ten minutes, bring Erez. We are going to play on the new bales of cotton I just packed this afternoon. And bring a bag, we are going to pick some fresh tomatoes too.
When we entered his pick-up, I handed his son a gift from Australia. He looked at me with big eyes, full of excitement: A boomerang! Yep, It's a souvenir from a sweet moment Erez and I had in a park when we lived there.