69 reasons why I love and support Israel

Happy Birthday, Israel

1. Because visiting Israel for the first time changed my life
2. Because no matter where you live you can be at the beach in an hour
3. Because if you need a 2nd mother, you will always find a good Jewish ima
4. Because the fear of being a “freier” makes you stronger
5. Because you are never alone
6. Because there is never “between the lines” in Israel
7. Because of the noise of the “matkot” (though I fear you will hit me once)
8. Because the word “Mishpaha” (family) really means something to you
9. Because I can say I am Christian and be welcomed at the most intimate Shabbat dinners
10. Because visiting Israel made me an atypical Eastern European
11. Because of “hummus chips salad”
12. Because of that incredible strength that lies behind you all
13. Because I can go from a street that is 2000 years old to a street that is 2 years old
14. Because we can curse and then be best friends in the next moment
15. Because taking a taxi is like going to a spiritual shrink
16. Because when there is “azaka” and I am alone, I know you will take care of me even if you don’t know me
17. Because you fall in love with me that I can order my coffee in Hebrew
18. Because Israeli women are intimidatingly strong
19. Because every name has a meaning
20. Because I will always feel safe around you as you either was a soldier, are soldier or just about to be one
21. Because you are the most innovative brains I have ever met
22. Because you welcome multikulti but don’t let go of your culture
23. Because you raise your kids to aspire and be confident
24. Because I can sit in a coffee for hours and you won’t kick me out
25. Because I can ride a camel on high-heels and you will get me
26. Because eating healthy is so damn easy
27. Because you continuously take me out of my comfort zone
28. Because I can have meaningful conversations
29. Because being around you makes me confident
30. Because of those sunsets
31. Because you gave me my boyfriend
32. Because you remember how far you have come
33. Because you appreciate life every day
34. Because you live in constant terror but it does not make you resentful
35. Because the more I learn about your history, the more Zionist I become
36. Because Zionism isn’t a curse word, we just call it patriotism in Europe and you are finally catching up
37. Because I can go to a shabbat service and you will fix up my Bible when I hold it upside-down
38. Because you dance on the streets as there is no tomorrow
39. Because you pushed me to learn more about myself
40. Because of your “mangal” culture
42. Because of Gaga dance
42. Because I envy your community sense (even if you deny having that)
43. Because you guys are helpful
44. Because you taught me if I want something I need to ask for it (bluntly)
45. Because you gave me more dreams
46. Because without knowing you I wouldn’t be in NYC now
47. Because of driving through the Negev is something incredible
48. Because of Shlomo Artzi (and Idan Raichel, and Rita, and Idan Amedi and…)
49. Because you made me aware of so many things that I didn’t see before
50. Because you made me a more grateful person
51. Because Judaism is spirituality and you don’t need to be an orthodox Jew to let it touch your life
52. Because Ben-Gurion was a genius and you all should get to know his story more to appreciate him (even if he was a socialist)
53. Because you know how to charm a woman
54. Because supporting you makes me the target of anti-semitism and that makes me understand you even more
55. Because the moment you say “yallah”, you become half Israeli
56. Because you have this beautiful chaotic disorder that everyone follows
57. Because there is nothing Jews would like more than a good argument – and that is so refreshing
58. Because being Jewish means something else to each one of you and yet you are all so similar
59. Because of the Kotel
60. Because of those incredible views of nature
61. Because of Waze, Wix, Viber and all that
62. Because you let me be me
63. Because you are few against many and you never give up
64. Because you won over 22% of all Nobel Prizes
65. Because Israeli women prove that you can have it all
66. Because Israel has more museums per capita than any other country in the world
67. Because everybody is a potential president – as you all always know better
68. Because when you say hi, you actually say peace on you
69. Because I keep on wishing I would be one of you

What did I miss?

Will I ever be enough for you, Israel?

Originally publish in the Times of Israel on 4/15/2016

I’m scrambling eggs on Shlomo Artzi. I am cutting tomato on Rita. I am rinsing the pasta on Avram Tal. Galgalatz is on full volume. (Even if sometimes I wonder who my neighbors are. Not really because of the volume. But because I am listening to Hebrew songs).

Ah yes, I live in the heart of Brussels. I think I need to mention this here.

I know most of the songs by heart. Well, after a while it comes easy as Galgalatz makes sure songs are coming in a diligent rotation. But still, I sing in Hebrew. I am loud. And I only have a shower-voice. You know, the one that sounds good only within a closed area — usually with a strong water flow. But I sing in Hebrew full-heartedly. And you would be bought by the shows I put up sometimes. What if I would even understand the words I am saying?

Ah yes, I do not speak any Hebrew. I think I also need to mention this here.

I am standing in front of the Israeli section at the local Delhaize. The flag – indicating at which international section I am – is once again missing. I am staring at the shelves. It’s me against the silence. And I hate what I am seeing. I hate that they get money from each and every Israeli product, and yet they take off the sign because…

Well, we all know why.

I am standing a bit more there hoping people would pass by and see that yes, I AM going to buy that Israeli wine. And yes, those pickles, too.

There are colorful post-it stickers all over my home. One on the window, one on each door, one on my office table, one on the mirror, one on the milk in the fridge and several others within the wardrobes. It’s not because I am suffering from memory loss. (Not yet at least). I am learning Hebrew words. I am now confident with the stickers on the misrad, halon, delet, halav, but I keep forgetting the washing machine, the dishwasher, and the fridge. I never liked machines anyway.

I developed impeccable skills to spot Israelis. I became extremely sensitive to the smallest resonation of one’s face when I say Israel. I can easily tell if, after my first intimation of Israel, the person in front of me will still keep talking to me. So far, it’s half-half.

I am getting familiar with the political parties. I start to formulate a firm opinion on why I don’t believe in the two-state solution. Of course, you are welcome to challenge me.

I am damn mad at the EU whenever it slaps Israel. As if…as if it has the moral right to do so. And I am equally damn proud of Hungary each time it stands with Israel, just like we did when we said no to the labeling of products.

Ah yes, I am Hungarian. I think I might need to mention this, too, here.

I have two big dreams: to live in New York City (only the city matters) and then to live in Israel (only the country matters).

All this should come in this order.

First, to learn the brazen American confidence and check if I can make it there. And if so, then perhaps I will be ready for the intimidating confidence of Israel.

You guys are truly intimidating. Both of you. And I love it. But I am scared.

The first time I went to Israel it was 2012. I knew one or two words. Both were curses. OK, I knew shalom plus two curse words.

I was holding a parking place on that narrow street in Jerusalem when a woman drives up and starts yelling at me. Obviously, I sensed that she was not admiring my new dress. Pity, because I was really pretty that day. It was my debut in the Holy City.

I heard the two curse words, so I figured I needed to react. I said: shalom plus the two curse words. She left. I can’t say I was polite but hey who is polite in Israel, right? Later on, I learned that this scene just officially lifted me up from being a ‘fraier’.

I fell in love with Israel right there. I loved that she yelled at me. I loved that I could yell back. And I loved that it was all ok. And I knew if we would meet tomorrow we could be best friends also. Because we just did what we needed to do. Not to be a fraier.

My boyfriend was watching me from afar. He was speechless. “This is fascinating: I was running away from Israeli girls, and then I get a prototype in you?” He said as he gave me a neshika ktana.

Ah yes, I am in love with an Israeli, have I not mentioned it yet?

I go to Shabbat dinners. All types of Shabbat dinners. Orthodox, and less conservative ones. And though I enjoy them a lot, I am so focused. I am always just so focussed not to do something disrespectful. Last time, in the midst of all this concentration, I asked a question. But I asked the question at the wrong time. It was all about the timing. I was embarrassed. But then I thought: hey, I am a Christian, and I am trying hard.

Yes, if I would write a news article here, I most probably should have started with something like this:

Virag, a Hungarian Christian (who), living in Belgium (where), dreams to move to Israel (what) soon (when) because she is in love with the country and all that (to be cut by the editor)

This would have been my lede.

And the headline could be:

A pro-Israeli Christian torn between two worlds

Because after all, this is my story here:

During the past four years, my stand with Israel has taken over much of my life. I found myself working with pro-Israeli artists and people who want to liberate art and go against BDS. My firm stand got me more and more visibility. And it was not until recently that I realized how much I am torn between two worlds:

I am never going to be Israeli (or Jewish) enough, but I am already pro-Israeli enough to piss off the rest of the population.

On one hand, I meet Jewish people whose first question is if ima sheli Jewish? If not — which, by now, you know is not — I get a cold shower. No need to say anything, I feel it.

On the other hand, when I say my boyfriend is from Israel I get this: “ah just wait until the ring is on your finger — the whole family will be on you to convert”. Or “how can you go there, don’t you feel bad for those kids in Palestine?” (Sounds cliché, I know. But it is cliché for a reason: people do ask this)

Then I read all the stories of the ‘Olim Hadashim’ who can’t find a job in Israel. Then I hear all about how life is hard in Israel, and that real estate prices are skyrocketing. (Not that it would be any different anywhere else. Just sayin’). Then I see virtual friends leaving Israel for a ‘better life.’

All business as usual.

And then I open the real estate page and start looking for a flat in Israel. Because I still believe I can make it. Because I’ve already proven that I am not fraier.

I am wearing long-sleeves for Shabbat dinners, but I want to scream out that I am a Christian, and I have no idea if I am doing something that offends you.

I am working with Jewish clients, and I am ready to say adieu to people from my life because I choose to stand with Israel, but I want to scream that I am scared that I won’t be enough once I move there.

I am learning Hebrew, but I want to scream that I know you won’t give me a job because there are thousands of others with broken Hebrew and good English (better and much better English), who are even closer to you because they are Jewish.

I went to a lawyer in Israel to ask all the questions you can ask before moving. I pestered her for long minutes. I told her I am a Christian and I have no idea if converting to Judaism is on my agenda in the future.
I asked her, in random order: What are my rights? Can I get a job? Will society cast me out because I am not Jewish? What kind of schools can my kids can go to? What will happen to me if my Israeli husband decides to leave me? Can I stay? Can I keep the kids? Can I keep my furniture?(This last bit, of course, is an exaggeration, everything is else isn’t. But it shows the desperate line of questions I made her answer.)

I am in love with your country; I stand up for you in places where perhaps I should not; I want to understand your culture; I want to learn your language; I am singing your songs; I am in love with one of you; I want to tell you that I feel lucky to have met you.

But will I ever be enough? Or will I always be the one who is just not one of you enough?