Israel News

Not-so-chai times: an immigrant’s 18 complaints about Israel

Eliana Rudee
Eliana Rudee

Although I often describe Israel as my Jewish form of the “American Dream,” Israel isn’t always as pleasant as it seems when you first visit. And I’m not just talking about the waves of violence that often arise. But even during those hard times, people in Israel keep on living.

We still complain about the bad food at ulpan, the heat during the day, and the persistent incompetence of people in the “service” industry. Perhaps complaining about the small things is a way to lighten the bigger things and keep us grounded. Either way, I think that a tinge of cynicism and sarcasm is always a good way to make light of the situation and not to let the terrorists win by dominating our conversations (or kvetching) in Israel.

As Israelis, we hope for the best, take measures to secure ourselves, make funny videos, and then we move on. People go to work, go to the beach, shop at the crowded supermarkets, and continue our lives. As will I.

As such, I will continue with the real things that affect Israelis and/or new immigrants’ lives in Israel.

We have to fly out for every occasion. Weddings, b’nei mitzvot, graduations, etc. This coming summer, I have something to attend in June, July, and August in the U.S. It’s not that we don’t love to get to fly out, it’s just that it costs $2,000 every time we do…I feel like considering this, I shouldn’t have to give a gift on these occasions because your present is my presence. Half kidding.

Savings kinda aren’t a thing here. People live on what they make and maybe tuck away some shekels for a rainy day. Good thing there are only a few rainy days per year cause there isn’t a lot to tuck away.

Arnona tax, aka the municipal tax, aka 30 percent of my paycheck.

Lack of authentic Asian food…and really any other authentic food other than Israeli, Mediterranean, Ethiopian, and mediocre sushi.

“Milot yachas”—Hebrew prepositions. The bane of my existence, considering that the phrase “I am sorry upon hurting in you” makes total sense in Hebrew.

Christmas spirit isn’t a thing in here the winter. (Hey, even if you’re Jewish, it’s okay to enjoy the many songs written by nice Jewish boys that just so happen to be Christmas classics that may or may not be favorited on your Pandora).

More of an Ashkenazi/Sephardi divide. In the U.S., the biggest difference was whether or not you eat beans on Passover. But here, almost every synagogue is either Ashkenazi or Sephardi, and not even close to how mixed they were where I grew up. #separatebutequal

Everyone “bachul” (which stands for b’chutz l’aretz, meaning “abroad”) either underestimates the conflict because of bad journalism, or overestimates the conflict because of…also bad journalism.

Taking showers. Or rather, cleaning up after them. There isn’t always a divider between the shower and the rest of the bathroom, so the water goes everywhere and you have to squeegee it to the drain before you make dirt/water tracks all over your apartment.

Lines at Osher Ad (something between Costco and Walmart) on Fridays.

The lack of lines at the shuk on Fridays. Because everyone is in a balagan of a “line.”

The aliyah process for people who don’t get to use Nefesh B’Nefesh. Like my boyfriend’s aliyah process from Brazil, which has already taken eight months…

Cats stalking you when you eat. They have more chutzpah than the Israelis.

The seemingly random hours of government offices, banks, and doctors, which happen to be pretty important offices for, you know, life.

Public transportation can take 40 days and 40 nights, even within the same city.

Last-minute timing for everything. Stop asking me what I’m doing next week, or tomorrow—I have no idea.

Jobs that are posted are usually taken and jobs that are available aren’t usually posted.

Lack of pumpkin spice lattes.

As Israelis, our national sports are matkot and complaining. Thanks for helping me go pro in one of the two sports by reading and sharing my growing list!

But in all seriousness, I believe that the biggest shame is not the terrorism we are experiencing right now, but rather, the moment we stop living our lives because of the terrorism. So, yalla, let’s keep playing matkot on the beaches and complaining about the weather.

Eliana Rudee is a fellow with the Salomon Center for American Jewish Thought and the author of the new “Aliyah Annotated” column for She is a graduate of Scripps College, where she studied International Relations and Jewish Studies. She was published in USA Today and Forbes after writing about her experiences in Israel last summer. Follow her aliyah column on JNS.orgFacebook, and Instagram 

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