Thursday, February 23, 2012

Why (on earth) Did You Move Back?

When I tell people that I lived in California for 20yrs and recently moved back to Israel, I invariably get the question: “Why did you move back”? Some people are genuinely interested in my motivation to make such a big change in my life. But the vast majority really means to say: “You have been to paradise and chose to leave? What on earth where you thinking???”

I shared my experience with other people who returned to Israel after a stay in America. Most of them concur with me. The question isn’t posed just by friends or acquaintances. It comes from total strangers I come across. It could be the salesperson at the store, the waiter at the restaurant, or the clerk at the bank. The minute I mention the fact I recently returned from America, the question pops…

Stranger (at the store): ”So… you lived in America for 20yrs and just came back?
Me: “Yes, a few months ago.”
Stranger: “Wow, that’s amazing. So tell me - why did you come back??”  
Me: “Because this is home for me”
Stranger: “This place?? With everything that’s going on? Have you watched TV lately?? If I were you…”

I was mostly shocked by the reaction from younger people. All too often they look at me as if I have totally lost my mind. Here I was, living the “American Dream” – a good job, nice house, Japanese cars, beautiful neighborhood, and most importantly – peace and tranquility all around. And I dropped it all just to come back to a small piece of land in the middle of the hot, humid, volatile, noisy, crazy, dangerous Middle East. What a waste! If only they were given the choice - they would have known what to do!

After a while the reaction ceased to amuse me. Frankly it started to concern me. What’s wrong with this picture? Can we continue to have a country where people think they would be better off living somewhere else? How will we be able to solve problems, build new things, and defend ourselves if people just want to “jump ship” whenever they can?

Sure, who am I to talk? Haven’t I just spent 20yrs in a different country? True… I don’t feel “morally superior”, but I can claim that it gave me a perspective. Remember the old saying: “the grass is always greener on the other side” Well, it isn't... I do agree that the “grass is different on the other side”, but I believe the question of “greener or not” is not the relevant one.

America has a lot of things going for it. Even now days, when everyone is quick to mourn its demise and applaud the rise of China. It is a great country that was built with the labor, sweat, dreams and sacrifices of millions. It is a great place to be in – if you want to be an American. It is the wrong place to be in – if you want to be an Israeli. So it is simple – choose who you want to be, and pick your “grass” accordingly.

But there is a bigger issue here. The issue of “Hope”, or lack thereof. People don’t want to leave a place and go elsewhere just because of hardships. If that was the case, no one would live in Alaska… Have you ever experienced an average temperature of -13⁰??  I believe that people leave a place when they are either a) forced to, b) look for an adventure or c) lose hope. I don’t think anyone is forcing people to leave Israel, so let’s forget a). Sure, some people look for adventures, which is fine by me. But what about c)? What about those who lost hope? That’s what concerns me.

Incidentally I attended a conference yesterday where Yair Lapid spoke. For those of you (outside Israel) who don’t know Mr. Lapid - he is a popular talk show host and a journalist that recently decided to join the political fray and start his own party. I don’t want to turn this into a political debate, or a discussion about Yair Lapid’s qualifications. But I do want to mention that he spoke about the “loss of hope”, particularly within the silent majority in Israel. It struck a chord with me.

So next time someone asks me “Why did you move back?” My answer will be: “Because it’s a great place! And it’s home…”


  1. Baruch, if Israel can be defined by the many smart, insightful and deep thinking Israeli people I have met and worked with, then it must be a great country indeed. Relight the fires of hope :)

  2. "I believe that people leave a place when they are either a) forced to, b) look for an adventure or c) lose hope." - I'd like to turn this around and apply it to your move away from CA... which was it? :-)

  3. I did the same move 2 years ago (after 8 years in the US)...and receive the same reactions...I have a different theory fo it...the Jewish people (us!!!) were, are, and always will be moving from one place to another...what you call "home" is not our home any more (a secular induvudual that is trying to take care of his family)...this is home for extremist, religious people and other leech that are taking this country to its end...if you and Mr. Lapid would like to try and reverse this process - welcome! I'm with you...the only people that are able to destroy this country/ land is us. Not Iran, not the Palestinians, only us. People have no respect to each other in this country and that's what going to make this place even worst.... sorry for being so passimistic, but unfortunately this is the reality here... good luck to all of us.

    1. Dear anonymous,

      I feel your pain. And I agree with most of what you say. However I don't believe that "all is lost", and I don't think you do either. Otherwise you wouldn't have spent time and effort sharing your frustrations.

      I don't know if Lapid is the "answer". I intend to participate in one of his upcoming meetings ("Hug Ba'it") and check it out. Israeli politics need a change. And I think we're getting ready for it.

  4. Baruch, having gone through a similar process (albeit after 8 years and not 20, and from a place with truly miserable weather) - I can identify. I've been asked the same question.

    Having now been back for more than 5 years, I don't feel like going to live anywhere else. At least not at the moment.

    I'm far less troubled by the geo-political threats in the Middle East. Maybe because I don't have kids and I don't worry about them going to serve in the military. Like the Anonymous poster above, I'm more concerned about the country destroying itself from within, or becoming a country where I really wouldn't want to live or raise kids in. However, I don't think we've reached that point just yet, and I believe the trends of the past decade or two can be reversed.

  5. wow great, i have lived here in the US for 20 yeras. have tried to move to israel for my wife and 4 kids.... i have tried to live there for 2.5 years and felt like a little fish in a shark pound... You know it was real hard we got to real bad place i had no money no work and the family helped us a lot. my wife asked me what can we do i said" let me go back to the states i will do anything i can" i was here for 8 months by myself before i sent the tickets for them, i worked in moving locksmith whatever. i did work in ISRAEL IN SHITI JOBS. i have tried.
    you know living in this big cities with the dream job dream car, dream house. well it own u.
    i love my life here, i love the people, and they love us back. we are building a great business and all is well.
    i wish u all the best, i hope u find ur place.

  6. I read this post and I am falling apart. I have moved to te usa 14 years ago after meeting my husband in Israel. We came here so that he can finilize his citizenship and want loose the opportunity to come back. We were not suppose to stay here.

    We have 2 girls and my husband who was in IT field is now working in the mall 6 days a week till late at night .

    I want to move back and hate it here, my husband does not want to
    Move back and is afraid he will not find a job as he only read and write English and is 42 years old.
    I saw so many couples break up because of this issue and don't want to be one of these couples, I lovey husband, but LOVE my country as well.

    It is soooo hard!

  7. I have a question... Is it possible to live in the USA and to remain an Israeli? Is it possible to have a peace with such of personality / identity split?