Gefilte Fish Out of Water

State of The Jewnion
July 7, 2009, 8:45 pm
Filed under: Amerijones, Feelings, Identity

TA Pride 09

I have been in Israel for four months and six days now.  Time for a Review, doncha think?

Am I happy here in Israel?

The answer is Yes.  The predominant feeling in my veins during the day is happiness.  If any of you who know me well were to spend time with me right now, I think you would say Israel agrees with me, I am doing well, and I seem very healthy and happy.

Let’s look at some of the details: I live in a gorgeous apartment.  I’m a sucker for all the birds and flowers and beauty all around me.  I’m next to the Mediterranean so they tell me, b/c I hardly have time to see it with my schedule.  I ride my bike everywhere and feel twelve years old (which is pretty effin’ priceless, if you ask me).  Although I don’t have time right now to date any of them, one guy here is hotter than the next – with dark, olive skin and piercingly etherial eyes – just the way I like ’em.  I’m intensively studying Hebrew and enjoying it very, very much.

put this up

Scroll back up and look at the lead pic of this post.  I look kinda happy, yah?  Rhetorical understatement, people!  I have happiness, purpose, excitement, energy, challenges, difficulty and peace in my life right now.

And in this corner…






This is my niece Alexa.  She’s almost 16 months old.  I was more excited about her birth than maybe anything else in the world.  Before she was even born, I was determined to be the Best Uncle in the World.  Except now I’m…M.I.A.  I do try and arrange weekly video Skype calls when my mom babysits her.  My mom will prop her up in front of my brother and sister-in-law’s laptop webcam, and I entertain her.  And, I mean, I do entertain her.  I bought these finger puppets, and I put on little shows for her and make silly voices, and she’ll respond and point.

Clockwise from top left: Mr. Levanti (an Orthodox rabbi finger puppet, LOL!), Foo-Foo (Alexa's favorite), Crazy Sally, Graham, Heidi.

Clockwise from top left: Mr. Levanti (an Orthodox rabbi finger puppet, LOL!), Foo-Foo (Alexa's favorite; I make him bark, and she points at the monitor, makes a sound and smiles; I think it reminds her of her dog at home), Crazy Sally, Graham, Heidi.

And I’ll ask her the usual, what sound does a cow make? shizzizle, and she’ll answer me.  One time, I even made her spontaneously dance when I sang her the Hokey Pokey.  It warms my heart.  And when I visit there in September, I will bring the finger puppets with me and do a show for her LIVE, and see if she gets it, makes the connection that I’m the guy in the TV who says her name.

But it’s hard to coordinate these chats.  There’s the 7 hour time difference, Alexa’s nap time, my slammed work schedules, and so they happen usually only every 3 weeks.  Is that enough for me to get inside Alexa’s consciousness?  I don’t know.  And so I see pics of her walking, and hear stories of her talking, and it breaks my heart.

Then there was this picture:

best pic ever

Do you remember in the movie Back to the Future, how when Marty McFly was trapped back in 1955 and had screwed up the first meeting between his mom and his dad (and made it so they never fell in love and had children), marty-jackson-handhe carried around a snapshot of his brother and sister from around the breakfast table in 1985, and he would periodically take it out and look at it to gauge if he had fixed his mistake enough to make sure his family would wind up being born safely?  And, do you remember how each time he checked, they were a little bit more erased from the photo?  Well, I saw this pic of some of my family on my cousin Jennifer’s Facebook page (it was for my aunt & uncle’s 45th wedding anniversary), and – after first marveling at how damn incredible everybody looks! – I thought: I’m just like Wendy Jo Sperber and Clark Kent from Marty McFly’s snapshot – I disappeared from the picture!

Now, not really, b/c that group shot is a particular subset of the fam, and I wouldn’t be in that shot even if I were at the anniversary party, but you get the idea.  I had heard about the anniversary party a few times, and even sent something in for the memory book.  But this pic just made it more real for me.  Like, Oh, yeah!  I remember you people!  I feel punctured by visceral darts right into my heart when I see my family and friends, happy and together, at events without me; events that I normally would have been at.


Then, there’s my job here in Israel.  For reasons I can’t get into, I’ve made a promise not to talk about it on G-Fish, but if you’re friends with me on Facebook, you’ll find it listed among the “pages” listed on my “info” tab.  It’s a very meaningful cause that is helping to save people’s lives, and even intersects sometimes with major current events headlines.  Plus, I’m adding kickass feathers to my professional cap.  I wrote and launched an entire website!  And now that we’ve had a successful launch, I’m about to embark on a major new project of outreaching to other nonprofits and forging mutually beneficial partnerships – something I’ve never done before, and I’m sure a skill that will be very valuable for the rest of my professional life.

And you know, to tell you the truth, I don’t know what I’d do professionally were I to return to New York.  I had a successful career in public relations.  I didn’t struggle with money, but I never made it to six figures, and I never had the kind of money I needed to do all the traveling I yearn to do, nor did I own my own beautifully decorated apartment in a good neighborhood, like I wanted to.  Over fifteen years, I had three jobs and moved from corporate PR to publishing PR and finally to doing publicity for nonprofits, indie films, live events, and web culture properties.  It was a nice evolution that led me in the direction of more and more meaningful clients, and what I’m doing now is sort of the pinnacle of that.  I am not sure I could be happy doing publicity for a cause any less big or important than what I’m doing right now.  Were I to return to the U.S., I would have to do something entirely different.

I rarely feel homesickness for the U.S.  The times when I do feel this are when I see new pictures of my family, like I mentioned above.  But also when I hear and see on Facebook about events I normally participate in every year, like when the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus has a new concert.

Or when my friends post pics from the Florida Roundup, or when my old job works a high profile event without me, like the 2009 Webby Awards.

Or when I hear about new happenings that came to New York after I left, like the new High Line park opening, or Bloomberg closing off Times Square to traffic and making it a goddamn pedestrian mall !!!  You can imagine the mindf@ck I experienced when I heard about the Tel Aviv beach set up in Central Park.

But painful as those moments are, they definitely run their course and pass easily.  And I think it’s natural for me to feel temporary sadness and yearning when I’m reminded about something meaningful to me that’s just happened in the U.S. that I missed.  It’s a totally normal and healthy response.

DSCF1097I’ve already seen and done some extraordinary things hereuntitled in Israel, too.  Including, running in my first marathon in almost five years (my 12th overall), and watching thousands of Israelis party all night long enjoying live music throughout the whole city on “White Night.”  I also volunteered in Tel Aviv’s Gay Pride Parade last month and was responsible for carrying a 100-foot length of balloons throughout the route.

This was my point of view as I carried the trail of balloons (with a partner holding the other end).

This was my point of view as I carried the trail of balloons (with a partner holding the other end).

And in just four months, I’ve already had seven friends from the U.S. visit Tel Aviv: Paul, Tim & John, Lori, Danna, Gabe, and Anthony.  They weren’t here just to visit me, but that’s not my point.  8,000 miles away or not, this place is a Destination for some – not for everyone, but for enough peeps that even if I can’t jet back to the U.S. whenever I want to… the peeps, they come to me.  And in August, my cousin Susan will be here, and so will my former co-worker Hillary and her family when her son gets Bar Mitzvah’d.


Besides, technology makes it so easy to stay in touch nowadays.  Thank God for Skype, which allows me to talk for free with anybody, anywhere, if we’re both using Skype on our computers, or allows me to use Skype to call peeps’ cell phones for mere pennies.  Even better, since my job has a corporate monthly subscription calling plan through Skype, I can actually use the service to call peeps’ phones for free.  Throw in a cheap webcam, and voila!, now you’re having video chats just like the Jetsons did.

Then why is it that I never call anybody?  OK, that’s an exaggeration; I Skype my mom about once a week, my dad about once every two weeks, and my brother about once every three weeks.  But even though I am blessed with many genuine, loving, real friends, I never call them.  Why not?  Well, the time difference has a lot to do with it.  If I wanna steal a quick chat before I’m off to school, well that won’t work, b/c it’s the middle of the night on the east coast of north america and even earlier in California.  If I wanna try and make a quick call between school and work, same deal – U.S. peeps are either still asleep or just getting up for work.  Basically, I can only Skype them at the end of my day, at 11pm or later.  The only thing is: I’m also doing 90 minutes of homework a night, trying to hit the gym a few times a week, and writing this blog when I can.  And excuse the pun, but long distance Skypes to BFFs and family members aren’t calls you can “phone in” <groan, I told you.>  Because they’re infrequent, you really have to be present for them; they can be intense.  They always start the same way: HOW’S ISRAEL?!!  And I’m off, reciting the same diatribe about my crazy schedule with school and work, and how it’s intense and I have no time, etc.  Can’t we just talk about Madonna’s new outfit for the opening her 2009 leg of the Sticky & Sweet Tour, or how hilare Kathy Griffin was last week?  Nah, peeps usually wanna talk about the Big Stuff (Are you liking it there?  Do you miss it here?  Will you be there forever?  Are you speaking Hebrew yet?  How is your job going?, etc.)  And at the end of my ridonkulously long day, I just don’t have the energy for it.  So, I put it off for one more day (and one more day, and one more after that, and…) and pretty soon, I’m not staying in touch with anybody, and I just hate that.  If I do manage to find the energy to make a Skype call – who is it going to be?  Chip, Al, Eyes, Parky, Ross, Aim, Tony, Liebs, Mon, Kar, Sheel, Jay, my cousins Stephen or Jennifer, Jimmy Mack, Stu, Marty, Bruce, Lys, Ell, Justin, Alan, Burt, my aunt Paula and uncle Ronnie? 



And if I still manage to get the call off the ground and have a decent size chat with someone, I feel drained afterwards, b/c it’s me who’s done most of the talking, answering the Big Questions.  What, then I’m supposed to put back on the headset and do it all again with somebody else?  No way, I’m finished for the night.

Actually, thank God for Facebook.  Bite-size comments on friends posted photos or status updates is about all I can handle in terms of staying in touch.  It may be a one line comment (OMG Girl, totes feel u in dat pic!), but I swear to God, it makes me feel connected and like we’re still a part of each others’ lives.  (Then, sometimes a friend will have to go write, “How’s Israel?” and the whole thing is ruined.  😦  )

What about pop culture?  Well, what about it? you might be asking.  Well, it’s important to me, damnit!  And I’m happy to report that it’s pretty easy to gain access to my most favorite American TV shows, movies, and music here in Israel.  I did a post on the TV stuff back in March.  But the two most important sites for me to not miss the shows I wanna see are: TV Shack and TV Dome.  I don’t watch a lot of TV, but LOST, 24, American Idol, CSI – I was able to use these sites to not miss a single ep.  Although Kathy Griffin My Life on the D List isn’t, but I’ve been able to watch her on YouTube.  There’s also a way to make your I.P. address look like you are in Arizona, so then you can watch the shows directly on the networks’ websites.

For music, I’m totally fine also.  There’s no getting Entertainment Weekly delivered to Israel, but there is  I can still read the new reviews of what came out this week and then steal it from Limewire buy it off of iTunes, and I have no problem accessing the iTunes American store, b/c I’m signed up with a U.S. credit card.

Movies?  Most of them come out the same time here as they do in America (thank you, Chinese pirates and bootleggers for forcing Hollywood to change it’s distribution schedule).  Right now, Bruno,  The Proposal, and Transformers are out, and Harry Potter is coming this week or next.

The thing I wouldn’t have predicted is: I kinda don’t care as much about the pop culture stuff.  I mean for some stuff – LOST, 24, Harry Potter, Bruno, new U2 album, anything Madonna related – of course, I still care.  But all these things that were more important to me back in the States, they have lost meaning for me and are just not as important anymore.  Whatever new show is hot in the fall, I’ll have a way to watch it on my computer here.  But I might not care, is what I’m saying.  Same with the films.  All that shiz is coming out here in real time, but I’ve only been to the movies once in more than four months of being here (to see Marley & Me – sniff!).

Live shows?  Yeah, I’ll miss seeing my faves in concert – but Madonna’s finishing her tour in Tel Aviv on Sept 1-2, and guess who’s going to both shows?  And, I’ll be back in New York in September and am seeing two U2 concerts while I’m there.  So, there’s a way to make some things work.

Also, thank God for PerezHilton.  Thanks to him, I know exactly what you are all talking about over there.

One piece of my wired-ness is still missing.  I feel like I’m getting off track, and so I won’t discuss it in depth, but I still don’t have a working BlackBerry in Israel yet, so no emailing, IM’ng, or surfing on the go for the last four months.  They have BB service here, it’s just that it’s cheaper to bring an unlocked BB over from the U.S. rather than buy one here.  I did that, but the damn thing broke.  Warranty covered a replacement, but I’m dependent upon someone traveling to the U.S. to bring it over here, and that shiz has delayed everything.  Let me just say: texting with non smartphones sucks!  I really do want the power of the BB back in my hands.  It will be awesome, being able to IM Jon Ross whenever I want.  But another thing I could not have predicted: I have not been crippled without it.  It’s like, the power of the physical, immediate, and the real in front of me – cycling on my bike past blossoms and birds, struggling through Hebrew homework and 5 hours of lessons every day, being one of 3 employees handling the colossal undertaking of launching a nonprofit – it has just given me some different priorities, and it’s somehow OK that I’m not totally wired in and sending smileys and emoticons at the speed of light to everyone I’ve ever known.

If I could visit the U.S. every 6 months I’d be happy.  I’m not sure if I can swing that, though.  I’m an independent contractor, so I don’t have to worry about not having enough vacation time.  But it means I don’t get paid if I don’t work.  And round trip flights run about $1,000, and then I’ve got to save to have the money to spend while I am visiting.  I’m going for two weeks in Sept (spliting my time b/t Philly and NYC), and I’d like to make my next trip to Miami in March, where I could see all my sober peeps at the Florida Roundup , then heading to Philly before jetting back 2 da Izzy.

I also want to mention that I have plans to rescue a puppy in October.  Once my intensive Hebrew school class ends in October, and I have some more time to spend with him/her on walks in the park and just making sure (s)he doesn’t stay locked alone in my apt, I’m going to go for it.  I grew up having dogs, but have never been responsible for one.  In NYC it never worked, b/c I always lived in Queens or Harlem, but spent all my time in Chelsea, and I was never home to be with the dog.  But Tel Aviv is a lot smaller, and I think I could make it work.  I’ll take little Fallon (as in Carrington) with me for mornings at the beach.  Sounds nice.

And maybe I’ll meet someone.  Wasn’t really happening for me back in New York.  Turns out the older I get, that I actually do have a biological clock.  If I could meet the man of my dreams and raise a family here, well I imagine that could be a very nice life.  Of course that could happen for me in New York, too.

For the five people that may be still with me at the end of this very long post that’s taken me four days to write….props to you.  Tell them what they’ve won, Jonny!  And in conclusion, aw man, I dunno what to say here… 

Am I going to live in Israel forever?

C’mon man, I dunno.  It so doesn’t serve me to think that way.  I am here today.  I have paid a few thousand dollars to ship over art and other belongings, and I don’t want to turn around and pay another few grand to ship everything right back.  I’ve invested in Israel – monitarily, but also emotionally, and with my sweat and hard work – doing this daily grind of both school and having a full time job.  I can’t speak Hebrew conversations yet, but I am getting there.  I’m missing my family, I’m missing my friends, my niece doesn’t know me, but I don’t know if any of this is forever.  I just don’t know. 

I never would have predicted I’d move to Israel.  If I time tavelled back one year and told myself what I’d be up to in 2009, I would have never believed it.  And plenty of people get laid off and don’t move 8,000 miles away to a country where they don’t speak the language for their next job opportunity.  But my life in New York just felt too comfortable and predictable to me.  I had my life down!  From gay AA mtgs, to the gym after, to singing in chorus rehearsal, volutneering for GLWD and The Lightouse, it was a beautifully smoothly running machine.  But I never really LOVED my career, and I hadn’t broken through to a style of living (travel, digs, expensive clothes) that I wanted for myself.  My life was filled with meaningful relationships with friends and family.  It wasn’t boring or hopeless or stuck on repeat.  But it did seem to have run its course.  Here in Israel, I have challenges, man!  Life is hard!  I am working so hard!  And I love it, I do.  I really, really love it.  Working so hard and struggling is very satisfying, I have to tell you.

Alright, this isn’t the be all, and it ain’t’ the end all neither.  But enough time had gone by, that I’d been wanting to do sort of a reassment of how my life is going since making Aliyah.  I’ve had time to think about things in a Big Picture sense, and I wanted to share that with you (and myself).  It ain’t the last word, but it is what it is, and now I’m done.  Publish!


4 Comments so far
Leave a comment

I just read your blog entry and love it! You know, it’s comforting to read about your experiences b/c it makes me realize that my feelings here are shared with other olim!! Thanks for your insight.

Comment by Marisa

😀 Thanks, Marisa.

Comment by skatp

just wanted to let you know we are always thinking about you and it is good to read your words!

Comment by lauren

Thanks, Lauren.

I have to tell you, it only took until age 39, but I finally know what I want to “be when I grow up”: a writer.

Not sure what next step is going to be…i don’t know squat about story structure….or what to write about, really, but I am just keep putting out to The Universe that I have declared it my intention to be a writer and I am looking for guidance on it, and I’m just going to continue writing G-Fish and hope one day it becomes my first book.


Comment by skatp

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