"Are you CRAZY?" ...ummm, well...
I haven't yet come up with a really good response to the question "Are you crazy?!" (or the many variations of this --you'd be surprised how many ways people can either directly or indirectly let you know they think you've effectively gone off the beam). And you would think that, with all the practice I've gotten recently in answering this question, I'd have the perfect reply prepared. But alas, I am still searching, fumbling, for the response that assures the questioner that I have not gone crazy, that I am actually making a well-researched (and hopefully well-planned) decision, that I really do not have a death wish, that I haven't overnight become some kind of religious zealot, that I am not making this decision to move to Israel based on some "Exodus"-novel fantasy... and so forth.
A one-word reply would be good but I'd settle for a paragraph.
And sometimes I wonder myself. After all, I not only have gotten this question (accompanied by shock and concerted attempts to change my mind) from every single American and European friend I've told ...but also from every Israeli friend. In fact, the only person who hasn't posed this question is my Shlicha. I guess I'd be really worried if even she decided I'd climbed out of the box and couldn't be put back in.
And, because I am not crazy, I do understand the concerns and admit to sharing some of them myself. For instance, yes, I do know that Israel is located in the Middle East and that there is a propensity for people to decide to explode themselves in public places, taking along as many others as possible. But the cities and citizens of Israel are not the only ones targeted by such extremists. Hey, I live in NYC ...I'd like to point to the view from my Manhattan apartment window but, unfortunately, it is no longer there. The idea that terror attacks happen only "over there" still seems firmly ingrained in the American psyche and even my Manhattanite friends, while admitting that Manhattan will likely be a target of attacks in the future, still seem to have this sense of immunity. "Why do you want to live someplace where Islamic extremists want to blow you up?" they ask. "Well, why do you?" I want to respond. We all share this sense of immunity.
It is not that I am unconcerned or that I think it completely unlikely that I will be among the victims of a terror attack while living in Israel. I recognize that it is a possibility (hence taking out a life insurance policy just in case!). But I am also aware of the fact that it is far more likely that I could lose my life in a car accident or as a victim of regular old crime right here in the United States.
I'm also aware that there are some very strong cultural differences between the Israeli and the American way of life. Some of those differences I embrace and the rest, well, I think I can tolerate and negotiate. This is the objection most often raised by Israeli friends (along with, why on earth would you want to move from a city like NY? --uh try affording to live here!). Specifically, they seem to think that, while short of getting eaten alive, I am going to be a "frier" --someone who gets taken advantage of constantly because they are sweet and naive --soft. It is true that I am not like native-born Israelis, called sabras after the cactus that has a very hard, tough skin but is soft and sweet inside. Rather, transplanted Southern girl that I am, I am very much a "Steel Magnolia." I think we'll end up pretty evenly matched.
Then we get down to the nitty gritty base question of ok, but why do you really want to do this? There are many reasons, some of which I can't seem to put into words that feel right even to myself. But that is a question to be answered on another day. In the meantime, this maybe-crazy girl has to get back to her definitely crazy NYC life and churn out revisions on an article to pay the exhorbitant bills of said crazy life and future.