New Year’s in Israel by Natalie Goldshtein, Israel

15841387_10155102861738643_678755458_nChildren often treat all occurrences as of equal value and meaning, accepting that things are as they should be simply because they are happening.
The realization of the possibility of differences is part of growing up. It can lead to great things, with understanding what and how things can be better. However, it also brings with it a certain sadness, in understanding that these differences can be used as a tool to separate between people.

Growing up as a Former-Soviet-Union immigrant in Israel, most things seemed regular to me. Mixing Russian and Hebrew, watching Russian cartoons between episodes of Full House, eating beet soup one day and falafel the next.

But as children tend to do, I too, grew up and began noticing that not all of the things I do, are done by all.
For example, not all families eat potato salad on special occasions and not all families trade political quips about soviets and communists.

I grew to see my family’s habits, my habits, against what to seemed to me to be an entirely unified being of “Israelis”.

Israelis knew the entire history of Israel and all of the lyrics to all of the old-country songs. Israelis knew they are where they should be and had the confidence of belonging.
I did not know the order of all of the Presidents and Prime Ministers, did not know any lyrics or songs, and definitely did not have the confidence

We were most definitely not Israelis.

As I grew older, I started to try and be the same. The same as I thought all others were. I refused to speak Russian, I hated when others saw my food or my family’s books. I always felt that my clothes were close to looking like the others’, but never quite there.

All of these elements and traits that turn families to units, and several families into communities, became markers to me. Something to explain and defend, in case you were unsuccessful in hiding it to begin with.

But it wasn’t exclusively in my own head. The outside world was also pointing at differences and deciding what should and should not be.

As I grew even older, I began to see that I wasn’t alone in being different. The division that I saw between “Israelis” and immigrants was far from the only divider. People were excluding one another based on everything from Religion, to Gender, to preferences in sports or singers.

Once I started to realize the various differences we choose to see, I realized more and more that they are a choice. We have the power to choose what is important to us and what should be considered. Although others have the power to label us with words and actions based on pretty much anything they see fit in the moment – we also have a choice.
We can choose to see our definitions, our traditions, our principals and choose to see ourselves within a community. And if it comes to be, that a community chooses to point us out – we can find and make our own place in the world. We make our own path.

New Years is one of the many contested points one can see in Israel. Some “Israelis” see it as a foreigners’ habit, as going against the grain, choosing one religion over the other.
While those who celebrate it see it as a tradition, a single, non-religious holiday allowed to exist freely in a country that took freedoms and left little room for celebrations.

To me, New Year’s grew to be a symbol. From taking it for granted and as an obvious family tradition of all; to seeing it as an emblem of my differences from all others and something to be avoided in order to belong – This New Year’s symbolizes my place. My New Year’s will be spent with my Partner in a mini-party, due to various time constraints. Had there been no limitations – my New Year’s would have been a gathering of close friends, choosing to mark the passing of time and grasping at a chance to celebrate at a time where celebrations are hard to come by.

My New Years is mine, and goes back to my traditions, and even further back, to a time when others, stronger than me, and more oppressed, had the chance to take one night to themselves, away from the State, away from constraints – and just Celebrate.

Happy New Years!

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