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I’m in love with Israel and the Jewish people, but I’m not a Jew. How can I follow my heart?

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Dear Matchmaker Rabbi:

I am a single man who is 49.  I have been in love with Israel and her people since I was 12.  I live in the United States, and I am not Jewish. I want to move to Israel to live and fall in love and become Israeli. The tug I feel in my heart goes straight to my soul. I have looked at this before and put it down to whimsy or fantasy, but the tug to me is stronger than ever. I am well educated and have solid skills.

Please Help

Dear Please Help:

It is always nice to hear from someone who feels a deep kinship for the land of Israel and the Jewish people. What puzzles me about your letter, though, is that you seem to merge feelings of romantic love of a theoretical future person, with an abstract love for “the people” of Judaism, with yet another abstract love for the land of Israel. These are all, I think, very different issues from each other.

If you feel a pull to live in Israel – or anywhere in the world for that matter – the first and obvious thing to do is to actually go there and spend some time! It is very easy to have a romanticized notion of what another place is like without having spent real time there in the nitty-gritty reality of everyday life (and by “real” I mean a minimum of several months, not a two-week visit). There are many study and volunteer programs in Israel where you could spend a summer or even a semester.

If, after that experience, you still feel like you might want to emigrate, you can begin investigating your options. I will warn you, though, that as a non-Jew, it is extremely difficult to gain citizenship there. Israel is a country with many bright, highly educated people competing for a limited number of jobs, and the standard of living is not what you are probably accustomed to in the U.S. Even if you were to convert to Judaism (and you make no mention of being interested in Judaism as a theology,) conversions done outside the Orthodox world are rarely accepted for immigration purposes.

As for feeling a love for the Jewish people, that too is a romantic notion that isn’t really about any particular person. To love or marry a person just because they happen to be Catholic or Hindu, or happen to have ancestors from Italy or Japan – these are not the things that ultimately matter in a relationship. If a woman’s Jewishness is an initial attraction to you, great, but keep in mind that is only one very small beginning.

The Matchmaker Rabbi

To ask The Matchmaker Rabbi a question, please email myrabbi@jdate.com.

Joysa Winter, aka The Matchmaker Rabbi, knows all about how hard it is to find lasting love. It took her 17 years to find Mr. Not Wrong! In that time, she tried just about every singles site, dating club and Matzah Ball known to humanity. Now in her fourth year of rabbinical school and the mother of 1.5 kids, nothing brings her greater joy than officiating a wedding. She is finishing a book on her dating adventures called Chasing Cupid, Tales of Dating Disaster in Jewish Suburbia. You can follow her on Twitter at @wanderinghebrew.

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3 Comments »

  • AlphaKid42 says:

    If there were any justice, the Jews of Europe would have been given Bavaria after WWII, and the Jews deported from Arab lands to die in the Palestinian desert would have been given all of Persia (Iran). But no, they gave the Jews Israel in 1948 and they faced Russian-made Syrian tanks the next day. Only now is the Syrian leadership on it’s way out.

    Now, anyone who says “Next year in Israel” during Passover — well, I invite you to go. Yours will be one less car on the freeway here. As unethical as the US gov’t is, there’s still no better place on Earth.

    Israel is great to visit, but other than holy sights and perhaps the beaches, is too hot and dry to consider living there. The residential areas of Tel Aviv are like those in Latin America, dusty cement blocks.

    Israeli women are beautiful, but chain smoke cigarettes, talk endlessly on cell phones, and are basically unapproachable. Men dress like schlubs and are generally rude.

    The business people in the whole region, Jews and Arab alike, are basically looking to take advantage of one another, to save face at all costs, and go to the mat over any little thing. We Americans back down often because we know how to compromise and negotiage. We have an empathy circuit. Arabs and Jews in the Middle East do not have such a circuit. They only know of the Friar and the victim.

    Visit Israel, but think twice my friend before you decide to live there. They may live longer lives than we do, but their lives kinda suck.

  • Arthur says:

    Dear Please Help,

    I totally agree with the “Matchmaker Rabbi” when she says:
    “If you feel a pull to live in Israel – or anywhere in the world for that matter – the first and obvious thing to do is to actually go there and spend some time!” Then she goes on: “There are many study and volunteer programs in Israel where you could spend a summer or even a semester”.
    However Mrs. Winter does not give you any links for such volunteering programs.
    I know for a fact that most such programs accept only young people (usually under the age of 35) and it will therefore not be easy for you to find a program which will accept you despite your age, and which will also match your abilities and what you would like to do.

    For instance, if you would like to help on an Israeli Defense Force basis, you should probably try the following link: http://www.vfi-usa.org/

    If you are a good swimmer and you would like to help with ecological conservation of coral reefs, try this one (although it is just for 2 months max.):
    http://www.goeco.org/project/189/project.aspx?id=189&friendly=Volunteer_in_Israel_Coral_Reef_Conservation

    If you want to help with eco-tourism development in Nazareth, check this one: http://www.goeco.org/project/10/project.aspx?id=10&friendly=Volunteer_in_Israel_Ecotourism_Development_in_Nazareth

    If you want to help with eco-tourism development and experimental bio-farming in a Mountain Eco Lodge on the slopes of Mount Hermon check this:
    http://www.goeco.org/project/56/project.aspx?id=56&friendly=Volunteer_in_Israel_Mountain_Eco_Lodge

    If you would be interested in Animal & Nature Conservation in a Kibbutz in Israel’s Arava Desert, then this one is for you:
    http://www.ivolunteer.org.il/Eng/Index.asp?ArticleID=549&CategoryID=125

    Here is a link for an organization which places volunteers of under 60 years old to help in Medical Centers, Health Care Institutions, Boarding Schools:
    http://www.destinationisrael.com/israel-volunteer-center/Default.aspx?id=169

    If you will live and work in Israel as a volunteer and you will like it, then you might want to stay longer and towards the end of your volunteering program you might want to apply for one more program. However I believe you cannot stay there longer than 6 months on a visitor visa.

    Regarding your wish to become an Israeli, I can tell you this is not so easy for non-Jews, the same as it is not easy for non-Americans to become Americans :-)
    Marriage with an Israeli lady might be a solution, however a marriage between a Jew and a non-Jew cannot be officiated in Israel.

    I wish you “be-hatzlacha” (good luck).

  • Bonnie Maillie says:

    Dear Matchmaker Rabbi,
    I long for a soul mate. I mean SOUL mate. I am tired of “attraction”
    relationships. I am now 52 and want the next to be the last. Ok, my question is…” How do I participate on a dating site, when mostly it is all about the attraction, and find a Religious mate ?” Am I wasting my energy? I have heard what a turn off it is to try to talk about Torah. I do not even approach the non married men in my congregation, well, because there is a time and a place ..right? I really need a matchmaker! What do you suggest I say about myself? THat defines I am looking for a SERIOUS man who practices and lives his faith ? Yet, still encourages hopeful canidates in a relationship with me ?
    Shalom and Thank you for your answer.

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