Last time I wrote on this blog I was sitting in a quiet cafe on a leafy street of the French Concession in Shanghai. I had no idea that a few months later I would have done the same thing but on a bustling street of Tel Aviv.
"Are you moving again ? - are you kidding right ?" This is what I have been hearing over and over again from friends and acquaintances in utter disbelief. This is what I kept repeating myself the first few days after we made the decision to start a new adventure not only geographically but also professionally.
However this time it was different because we had chosen to leave. We finally got hold of our life and stopped being at the mercy of corporate strategies very often overlooking and disregarding the toll paid by the families escorting their managers.
I was only a bit hesitant over the perspective of living in Israel which is a country we have obvious ties with. I always liked the idea of living in a neutral zone that we both had to explore and grasp from scratch.
However soon other considerations such as having the grandparents support, a daily blue sky and fast internet had won me over.
A famous philosopher used to say that decision is an instant of madness.
I couldn't agree more. I'm always struck by how fast we make very impactful decisions on our life and by that handful of seconds when hesitation and doubts vanish and everything finally looks so clear and obvious. In that moment I feel swiftly projected onto the future and the present seems to be loosing its relevance.
I finally said YES to Tel Aviv during a morning jog around Xintiandi when the plane trees were blossoming and the smell of fried buns was filling up the air. A few moments later I was already nostalgic.
Six months on and here I am in the sunny Holyland. The first few weeks have been rough as I particularly resented the shift from the Chinese attitude to the Israeli.
When a Chinese worker steps into your house only to change a light bulb, he takes off his shoes and covers the floor and the walls with padded panels to avoid any damage.
When an Israeli plumber comes in to unplug a toilet after climbing down the sewage, he doesn't mind walking with his soiled shoes into your kitchen to pour himself a glass of water.
I was so used to get so many polite though meaningless “YES, YES” when Chinese were clearly not understanding my questions in English whereas here it’s many “MA ??? (what?) blurted out by impatient individuals.
Having said that taking an early morning walk on the beach when the sea is still waking up or savouring an Israeli salad with a piece of freshly baked bagel and an ice cold lemon-mint juice, or Limonana, are among the many reasons why this place is, after all, called the Holy land.
Israelis are often referred to as Sabra, the Cactus fruit, because in spite of their spiny look they can be very sweet and kind. It's true.
Eventually also the plumber who steps into your kitchen with dirty shoes is a very sweet and friendly human being with simply no manners.
I'm sure the heat and the persistent good weather have an impact on the temper of Israelis who tend to ignite very animated discussions about just everything. The level of yelling among people gets so high you sometimes fear the worst but shortly afterwards it's like nothing happened.
Ok, now what about safety ? Yes, what Israel is most renowned for, what is having friends and family worried when you say you're moving over here.
The inconvenient truth is that nowadays Israel is a far safer and more secure place to be than most countries in Europe. But also in the past and over twenty years of multiple visits to this country, I never felt uncomfortable or in danger.
Yet, young soldiers on the streets, the bag search at the entrance of every big store, military helicopters patrolling the sky are daily reminders that this is indeed a special country.
However, on one side you get used to it, on the other life here can be so nice and fulfilling that you almost forget about all that until you're asked again by someone abroad : "How is it there ? Aren't you afraid ?"
I'd rather say that the real threats to my life here are the abuse of air conditioning which can easily freeze you so don't forget to carry a sweater in your bag, bad drivers, and Halva, a sweet made of sesame paste and honey, you can gain weight only by gazing at.