Leaving behind everything you know takes a certain unwitting courage. No matter how much you plan and no matter how many pilot trips you make, getting on that plane to make Aliyah to Israel means facing the unknown. For Akiva Teddy MacLeod, a Canadian convert to Judaism, you might say that Aliyah was already the second time he’d left everything behind.
But think of what he’s embraced! By throwing in his lot with Judaism, he’s joined the longest living nation on earth and by making Aliyah he’s come home to the indigenous territory promised him by God. Yes, the phrase “come home” is exactly right.
But you’ve got to have the right spirit to make it work. You’ve got to be positive. And that is just what Akiva MacLeod has going for him: a positive outlook on life. In spades.
Which is what makes his new book, Welcome Home: My First Six Months Living In Israel, such a pleasant read.
No, it’s not great literature, and doesn’t purport to be. It is what it is, with no apologies. The book is mainly culled from Akiva’s Facebook status updates during the first half year of his life in Israel.
What comes through is Akiva’s openness to every experience and his bright happiness in describing mostly the goodness of life in Israel. He loves Israeli cheese. He loves the sea. He enjoys trying out different synagogues and most of all he enjoys the weather. You could see where that would be a big one for a Canadian!
On the other hand, Akiva, like many Olim (new immigrants), comes with certain preconceptions. He cannot understand, for instance, why there is no Wacky Mac in the stores, or at least a similar product. Akiva had thought Mac and Cheese a universal preoccupation, a staple of family life.
As a blogger concerned with copyright issues for the images I use to accompany my Kars for Kids blog pieces, I appreciated the neat way Akiva gets around this problem in his book. Instead of using screenshots, an iffy device I use only as a last resort, Akiva will draw a picture of a book cover or whatever image he wants to use. He’s not a bad illustrator, I have to say. I enjoyed his drawings.
Akiva’s wife, Tzivia, is the writer in the family and this is acknowledged from the outset. As such, the writing in Welcome Home is neither stellar nor especially compelling. In spite of any shortcomings however, Akiva’s writing voice has freshness to it, a lack of pretension.
Take this entry from December 3, called “Bathrobe Lady.”
I am so tempted to write about the other people here in ulpan class. They are the most incredibly weird people from many different countries.
There is one lady who maybe is cold or something in the morning, but she always goes to her beginner ulpan class wearing an orange bathrobe over her clothes.
She’s from Romania, if that is any explanation.
Whenever I share an elevator with her, she tells me how hard her class is and I ask what she is learning, to which she replies, ‘The days of the week.’
Akiva finds humor in the unexpected and enjoys sharing his findings with an audience. One can’t help but suspect that the missing ingredient in this book is Akiva, himself. If you knew Akiva in real life and followed him on Facebook, for instance, you’d be in a position to envision him telling the humorous stories in his book, with his own brand of comedic intelligence and timing.
Nonetheless, this book should speak to other new immigrants, especially “Angloim” or those who make Aliyah to Israel from English-speaking countries. They will definitely see themselves in this book. Also, it’s an easy read. I managed to read the book cover to cover during a recent bus trip from Jerusalem to Ramat Gan and back again.
This book could make an awesome gift for new immigrants. You could tuck it into a basket of goodies for that new family on the street, fresh off the plane. You’d be supporting a worthy endeavor, by contributing to the livelihood of one family that had the courage to leave Canada for Israel, the MacLeod family of Kiryat Shmuel.