To begin, I was a classic “wandering Jew”. My relatives from at least two generations took their legs and immigrated to a different country, not always by choice. One grandmother went from Russian to the United States while the other emigrated from Poland to France. My mother left France for the United States. I came to live in Israel. I am fairly certain that my daughter will leave Israel to live in the United States, which she likes more than I do. So, there is a genetic factor there. From the time I left home to go to college to the day I started my life in Karmiel, Israel, a period of more than ten years, I never lived in any city for more than three years. A short list of these cities includes Santa Cruz, CA, Paris, France, Los Angeles, CA, Eugene Oregon, Portland, Oregon and Ashkelon, Israel. I didn’t have to join the navy to see the world and became a bit of an expert on how to get started in a new city.
That being said, I can safely say that all cities are not created in equal in terms of ease of entrance. The key factor is the percentage of residents not born in the place. On one extreme, there are villages and small cities that you are still considered new after three generations because, to mangle Einstein, everything is relative. On the other extreme are places like New York and Los Angeles, where the sheer number of “foreigners”, both domestic and foreign, is so large that your source of origin is merely a way to start a conversation and of little other significance. A peculiar situation is Paris. Half of the city consists of French Parisians while the other half are outsiders, both French and foreign. I was quite lucky being half French and half “ericain” that I could enter both worlds, that of my Parisian family and that of the temporary and permanent émigré community. I felt quite at home and would still do today even if I believe Paris is an unhealthy city to live due to the stress and diesel fumes, no matter how exciting it is be there.
My way of starting anew was to do what I enjoy, Balkan folk dancing. Wherever I went, I found the local group or groups, joined them and immediately had a social circle. I once unashamedly (at the time) crashed a wedding a few days after my arrival in Portland, merely following my new found acquaintances to the wedding even though I had never met either the bride or groom. Nobody said anything to me, whatever that means. Between my hobby, work and studies, I was able to quickly create a social circle. Being young, male and a good dancer didn’t hurt either. I suppose newcomers join churches and synagogues for the same reason.
I have now lived in Karmiel, Israel, a small town of 50,000 people in the north, for over 27 years. I have been married twice and raised my daughter here. Since the town was founded only in the late 1964, the number of native born residents is still relatively small. Curiously enough, I have no desire to roam anymore. During the Second Lebanese War, it was bit like the line of the Star Spangled Banner here, “And the rockets in air…” I preferred being under effective house arrest in my own house in Karmiel than being at a five start refugee at a hotel in Herzeliya further south, much to the angst of my parents. I cannot tell you what exactly changed but my sense is that everybody has a time to roam and a time to create a nest. I enjoyed my days of exploration and appreciate my days of attachment.