Jessica Fishman says she doesn’t want to talk politics. The slender 30-yearold would rather talk about the past, about her dreams to make aliya, her service in the IDF Spokesman’s Office, her years as a student at Herzliya’s Interdisciplinary Center and as a 20-something living in Tel Aviv. She would rather talk about almost anything instead of discussing the story’s end, where dejected and defeated, she left Israel with her life hanging in tatters around her.
But for the past few months, Fishman has forced herself to do just that, to show how Israel’s current conflict between the definition of who is a Jew for the purposes of immigration and who is a Jew for the purposes of marriage ultimately led to the collapse of her Zionist dream.
On a brief visit, Fishman discussed just that, reflecting on her experiences leading up to her return to the US, and about the warm hug she received from Israelis only as she was about to leave. And she tried to explain how she planned to pick up the pieces, spending the months after her return finishing the book that she started on her experiences as an immigrant, and resettling her life in Colorado, light years away from the white city on the Mediterranean that she had called her home for almost a decade.
She grew up in St. Paul, Minnesota, in what she describes as “a very Zionistic family.” Her parents were pillars of the Jewish community – her mother was the regional president of Hadassah, her father was president of the local Jewish community center and their synagogue. The Fishman children followed a classic route of synagogue on Shabbat and Jewish day school education. The Fishman family’s first trip to Israel was when she was 13, and she fell in love.
Her family’s support of Israel was strong enough to bring her back to live in Jerusalem at the height of the second intifada.