A feeling of belonging is not an easy one to describe. In my research I ask different women about belonging in the Dutch society. A ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer it is not difficult to give, but it is quite complicated to describe the feeling of belonging, and what it is that makes you belong somewhere. As a new migrant myself I am constantly busy with these issues, and trying to figure out how to belong in this new environment.

Holidays and traditions represent the concept of belonging, especially religious holidays that bring together many people from the same origin. It doesn’t matter if you are very religious or secular; there are few special moments in the Hebrew calendar where everybody gathers together. These are the moments that make me feel I belong somewhere, that I am part of something bigger and I am not alone in the world.

Unfortunately these shared special moments cannot really exist outside the homeland. Of course it is possible to celebrate the holidays and keep the traditions, especially if you are part of a community. However, the special atmosphere that characterizes the streets of Israel in days like these cannot be found anywhere else.

For religious people, the Jewish holidays are extremely significant and symbolize the relations with God. For secular Israeli people, the many holidays we celebrate (some will say too many) are a great opportunity to have a break from the hard daily life routine, to relax, to eat a lot of amazing food, to meet the family and to get many presents. Some people keep on doing different religious traditions even though they are secular. This is an interesting point. Due to the history of the Jewish people, many people kept different traditions, just because they characterized the Jewish identity and not necessarily because of religious reasons.

So why I am writing all this? I think you already understand. These are the days of Passover, and we are celebrating what we call the “Seder” night. I believe that Passover is one the most important Jewish holidays, first of all because it symbolizes the freedom of the Jewish people, “from slavery to freedom”. The atmosphere in Israel at this time of the year is very special. It is the time of new beginnings. It is rightly called the holiday of the spring, the flowers bloom, everything is getting cleaned and everybody wears their best white clothes for the “Seder” night.

Times like these, when an important holiday is coming, can be very difficult for a migrant. It is in these days when I feel much more the longing for home, for family and friends. It makes you feel like you miss something, you know that your people are celebrating but you are not part of it. And this is not an easy feeling. I think that in holidays times you can also feel very lonely, since you are not part of the group you belong.

But in life, you get used to everything. So I found out it is very important to keep on celebrating and doing the traditions I grew up with. And I hope that by doing it I can find the feeling of belonging even though I don’t live in my homeland anymore. So we are going to celebrate the Passover night! Although I cannot cook like my grandmother, and I couldn’t really find all the traditional ingredients. I will do my best! And cook for the family!

It is true, nothing can replace the special holiday feeling that we have at home; nevertheless I will feel it in my heart, and in my new home!




Ronie Barel

verhuisde van Israël naar Nederland, activist, blogger

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