Friday, January 28, 2011

Coming Home: A Love Story

This 50 sheqel note was in my wallet when I left Israel on August 15, 2001 and resided there until January 1, 2008. I had kept it for those 2,331 days in חוץ לארץ as a sign for myself, a comfort and palpable assurance that I would return to Israel to spend it. (To satisfy your curiosity, I spent those 50 sheqels on a bus ticket from Jerusalem to Eilat- a sojourn through the beautiful Negev must be a worthy expenditure for this worn, weighty bill to complete its own journey.)

Because of jet lag, I wasn't able to sleep our first night, in Jerusalem. So I arose at 4 AM and left the hotel (before the buses started running) to walk to the Kotel for prayers at sunrise (vatikin). The streets were empty, dark, and quiet. The world was so still, it felt like walking through a photograph. I had a decent memory of the 3.5 km route and set out with my old map in my backpack, for backup.

Walking around is like déjà vu, only I've really been here before, these places, these streets. Sights I haven't seen in years and I have forgotten, or those that have faded, trigger in an instant a flood of memories. It's like carrying a Geiger counter through a hot area; pockets of some potent, invisible radiation set off flurries of activity.

It absolutely does not seem real- It just doesn't make sense that I'm in Israel. And yet, I am.

I spent the first half of our trip in euphoric disbelief that I was actually back. Standing, seeing, conversing, being on Israeli soil reawakened feelings that had lain dormant, atrophied from disuse with time spent in America. During the second half of our trip, my struggle was coming to terms with the fact that I'd be leaving again.

This time around, we spent the last of our sheqalim in the airport on chocolate and chips (no, not that kind). We aimed to contribute as much as we could to stimulate Israel's economy, and we knew we'd be back to spend more.

Earlier, back in the States, a fellow extern at Creedmoor, a Jamaican Christian, was excited to tell me about her mother's Christmas trip to Israel. She asked me, "Do you have a lot of family still in Israel?" People assume we came from there and left family behind. Jamaican = from Jamaica; Dominican = from the Dominican Republic; so Jewish = from Israel, right?

They don't quite get the distinction among scales of history, but in a sense, they're right. It is we Jews who artificially, inappropriately cleave the awareness of recent generations in Europe and America from the resonance of our millennial history and our homeland.

1 comment:

  1. BS"D

    How amazing you spent the 50 Shekels note to pay a bus ticket to go OUT of the Land of Israel (like all those who go to Eilat, actually).
    Welcome home, anyway...