Friday, January 29, 2010

Two Simple Moments of Joy in Israel

MOMENT #1 - One of the many, many things I love about the location of our apartment in Israel is that there is a trash receptacle right outside our building (no more schlepping trash cans to the street!) and there are bins for recycling paper and plastic bottles just across the street (no more 2-week old trash sitting in our hallway waiting for recycling day!). Last week, I stepped outside our apartment to toss some plastic bottles into the recycling bin and I heard a familiar voice.  We had been in Israel just a few days and I had not yet seen the friend to whom the familiar voice belonged, so I called out her name while crossing the street to give her a hug.  As we were chatting, a neighbor from upstairs came down to the street for another happy reunion.  Then my neighbor from downstairs, one of the first people I met in Ma'ale Adumim five years ago, came up to the street level.  I laughed to myself at how, within moments of going out to recycle a few bottles, Hashem sent three women to the front of my building to reassure me that my future life here will include friendship.  
Not two minutes later, as we all stood chatting on the street, a rented car parked in front of our building and out popped some neighbors from Baltimore who were visiting our community to see if it was a good match for them.  The whole interaction took less than five minutes, but I felt Hashem's warmth and encouragement - a preview of my life here, filled with many people to enjoy.

MOMENT #2 - A few nights ago, we attend a Chanukat HaBayit - a building dedication for our daughter's Israeli seminary where she learned so much Torah and grew spiritually in such huge measure.  During the entire evening, but especially the four minutes when she presented a plaque to one of the founding families, my heart was proud.  As the building emptied out and only the staff, the students and a few sets of parents were left, the students began dancing, with tremendous earnestness of feeling, to live music in the dining hall.  As we sat in the hallway waiting for our daughter to finish enjoying the company of her friends, I wondered why it was okay for the performing musicians, especially the lead singer who I knew to be religious himself, were in the same room with 60 young, religious women, watching them dance.  I stepped into the room and a huge smile enveloped my face.
The singer was sitting in a corner behind a mechitza while the young women had free reign in the room. 
What a country!!

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Anguish is Gone

DATELINE: Ma'ale Adumim, Israel


I've been in Israel for about 66 hours now.  It's my first time back since we decided to make aliyah this coming summer.  And something feels very, very different.

The flight here was smooth, practically effortless, but it's so much more than that.  The transition to being in Israel this time has been totally seamless.  It feels completely natural to be here.  My Hebrew is still pathetic and I'm not even a citizen yet, but I belong to this Land in a way I never have before.  The tension is gone.  My soul is no longer split in two.  It's a most serene, centered, holistic state of being.

In the past, there was always joy in being here, but also a constant sense of deprivation, knowing that my time here was painfully limited.  I chaffed at the creeping deadline, aware that I was going to have to board a return flight much too soon.  And I had difficulty accepting that so many friends and acquaintances got to stay here but I didn't.  I'd like to think I wasn't petulant about it, but it did nick me every single time.  "Waah!  How come they get to live here and I don't?"  

You're right.  It does sound petulant.  But it was genuinely part of my experience.

I still have a return flight in a finite number of days, but the anguish is gone.  By the time we return to my alternate reality, there will be just a few months left before the big move and a thousand details demanding my attention.  I already sense that the remaining time is going to fly by.  My husband, the king of analogies, likens it to the end of a roll of toilet paper running out so much faster once there's not so much left.

This I know.  On this trip, when I cry, it won't be because my soul is being shred to bits. 

Those days, with Gd's great kindness, are behind me.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Clinging Tenaciously to Treif

Why would I want to give up eating non-kosher?  When kosher food is as accessible, tasty and affordable as McDonald's, then I'll start to keep kosher.  Until then, I'll be clinging tenaciously to treif.

This tongue-in-cheek argument reminds me of the tone of so many of the 150+ talkbacks to the recent article in the Jerusalem Post called American aliya - an exercise in futility

The essence of the article is that, since mass aliyah from America does not look like it's in the cards, the efforts of the Jewish Agency and Nefesh b'Nefesh are nothing more than an expensive waste of time. The talkbacks are full of comments about everything that's wrong with Israel and why life in America is so good for Jews.

Perhaps some people are just not meant to make aliyah.