Tears are already falling but I don’t leave for over 24 hours.

Am I crying because I am leaving Israel, leaving two of my sons behind to continue to live their lives here without me as a constant presence?

Are the tears those of pride in the men that I have raised?

Do I cry because I am envious that they are here and I know that I need to be here?

I look over at my boys – so different yet so related – and my heart spills over. It seems it was only yesterday that they made guns out of Legos, and today one has an army-issued gun, and within months the other will too. Yesterday they played at war, and today preparation for war is their reality.

My oldest is now a soldier – a combat engineer. The second is in pre-military academy learning how to be the best soldier he can be once he enlists in August. Their conversations are mostly army-based, with so many expressions, abbreviations and acronyms sprinkled liberally through every phrase.

They both take time to translate, explain, and sometimes even blunt the edges of the things they talk about. They want me to understand, they want me to know what they go through, but yet, they shield me from things that they know may cause me anxiety.

They protect me and cherish me, but want to involve me. Tonight my son asked me to iron his army uniform. After an eight-day break to spend time with me, he has to return to his unit. I don’t know if he really needed me to iron his uniform, or if he knew that it would mean the world to me to do something, anything, to help him with his army service.

I live 6000 miles away in New York, and I don’t get to iron his uniforms, or do his laundry, or polish his boots, or cook him meals when he comes home on the weekends. I don’t get to go to every parade or ceremony, and I don’t get to throw my arms around him every time he comes home.

I miss out on so much being so far away but being here, spending time with him and his brother, actually seeing with my own eyes how happy and settled they are here – that helps. Seeing what decent human beings they are – I cannot even put my pride in them into words. They are everything that I wanted them to be and so much more.

There will be tears as my plane takes off on Wednesday morning, I won’t pretend that I will not cry. The majority will be happy ones knowing that my sons are doing well here and are where they need to be.

But some of those tears will be sad ones – it’s so hard to leave Israel, the one place in the world where I feel at peace. Not just because my sons are here, but because Israel is where I belong.  It’s unexplainable, this feeling of contentment deep within my soul.

Better than any drug – for me, breathing in the air here, being HERE in Israel – nothing, but nothing quite fills up my soul as having my feet on this holy ground.

But I forget from each visit. I forget how just being here is a balm for whatever ails me, that there is an unidentifiable element in the air here that just makes me feel whole. That’s not to say that my problems don’t exist here, that if I lived here everything would be perfect. I am not that naive. But that je ne sais quoi feeling – I get that nowhere else.

And in just over 24 hours I have to get on a plane. And leave my boys and that feeling behind.