And so, six months down the line, things start becoming routine.
On Sundays, I do my weekly shopping at the Shuk. I know which stall to go to for the freshest tomatoes, I know which shopkeeper gives me half price off the glazed almonds for a real smile, and I know that it takes 23 minutes on the light rail back to French Hill on a good day.
On Wednesdays, we have our Ulpan test. I can predict the layout of the double-sided paper. Small Hebrew print demanding my full attention. I know that every week, it gets that bit harder. I know that every week, I will promise myself to spend more time on grammar for the following exam.
Come Thursday afternoon, I recognize the buzz of agitation pervading the history lecture hall. Students at the edges of their seats, checking their cellphones every few seconds for that 2 pm mark…and סוף השבוע begins. So used to backwards weekends, I no longer waste time complaining about Saturday nights behind my wooden desk. The thrill of those Thursday evenings dancing around the apartment, channeling my inner Beyoncé, with my roommate while we get ready more than makes up for it.
Shabbatot bring a measure of change. But still, within these weekly Shabbat adventures, a trend is born. Shabbat at my safe haven in Ra’anana with warm family and the rest of South African Jewry for when I need some TLC. Shabbat at my teachers in the Shomron for some real Israeli Zmirot. Shabbat in Givat Shmuel for topical religious chatter and attempted matchmaking.
Routine… I taste the letters in my mouth, the word threatening to set an ugly flavor on my palate. But instead, I swallow and I feel satisfied.
Six months ago, I ran away from this concept like a deer running from its predator, petrified of being caught, trapped, and my spirit killed. Routine, for someone who prides themselves on out-of-the-box thinking, is considered that sneaky monster that brings the death of the creative spirit and introduces limitless boredom. Yet here I sit, looking at the obvious pattern forming around my life in this crazy country of Israel and feeling more than satisfied…feeling at peace.
What is it about this stage of my life — post the early star-struck Aliyah wave, and pre the flood of Israeli pessimism, that enables me to find the excitement of my routine, a seemingly contradictory phrase?
It could be the fact that my little Island of order is floating, dangerously along a sea of Middle Eastern tension and neighboring violence that provides enough excitement without any personal impulsiveness. It could be that I cling comfortably to the knowledge of my set schedule that ties me down this year, while any future beyond that is a riddle yet to be solved. Or it could be that without my mom, dad, and oldest friends to fall back on, the underlying danger of spontaneity loses its thrill.
It could be all those, but I like to think that finally…maybe for only a little while… but finally I am sure that I am where I need to be. When you have chosen, worked, and persisted in getting to a place that is hard to reach, you learn to appreciate. To cherish every thread of the familiar and the predictable that weaves through otherwise foreign grounds.
A patchwork made up of different shades of routine that you have chosen yourself, always more beautiful and eye catching than random spurts of color.