I spoke to my one of my American Birthright tour guides, Matt, last Saturday night. We discussed jobs for when I move back to Boston next month, my interest in Israel activism and just caught up on life in general. One of the first things Matt had mentioned to me was how I was doing PR for Masa. I suppose I was—I had an amazing Mifgashim seminar in Tel Aviv, Meitar and Be’er Sheva last week—and wrote about it accordingly on Facebook. The thing is, no words will ever do Masa justice for the work they put into this most recent Mifgashim seminar. It was, truly, one of the best experiences I’ve had in Israel in the entire eight months that I’ve been here.
While I did enjoy my first Mifgashim seminar in Tel Hai back in March, this seminar was infinitely better. Since the first night was spent in a hotel in Tel Aviv, it was much closer to Netanya and less of a headache trying to get there. I took the bus to Arlozorov Station and then walked the half hour to the Deborah Hotel. After catching up with Stephanie and Ava, my two fabulous roommates from the first seminar, it was time for ice breakers. They were entertaining and I ended up getting paired up at one point with the Israeli who would be hosting me for Shabbat, Amit. I remembered the story he had told at the first seminar vaguely—something about some…interesting guy in either Australia or New Zealand—but otherwise, he was new to me. After the ice breakers were done, I chose to room with Stephanie and Ava since we were allowed to pick our own roommates. We headed to dinner shortly thereafter. After dinner, the three of us, along with the rest of the group, went to a workshop hosted by people who work at the Nalaga’at Center, which is a theater and café that employs deaf and blind people. We learned some words in Israeli Sign Language and had fun watching people leave the room and then try to figure out the words that were presented to the rest of the audience as we acted them out. After the workshop, we watched a few clips about communities and answered some questions in groups. Once this activity was over, we were all free to go. Eventually it was decided that we’d be hitting a bar, so a bunch of the group began walking to some bar. It was incredibly crowded, so we decided to go to some other bar up the street. I stayed for a while and enjoyed dancing. Once the group was finished, we headed back to the first bar we tried to go to. It was less crowded and I danced for a while, but the smoking was bothering me, so I decided to head home. I bumped into Stephanie at the bar I had just come from, hung out with her and two other people in the group for a bit and then made my way back to the hotel.
Friday was nothing short of amazing. I packed up my bags in the morning and headed to breakfast with Stephanie and Ava. After breakfast, we headed downstairs to drop off our bags and then walked with the rest of the group to a park. We split up into teams so that we could do a scavenger hunt. My team, the blue team, ran around Tel Aviv according to the instructions in the envelopes that we had to find throughout the city. After we finished the scavenger hunt, we headed towards the beach. We were told that we won and so we hung out on the beach for a while. Apparently we were supposed to have been back at the hotel, so we all rushed over there and didn’t have to do the final session. We had a small summary/feedback discussion and then we were free to go to lunch. I sat by myself until Amit came to sit with me. We talked the entire time and I could already tell that he was awesome. After lunch was over, I went to grab my bags and then headed to the lobby. I said my goodbyes and then waited at a bus stop with Amit and one of the Israelis who I met at the last Mifgashim seminar. We took the bus to Arlozorov Station and met up with Stephanie, Ava and a few other Israelis who were also at the previous Mifgashim seminar. The bus took us to Be’er Sheva and after Ava, Stephanie and the other Israelis got off the bus, Amit and I talked for a bit, took the bus to the bus station and then hopped another bus to Meitar. The ride to Meitar was short and Amit’s mother picked us up from a bus stop.
Amit’s mother drove us to their house that’s in a quaint area. After dropping off my things, I headed into the kitchen. Amit’s mother showed me a great way to make iced coffee and it was absolutely delicious. I then met Amit’s father, the middle of Amit’s two brothers and the middle brother’s girlfriend. They all spoke English and it was great being able to bounce English and Hebrew off of each other. After getting to know everyone, Amit and I went to walk his adorable dog. Once we got back to the house, I met the youngest brother and then I helped to prepare Shabbat dinner. We all said a quick blessing once the food was laid out and then it was time to eat! The food was amazing and like in any Jewish house, there was way too much. After dinner was over, Amit and I agreed to go to Be’er Sheva in order to hang out with one of the Israelis from the first seminar, Inoy, and Josh, one of the ITF’ers in Rehovot, since Inoy was hosting him. I went to get dressed and put on my face, while Amit was so sweet with getting me bedding and a towel. After watching some Bo Burnham videos on YouTube, Amit and I headed out to Be’er Sheva. We went to some house where Inoy and Josh were and hung out there for a bit. After deciding to go, we went to the house next door with two of the girls we met at the first house since the house belonged to one of them. We played two great card games and after deciding we reached our alcohol limit, Amit and I headed back to his house.
Saturday was hard. I woke up with a pounding headache, so Amit made me some coffee and kept trying to get me to eat something. I started to feel better once I showered, so after feeling like I could actually do something productive, I helped to prepare lunch. After lunch, Amit and I watched a Louis C.K. sketch on YouTube, drank some coffee in the kitchen while watching some random documentary with his parents and then I went to finish up packing. I said goodbye to Amit’s parents and then Amit drove me to a bus stop in Be’er Sheva so that I wouldn’t have to wait the two hours in Meitar for the buses to start running. I wish I could’ve stayed longer, though. I really didn’t want to leave. I left the car and talked to Stephanie, Ava and the Israelis that were with them since they all happened to be at this bus stop. Eventually my bus came and then I was on my way to the Central Bus Station in Tel Aviv.
Sitting on that bus was hard. My Mifgashim experience had been nothing short of spectacular and I’d give anything to have it again. Of course, it didn’t stop me from leaving, obviously—here I am back in Netanya after all—but it made the pain I still feel so much worse. I kept fidgeting in my seat and staring out the window. The bus shook beneath me as it made its way down the highways. There really was no point in even looking out the window—all I saw was grass. No sunset or clouds.
The bus had Wi-Fi, but I put away my iPad because my thoughts became so chaotic that I couldn’t type. It was just as well, because I was not able to get any work done. I was just trying to take care of some business emails as a distraction from my sorrow, to stop me from replaying all the amazing conversations I had with Amit and his family over and over again in my head and to quiet the nagging voice in my head telling me I am making a mistake by moving back to Boston next month.
While the tears I shed on Sunday and Monday were due to Yom HaZikaron and knowing that I can never express my thanks for the members of the IDF whose courage and sacrifice allows me to live in Israel, I know that the tears I shed on Tuesday were only partly due to that. I stopped shedding the tears Wednesday after I went to the gym, spoke to my Fellow, Dascher, had a phone date with Cassie and used the tip that my Fellow, Josh, gave me once about grief—that I could only wallow in my sorrows for three days. But even though the tears have stopped, the pain is still inside.
What is wrong with me? Seriously, what is wrong with me?
I am never like this. Never. I like to think I am somewhat strong and a person who usually keeps her feelings on the inside and under control. I rarely let myself cry, even when I’m alone. The last time I cried was in January. This recent Mifgashim seminar gave me something to look forward to and exceeded my expectations. My last bit of happiness for awhile, since I don’t really have anything major happening until I see my Kol Voice comrades in Jerusalem next weekend.
After going from two days of bliss back to the balagan of English Days and reality in general, I have put on a brave face when I see my cohort or my students. I want their memories of me to be happy ones. So I try to get out of my head and head to the gym. I may not be able to control my heart, but I can control my body as much as I can. Even still, keeping myself together at school or at the gym is all I can manage. I get stir-crazy when I’m in my room and I ended up falling asleep during a discussion on Monday, followed by another four hours once I was home. I napped Wednesday afternoon, too. That’s pathetic.
My own reactions are confusing me. I can hardly get out of bed because I am so exhausted, but I am paralyzed when trying to analyze why I’m so blue. And as much as I want to tell my cohort about Mifgashim, I don’t want to because I feel like I will break down. They will want to talk about what I saw, what I did, what I ate, and I just…I can’t.
Something—alright, maybe everything I have been thinking about—sets me off, and before long I’m running frantically towards the gym and using the elliptical for an hour. And every time I think about Mifgashim, and how Amit’s family gave me the kindness of a family I never got to know until I met my British relatives in 2010, and how I’ve had someone tell me to stay in Israel past June and eventually make Aliyah, and how, for the first time in my life I’ve actually even considered it, I feel more and more hopeless.
I thought that, as I approached my departure date of June 28th, I would be happy to be going home and back to Boston to see the children I used to babysit and nanny for, being able to read the signs everywhere, earning a living wage and seeing my friends. That I’d be ecstatic. I never imagined that it would actually be the opposite.
I think about both the Israelis and non-Israelis who gave up their lives so that I could live mine. Sometimes I think I don’t have any right to sit around and lose myself on Tumblr when these people never even got to be my age before their lives were cut short. I do want to make every day count. I have done everything in Israel that I wanted to do. I have done new things, too. But it doesn’t feel like enough. I don’t believe I’ve paid back this country or her people for their kindness. I need a way to come back someday, but definitely not forever.
I see myself getting more confused, but I have no idea what to do. Thinking about reverting back to my old life is difficult on the best of days, even when I don’t have anything but nice thoughts. This week has just been plain agony.
I miss the old Taylor, the one who thought she had things figured out. I wonder if there is a way to get her back?
All I know is that the more confusedly my thoughts get tangled up, the more solid grows my stillness. I want to say thank you to Masa for what they did for me with Mifgashim, but better than just that. Some combination of heartache and fatigue has taken away every word I want to say.
I will find them, soon.