“It will feel like your bed.” My brother’s last minute words of wisdom and tidbits of Israel advise guide me as I wander through the airport during my Newark layover three weeks ago. “Israel is the only place besides your bed where you feel completely at home and comfortable being yourself.” My recognition of Seth’s aphorisms catch me ever so often. I smile and let this idea soak in. I follow the stream of skirts and black hats, Naots and guitars to my gate and find myself smiling uncontrollably.
My joy is ridiculous and completely unashamed of this, I think of my homeland. I think of my parents’ stories about their time after high school living on a kibbutz, my siblings studies and travels; breaking in this country like a pair of shoes.
A week later in classes, one of my teachers mentions that coming from Jewish educations, we should all be literate Jews, a tagline I hear my dad ofter claim about the growing separation between secular education and Jewish understanding. That night, the Mishmar speaker retells a lesson from the Jews hiding in the forest during the Holocaust and I remember hearing it a few hours prior. I make eye contact with a few other students who recognize this and it hits me that there are way too many times, things just connect here.
Maybe my bed of comfort is one of recognizing the commonalities weaved between everything here. A story from class is bound to relate to the moral of another. The skills learned in my morning classes are remembered in the afternoon.
The shivers of excitement from the flight to Israel follow me on the light rail train to market of Machanay Yehudah to buy goods for Shabbat, on the bus to the Israel Museum to meet up with Ari and Vanessa, walking on the pier with Tal, sitting with Chelsea on the train to Sabrina’s for Rosh Hashana. The Tel Aviv beach glistens in the dance of the sunset and Bat Yam reminds me of Rachel.
In my class on philosophical issues, we overview how Rambam had the ability to view Judaism through a lense of philosophy while Rashi in France was living through much persecution. Dejavu to the day earlier in my Shemot class mentioning this as we delve into the commentaries. The Zionism teacher shares about his parents influence on his Jewish education when he was younger and I feel like the words could be my own. Because my struggles match the girl beside me, and my insecurities are shared by the Rabbi I look up to, because Sabrina’s mom makes chicken with dried apricots like my mom does and because the one of my teachers reminds me of Ilana, because the new year allows me to refocus on my goals for this year and because we are singing at the Kotel at 1am, I miss home; but feel at home.
The comfort of being here is overwhelming. My day is fulfilled by my walks through the Old City as much as the talks inside the walls of my seminary. I am enjoying the chagim as much as I am saddened to not have my classes. My bed is starting to feel like my own and I can’t believe how lucky I am to be here.