If Birthright is the honeymoon (or Taglit for those who don’t call it Birthright), my current long term Israel program is a combination between marriage and reliving the glory days of college.
I will never forget my first ten days here in February. Well not ‘here’ per se. Saying ‘here’ would mean that I was sitting in my college-style apartment, at my laptop, with the Air Conditioner kicking and leftovers from tonight’s dinner sitting in my fridge along with some assorted vegetable remnants from my last trip to the shuk.
What ‘here’ really means is the Israel that I thought I knew. The one that wooed me with milk, honey, and the best falafels eight sheckels could buy. The one that lifted me up effortlessly and carried me over the alter of the Yam ha Maved. We spent a crazy night together in the most welcoming Beduoin Tent that Jewish programming could arrange for. I fell in love with Israel’s golden tipped fingers reaching for the starry night sky and waning moon. His starry eyes winking at me from his reflection in the Jordan River.
Israel and I have been through a lot since that whirlwind romance. I knew I had to come back for more, thinking about the lovely and comforting arms of the country as I was being moved from my childhood home into a dry Arizona desert.
To leave one desert for another, seems kind of silly sometimes but Israel is not just a desert.
I remember the early days of our reunion, as the surrealism sank in and I felt strangely at home in the familiarity of this modern place. Time was lost somewhere along the way—in baggage claims perhaps—as the days drifted along easily.
Israel boasts nearly all of my comforts from home. I have an internet connection, an array of chocolate, several malls, a treadmill, a washer-dryer, and a college-sized bed at my disposal. There may not be a Trader Joe’s, Wholefoods, or Starbucks but there are plenty of Mc Donald’s’, American food products at the grocery stores, a few Gap stores and Forever21 stores spread around and even a very New York style sushi place in the Big called Kampai.
It is a nice balance in Israel of the familiar and the new.
It is a huge adjustment living abroad for the first time and the first month was the hardest in that the 26 of us living in Be’er Sheva to teach weren’t yet teaching. We were being taught how to teach. Taking classes and lectures. Stuffed into program logo-d t-shirts and forced on stage to partake in ice-breakers with the other Americans from other cities on ‘the journey.’
Out of all the girls that tried to hold onto long distance relationships, the last one started to crumble just days ago as we approach the second month.
I knew mine was over once I left him in New York to try my luck in Arizona.
At the moment, I have eyes only for Israel. Hungry to explore the unseen territories tucked away into remote villages, crusade-era cities, and places the tourists don’t get to find out about.
When I go out drinking though on the nights I feel a need for more than just the country, sometimes my eyes wander towards the rough-cheeked former soldiers clustered around sweaty bar stools.
As the sun rises on the morning after and I stumble along the sandy streets with the soft chords of The Connell’s ’74-’75 still in my ears and the taste of bitter coffee still on my breath, I focus my affections back onto Israel and I let the landscape wrap around me and lead me home.