America is looming in my near future like a big floating cloud of distant memories and the people I love the most, that make me feel like I’m sinking to be so far from.
I am only days away from completing my Masa program as an Israel Teaching Fellow in Be’er Sheva.
It’s only Thursday but already I feel tired and weary of all of the work I have been doing trying to balance my program, my friends, my travels, and my family. I need to do what I love, see who I love, but some of those things are impossible and time is really starting to dictate more and more what each day will be.
I’ve been feeling slightly inspired at my last Israel Pathways seminar (from last Sunday to last Tuesday) which was meant to foster creativity and invention. I can’t help but feel like I have so many comparisons and mixed metaphors swarming in my head about Israel and my 10 month-long volunteer program, and of making aliyah.
I think that making aliyah for me, at this point is not even an option in my near future. It is something I will need to think about seriously, after discussing it with many people and being back in America, where I feel most at home. Even though I love Israel to pieces, I really do, I don’t feel that hard-pressed to overstay my welcome–which in this case, is my program’s completion at the end of June.
If any of you are fans of Disney movies, specifically ‘the Little Mermaid,’ perhaps you will understand my main conflict with making aliyah. I can’t help but feel like I would transform from a mermaid to a human girl in a way. As a mermaid, I would be a Jewish girl that swims and dreams in her own little pond, maybe a small Jewish community, looking longingly at the beautiful horizons of Israel so far above , she can pop her head up and watch, she can sing the songs of the land to herself. She is at heart a mermaid though. She will always be a mermaid. She can have children above her watery home but they will be part mermaid.
The mermaid will do anything for the love of the prince, to belong to the land of Israel. She trades her voice, unable to speak in Hebrew, crippled with communication. Instead of her gleaming scales and fin, graceful and sure in her homeland, she is on shaky legs upon this new land. It is almost like learning to walk as she navigates slowly but steadily through sands, desert, public transportation, screaming crowds, and religious identity. There is not only one prince anymore. There are many. They are handsome, some fair, some tanned, some smiling with their eyes only and some show white teeth and winking dimples. Some are even soldiers. The mermaid struggles. She misses her home often, the smells of the Mediterranean make her both happy and sad. She thinks of her father, her mother, her siblings that waved goodbye many moons ago. She winces at the pain her new legs give her. It is an adjustment. Like walking on swords, Hans Christian Anderson penned. She is running out of time. She doesn’t seem able to convince princes of love with her gestures and appearance alone, not to the level that she wants, the love she yearns for. It is not really love though, she starts to decide, it is home. She wants home more than love because love is always there but home can sometimes be that cozy little coral cavern near the palace gates. Or in my case, the new but quite homey place in Arizona where my family has been waiting for me. My mom even said she’s been dusting and checking on my room for me so everything is in its place and waiting for me when I return.
Maybe I had too lofty of dreams, to think that I could win the heart of a whole country in just shy of a year. Maybe I was too quick to fall into the whirlwind romance of everything Israel had and still has to offer me.
Maybe things would be different if I was fluent in Hebrew, if I had the opportunity to live in other cities, to see my family more often or even better, if I had even a very distant relative living in Israel to give me more of the feeling of roots.
I can’t say how my experience would change in any of these cases, it would be just a guess, a flight of fancy. All I know is that with six weeks to go in this country that I have grown to love so much, to appreciate so much, to enjoy and feel such loyalty to, I am more happy than sad.
If you really love someone, set them free, the saying goes. I really do love Israel. It’s time now for me to let Israel and I be apart for some time to better discern whether or not we are meant to be together. Whatever happens, Israel, I will never forget you and I will come back. Maybe not for a year, maybe not for the rest of my life, but I will return and I will feel that same feeling, that newness and that excitement that I felt the first time and second time I stepped foot in this amazing country.
It is fair to say that my heart was more intact when I came to Israel in August 2012 to start my program. I would rather leave with my chest a bit emptier though, a few pieces shy of a whole heart because there are some people in Israel that I am more than happy to give pieces of my heart to before catching my flight to New York. To be honest, I’ve already given most of those pieces away months ago and I am just using this time to make sure these people that I love will know that just because I am not with them, I will be thinking of them. I can tell them how much I will miss them, I know I will, I know I will cry doing it. No words can carry the weight of my heart in my chest at the thought of saying goodbye. I love you, Israel, I love you also, People of Israel. I will never forget those of you that have really opened your hearts and homes to me and thought me worthy of braving the cultural and language barrier between us.