Upon my reluctant return from my 10-month stint in seminary, I decided that I would not let one year go by without visiting Israel. Fine. Come September 2014 and I was feverishly searching through travel sites both far and wide for a round-trip ticket to Tel-Aviv. Awesome. Little did I know that it would only take about half an hour to find out what exactly had triggered this crazed (yet logical, to me at least) desire to return. Sure, you hear about it in various verses throughout the Tanach and even in modern-day songs, but you never quite expect it to hit you.
That said, after a whirlwind first semester at <insert secular university here> (or you can totally check out my bio; I’ve got nothing to hide), I found myself on that 9 and a half hour plane ride we all know and love: the midnight flight from Newark. Business went along as usual after landing: I called the relatives (after getting that godforsaken SIM card to finally work), dropped by the Old City for a quick stop at the Kotel, and purchased some long-awaited laffa from my favorite hole-in-the-wall vendor, all while trying to fight off the inevitable jet-lag.
During the first week of my visit, I found myself sitting in the Beit Midrash of my school with one of the teachers catching up. We started out with the routine stuff (how my first semester was, what the Jewish life is like, etc.), but there was no hiding where the conversation was headed: when am I coming back? I admitted at first that I did not want to tag a date for sure, and my teacher could sense my distress as she turned to me and said to me with the utmost compassion and understanding, “Girlie, you’ve got the bug.”
And let me tell you that the Bug is the worst. As a friend of mine pointed out, it is like being stuck in a romantic comedy, only there is no ending in sight. The plot can be entertaining at times, but without a climax where everything suddenly falls into place, it sometimes seems difficult to carry on.
So how does one live with the Bug? In all honesty, you’ve got to embrace the temporary break up and live day-to-day. My roommate at school will tell you that my dorm room wall looks like an overpriced souvenir shop, with enough maps, flags, and pictures to cover the entire room floor to ceiling. How can I pick one picture over another? Each one fills me with a profound sense of nostalgia as I gaze upon them during any of my numerous distractions while writing that term paper that is due in a few short hours.
Much like a song that you can’t get out of your head, the Bug has a way of hitting you when you least expect it, like that time I found myself in a supermarket staring at a sign for a sale chummus in the middle of the semester. But, fear not: sometimes the best thing to do is embrace the Bug, for some people ultimately end up ridding themselves of it entirely when the only real “cure” is succumbing to it. So go ahead, buy those 8 containers of chummus for $2 a tub and share it with a friend (or don’t; completely up to you). They say that misery loves company, but over the last year I figured out that all you really need is a good sense of humor and some good friends with similar beliefs and you’ll be just fine. The Bug isn’t going to go away on its own, but really it does not have to (and should not be) be gotten rid of at all.
I leave you, dear reader, with the parting words of a little song called “Shalom Lach, Eretz Nehederet,” originally written by Ilan Goldhirsch (and sung by Yehoram Gaon in 1977):
וכמו גלויות של נוף יפות
תמונות בזכרוני עפות
כמו בעד עדשה של מצלמה
בתרמילי אותן אשא
בכל מקום, בכל מסע
קטעי פסיפס מתוך תמונה שלמה
And like postcards of beautiful scenery
Pictures fly through my memory
As if through the lens of a camera.
In my backpack I carry them,
Everywhere, on every journey
Mosaic fragments from a whole picture.
For those of you who also caught the Bug, I hope that you find the means with which to carry the snapshots of your time in Israel and take them with you wherever you may end up. Know that where ever that may be can always change, for better or for worse. And don’t forget to keep your eyes peeled for a good deal on chummus — much like chocolate, it can fix anything, especially a hungry heart.