I recently returned from a short but adventurous trip in Israel. It was my first time back in four years, and I was excited to see whether it would feel different this time around. Whether I would feel different. I returned to Israel more mature, and more grounded than when I left four years ago. But the land has remained the magical, historical gem that it is.
I liken Israel to a calm sea on a hot summer day. A day when the roasting rays dance in the water, and cause heat waves to hover over dark paved streets. A day when grassy fields succumb to the songs of chirping crickets, and sandal-wrapped feet create dust clouds as they walk along the warm dirt roads. Israel is the place that calms me down. It is the pool I dive into, head first, to cool my sweaty forehead.
Metaphorically, Israel is the safe place I escape to. And literally, Israel is the safe place I escape to. It is the place in which I feel safest, and the place to which I escape from the constant lingering presence of the Israel-Palestine conflict. This is the ultimate paradox.
As soon as I step into Ben Gurion airport, a sense of safety and security overtakes me. I can let my guard down. I can put my shield and sword to the side. I can breath without worrying if I look too Jewish today. Without worrying if someone might notice my ring decorated with Magen Davids that I bought for fifty shekels in Jerusalem when I was eighteen. I can speak without worrying who might be eavesdropping. Without worrying who might overhear the word “Israel” in my conversation and initiate an eternal political discussion.
It feels as though everywhere in the world I am confronted with a game of tug-of-war. Pro-Israel movements send me petitions to sign, names of artists to boycott, and names of politicians to question. Anti-Israel movements hold discussion forums, invite speakers to my university, and graffiti the lampposts of my town. Only in Israel am I freed from the clutches of both. Only in Israel can I enjoy multiculturalism, the way it is supposed to function. Only in Israel can I pretend that there is no such thing as a conflict – its presence lingers there in a different way. The conflict becomes evident through the tension in the air, but it is quashed to silence by people simply enjoying their lives.
Oh how I wish the rest of the world could take after.