I curse as I rub a patch of skin on my knee, the blue and purple already bubbling to the surface. A nasty bruise in the making, proof of its recent encounter with the sharp chair corner. Exhausted, starving, and quite frankly overwhelmed I look down at the floor I’m busy scrubbing. Floor one, room two, building three, Student Village of Hebrew U.
Bzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. The phone vibrations shatter my focus (yes, scrubbing floors takes concentration) It’s Dalya, my younger sister and all-time favorite person. The one who looks up to me with the kind of reverence I can only dream of actually deserving. To her I am the brave older sister, living the dream as an ‘Olah Chadasha’ in Israel
I look guiltily at the persistent buzz. Make no mistake, I am dying to talk to her, to hear that voice almost identical to my own, reaching through the phone, thirsty for stories of my most recent adventures. But I turn it on silent, vow to call her in five, and go back to scrubbing.
Okay, once this is done, all I have to do is two hours of babysitting, buy weekly groceries, fold my washing, give up on folding washing and throw it in the closet, make dinner, and maybe then I’ll have the energy to write a 500-word essay in a language that is not my mother tongue. Yayyyyy
It is when I find myself sinking deep in the mud of self-pity that those voices resurface.
‘Yaffa, you know it’s not all about waving the Israeli flag on top of some scenic view on Yom Ha’atzmaut?’
‘Yaffa, you know it won’t be like one big ruach session at the Kotel every Friday night?’
‘Yaffa darling…. you know you are actually going to have to learn how to turn on a stove?’
Oh yes, I was made very aware of the lifestyle changes that were about to unfold.
But when you are an impassioned youth, set on a mission, your very heart knocks along with the cause, convinced that every hardship you may experience will somehow make the reward tenfold greater.
‘Our ancestors trekked in the bloody desert for forty years to reach Israel!’ I’d counter back with unfaltering determination, ‘What’s a few challenges here and there?’
(Note: There’s nothing like a Bible reference to make your point)
Now, let’s be clear, it is not that I don’t stand by young and naïve Yaffa’s sentiments. I am still as in love with Israel as I was my first taxi ride to Jerusalem, age 11, I am still as in awe with her rich tapestry of culture as I was after my first shuk experience. And I still feel that same weight of importance in my Teudat Zehut (identity card) as I did when I first held it in my hands at Ben Gurion eight months ago.
I guess I have just realized that I am human. I am fresh out of my teens. I am living by myself in a still somewhat strange land. Sometimes it is flipping hard.
And you know what? Although there may not have been a need to scrub the desert floors, I bet there were times during those 40 years when their sand could turn into some self-pity sinking mud too. And that’s alright.
So I call Dalya back, I hear her voice, and just like that — I let myself have a good ol’ cry.