It never ceases to amaze me when I can count off another month spent here in the Holy Land. I know that sometimes I tend to waste time either looking ahead or thinking behind, but Israel is the champion of relishing right now. While it seems like a cliché, I see something in Israel that I recognize in myself and haven’t taken advantage of for quite a while. I need Israel to re-teach me how to spend my time well and actually do it. But after seven months, I think I can say I have.
The sun is shining brighter these days, both figuratively and literally. March has barely allowed me the chance to breathe, but being busy brings its own solace. I had two more Kol Voice meetings this month and continue to learn more about Israel activism. I now see what I have to do—be an activist for Israel. I told Cassie that by moving to Israel, maybe something would finally click. And perhaps now it has. I will not stand by and let the naysayers continue to insult this country when they know absolutely nothing about it. I was bullied as a child, teenager and college student when people didn’t know the whole story. I refuse to let Israel be the personification of this type of behavior. But writing pro-Israel statuses on Facebook or maintaining a Tumblr about my Katniss Everdeen Barbie doll’s adventures here are not enough. I need something concrete. I need to reach more people. I need to earn a living wage again. The light bulb has finally turned on, but it keeps getting dimmer as I look for jobs for when I move back to Massachusetts in June. I can only let the light bulb shine if the world knows of something that will allow me to be the Israel activist that living, working and volunteering here has trained me to be.
When I don’t stress about finding a job, I do my best to step outside of my comfort zone. I was lucky enough to spend my first Purim in Israel a few weeks ago and it was nothing short of a wonderful time. One of the Israel Teaching Fellows in Petah Tikva, Joline, had agreed to let me stay over her apartment for the weekend of the holiday. I met Joline back in December at one of our teacher training sessions and then shortly thereafter, she was one of my two amazing roommates at the Leadership Summit. Her beauty is beyond compare with golden locks of yellow hair. (Sorry, Joline—I had to.) The morning of the Purim celebrations began at school. I reveled in seeing my students dressed up in their costumes and the principal gave me two baskets full of snacks—one for me and one for Brian—as recognition for our service to the school. After a day filled with music and dancing, I rushed back home, grabbed my bags and caught a sherut to Tel Aviv. Joline was kind enough to meet me at the train station and then we made our way to Petah Tikva. I bought us falafel at a store (and it was the best I’ve ever had since moving to Israel) and then after a quick stop at Joline’s apartment, it was off to Rishon to meet up with Avalon and Hillary, two of the Israel Teaching Fellows there. We drank the wine I had brought, put together our costumes and headed out to Biggy Z in Tel Aviv. Two of the members of ITF-Petah Tikva, Rachel and Brianna, eventually met up with us. The bar was packed, but good times were had by all. The unlimited drinks special wasn’t exactly a detriment, either. I spent the next two days in Petah Tikva kicking back, enjoying being away from Netanya for a bit and loving the shower that didn’t flood the bathroom. Joline cooked for me and treated me like a princess. I went back to Netanya tired, but satiated. I’m always glad to make friends in other places, something Masa allows me to keep doing with all the chances they continue to give me. I can only hope to offer the same hospitality when Joline makes her way to Netanya in May. I think I can, even though my cooking skills are dismal at best.
*Me (ladybug), Avalon (Minion), Hillary (hippie), Joline (Minion), March 14th, 2014*
This past weekend was spent in Tel Hai on a Mifgashim seminar. Despite living in Israel, I know more Americans than Israelis and the Israelis that I do know are nowhere near my age. Mifgashim allowed me to meet Israelis closer to my age and we had various discussions about our Jewish identities. The conversations and sessions we had were nothing short of eye-opening. Of course, I met some Americans as well and my two roommates, Ava and Stephanie, were nothing short of hilarious and lovely. A weekend spent in nature and bonding over Judaism is a wonderful treat. I wouldn’t know where I would be without Masa and its presence in my life.
*Some of my home group in Tel Hai! March 22nd, 2014*
And as always, my students continue to be my raison d’être. My school is like the circus; it’s hard to know what is coming next. I can never predict if each day will be wonderful or a mess or if I feel stunned or on edge. My students are like the circus, too.
Israel may be the definition of awe, but my students are the force behind most of her fantastic. They make up worlds from the depths of their imaginations and create magic from their minds. Ideas spill out from their brains in the ways that the clowns pop out of their small cars. Tales spread from their tongues in the way that weeds push up through the dirt. My students have me laughing one minute and holding my breath in the next.
My students are happy when they can use Google Translate on my iPad, if they see me wearing makeup or when I tell them about my birthday next month. They are happy over so much—by pretty much every big and small thing. I live in happiness with them at the entire world, which is the supreme show.
I continue to learn more about this country every day. Israel is in the palm of my hand. She wears her heart on her sleeve and has stars in her eyes. She is both shy and independent. She watches the sunsets while daydreaming. And after seven months here, I know how fast her time can go. Israel can be serene and sunny, expect when she isn’t. She can recount her history and we both remember the small, lucky truth: she is here.
Israel is here and I am here. Even though Israel may not need to hold my hand, my hand will always be here, open for her.
As I approach April, I know great things are coming my way. There will be a well-deserved vacation from school. Cassie and Paul arrive the second week of April. It’s been just over a year since I received my acceptance later for this program and even back then, we had already begun to plan this visit. It will come full-circle soon. They will be here to see Passover in action, commiserate with me when I turn twenty-five and meet my friends. What a lucky, lucky girl I am.
With seven months completed of a ten-month program, I still think I arrived here yesterday, although there are the days when I know that I’ve been here for quite a bit of time. My journey in Israel has its bumps and my life here has never rolled together like the cherries on a slot machine.
Still, I have landed a life here, a life that many Jews will never get to have. So for me, I will recognize that even the bumps here are a good reminder to have a rich appreciation for what I have gotten and what I do have.