I give my earnest apologies to the Israeli holding my camera. When it comes to Israel, I may have misspoken. Each time I come to Israel, some conversations have a certain recurrence, as regular as falafel with chips, or schwarma and tehini. I have given my stock prerecorded answers to your questions for too long, so now it is time that I set the record straight.
It would be impossible to count the number of times you ask me “Why do you come here?” while you hold my camera in your hand and my family poses and smiles.
I find your question quite strange. Sometimes I simply answer, “Well. We are Jewish.”
You scrunch your brow and narrow your eyes and look at me as if I may be crazy. My answer, which I think encapsulates the truth, seems to be a non-sequitur to you. Somehow it doesn’t seem to provide an answer to your question. You continue to look at me strangely as if I have blurted out something entirely irrelevant, like my underwear is purple.
As you hand my camera back to me. I thank you and then I provide my typical scripted response, “We come because of the incredible food, blue skies, amazing hikes, great beaches…”
You breathe a sigh of relief and unfurrow your brow. You look at me and smile because I have given the correct answer, one that satisfies you. It is exactly what you expect as my family emerges from their poses at the perfect picture spot.
“Yes, the beaches. So beautiful. The best in the world,” you respond.
“Enjoy. Bye,” you say as you smile at my family.
So now I must confess to the Israelis that took our photo in the shuk, on Ben Yehuda Street, in front of Jaffe Gate, I am sorry. I have lied.
This war has become a truth-telling elixir for us all. The polite veil of political correctness that has covered much of the world’s anti-Israel rhetoric has finally been removed and revealed it to be exactly what it always was, anti-Semitism.
But I too am not immune to this serum so now I must tell the truth.
I come to Israel again and again for the same reason you stay here. It is home.
And while I don’t have an Israeli passport (yet) or an address and to say my Hebrew is substandard is an understatement, being here, especially this summer, makes Hong Kong, where I have lived for twelve years, feel like it is merely my pied a terre.
And while I am truth telling, I need to address the question that the Israeli guy with my camera always follows-up with: “Do you have family here?”
And my automatic response, always certain to elicit laughter, has been, “No. That is why we like it so much here.”
The truth is we do.
My family here is the couple, I initially met on Twitter, who are driving me from Jerusalem to Michmoret to pickup my children from sleep-away camp. It is the woman I met in line at the mobile phone shop who, when her husband came to Hong Kong on business, sent him with a care package of more than enough Israeli treats to carry us and our friends through to our next visit to Israel two summers later. It is the people we just met in the falafel stand that first shared their table with us and then invited us to their home for Shabbat. It is the woman who has time and time again offered to watch my youngest child for me even though we just met.
We come here because my children have been raised with a deep and enduring love for this land. Even if we don’t yet reside here, our hearts dwell here.
So, toda raba to the Israeli holding my camera and apologies for my obfuscation.