I’ve heard and read before that to go forward, you must go back.
For me, my journey in Israel, at least this specific journey, at this specific time in my life, is coming to an end. With just a bit over a month left living in Be’er Sheva, and even less time left teaching in my wonderful elementary school, I’ve been sitting in my apartment and really doing a lot of reflecting.
It was upon summer’s end that I was able to establish roots in the Negav, the beautiful sweeping desert in Israel that I fell in love with during Birthright. I remember one of my friends in the group poking fun at me and miming a ‘desert princess photo shoot’ as I made faces and silly poses in front of the vast waves of bronze and golden sand.
Never would I have thought that I would be back quite so soon, in not even six months. I remember relishing and clinging onto my last days as a New Yorker as the fireworks from July 4th fizzled from the Manhattan skyline.
I’m not a New Yorker anymore, I haven’t been since last July and once August began to bloom into Israeli autumn, I felt deeply intoxicated with Be’er Sheva and the eclectic and somewhat cluttered scrapbook that Israel had opened to me. Such a varied background, history of myths, legends, holy lands, superstitions, and treasured customs.
A language that sings even when spoken, native people that are harder on you than anybody else—even your family–because they are really that honest, and when you succeed, you know that they are genuinely proud of you.
There were so many children at my school that I felt like I was off to sea, drifting haphazardly in waves of neon, pastels, and primary colored school t-shirts. Each child with his or her own little clue to who they are, what they value most. Some clues for my children would be things like a Hello Kitty eraser, a Barcelona soccer pencil case, an angry birds backpack, or a Disney princess book of stickers hidden in the back of a math journal. I was lucky to have these clues. To be able to coax the children into discussing our common ground. I may not still be in grade 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6. I may have not had a cellphone until I was seventeen and used the internet in school mainly to learn word processing for my typing class.
It doesn’t matter though, I am still very much in touch with my inner child and whereas before coming to Israel, I saw it as a bad thing, something that made me seem like I just was immature and reluctant to grow up, I am beginning to see it is a gift. I am able to sit by myself, gazing at clouds and seeing shapes of animals and kingdoms. I can watch cartoons without analyzing them for possible political or social commentary, just enjoying them for cartoons’ sake. I can doodle for hours and I’m not afraid to look ridiculous in front of a crowd walking like a penguin or bobbing my head like a chicken (though I am a bit shy at first). These are all things that make me feel so much closer to my children at school.
I don’t just want to simply teach them English and drill them with standardized test questions. I want to ask them real questions that I am interested in knowing. Not “My favorite food is/my least favorite food is.” I want to know what music they like, what countries they dream of traveling to, what their favorite stories are, and what they want to be when they grow up. It’s the dreams really, the dreams that keep me going.
My dreams are vivid, they are alive. I love that they are beginning to be laced with Hebrew and Israel.
I want to leave here when summer ends with hopes that maybe, just maybe, there will be one or two dreamers that I have alighted fires within.
Just writing simple stories with my advanced fifth graders, playing games with my small groups, and encouraging great creativity in my art classes has given me such hope and pride. I feel so inspired, so enlivened, and so blessed to have experienced so much in such a short time.
I know what will happen. School will end. I will be back in America, probably taking classes to be certified to teach. My kids in Be’er Sheva will be going off to camp, off to the beach, off to Greece or to travel somewhere with their families.
Summer will end though. It always does. I suppose that I’m hoping that I will somehow be back in school when summer ends next fall and my kids won’t forget me. When I am in school and I am being surrounded by so much love, by so much brightness, I am thinking specifically right now of my 2nd grade girls and how they swarm me, three little hands clutching fervently to each one of mine…I feel so happy that I could just cry on the spot. I feel like the only thing bigger than my smile is my heart, bursting at the seams. I’ve never felt like I belonged anywhere with so much certainty in my life.