Today is Election Day here in this holy land. Israelis take off from work and select the parliamentary party that best reflects their complaints and angry yells of which issue to focus on. As I start to understand Israeli politics and the hilariously complex system, talks about how far the county has come dances into the conversation. The underlining question in past elections was always survival and peace with our neighbors. Now, as Israel’s population expands and modern lifestyles take hold, the government transitions to dealing with securing a middle class, equalizing social benefits, and fulfilling the diverse religious needs of the 6 million Jews here. It’s truly the distinction between the past and present that acts as a meter stick gauging Israel’s growing maturity and attempts at learning from mistakes. Accepting one’s identity and watching the mold take shape is no passive action.
My sister Rachel just spent the last two weeks with me. As she shared about her two years living in this country, showing me around where she lived, where she studied, where she drank coffee, where there is the best bathrooms, where she liked to have picnics, where she remembered that hilarious story and where there is the best shakshuka, I tried to reason the nostalgia. Although I do enjoy a good reminiscing sesh every once in a while, I couldn’t fathom why past tense words were Velcro-ed to all sentences.
As I review my class notes and organize my binders for second semester, I smile at the pages of learning I have absorbed. I joke around with my roommates about my mistaken use of laundry softener as a detergent and that time I missed my bus stop in the beginning of the year. We breathe in the comfort of familiarity and glance over our shoulder at the person we once were. If one month gave us a bond, look at us now at 5.
The old stone that encompasses the architecture of Jerusalem whispers history and praises the past. The new construction screams into the future, relating the broadcast of a growing country. The young children with more skills of independence than their age summons stand up on the bus for the elderly woman to sit. My rabbi and his son bounce ideas off of each other about the parshah to review their base of knowledge as well as to gain a new understanding of the questions they hadn’t considered until then.
Reminiscing isn’t my go to game. But on a long walk, I start to throw the ball around in my mind. Where was I last New Year’s Eve? I mean where was I; mentally, emotionally, religiously, intellectually and spiritually. I think about my high school accomplishments. In the moment, each club, each tournament, each swim meet seemed well in the moment. And now I struggle to define the details, to highlight the intensity of my feelings and my drive to always learn and improve. It already seems so long ago. Just this past summer feels unnaturally distant; welcoming me to reminisce about my campers and fellow staff members. It seems that as I make greater strides towards the future, fond memories of the past take a presence in my mind. It’s my sister’s stories of Israel and the understanding that not only are we who we are because of our past, but we are also who we are because reviewing the past and learning from the self inspiring growth or lack of change beckons us to refine our goals and answer or questions of purpose. Israel’s political future stands at an open gate. But the gate is connected to a structure, a beautiful 64 year old foundation. My next Shabbat, my next 5 months, and my next year find their way to the door of my childhood, the walls of Chabad, the entrance to Mt. Carmel, and now to my interviews for Israeli National Service.