9 Months in Israel: A Poem

Is it 9 months
Or around 40 weeks
Since I rolled up my puffy jacket
Reached for flimsy Havaianas
And my little girls’ hands
And stepped off the plane?

9 months
Since we sat on the sidewalk
Cheeks flushed with heat
From Airbnb to house-sitting and back
And American hours we rolled around
In boxes and out,
Round and round the clock
Of summer hours.

9 months
The big boxes arrived
Spewing reems of paper and
Profusions of bubble wrap
Making up beds amid the dust
Hauling out half a life
From Durban to Ashdod

Standing frozen
Cranes and sweat and dust
Pizza boxes
It will get better from here, he said
And she came to help unpack.

Yom Kippur and again
I’m standing far away
From the love into which
I’m used to being gathered

Simchat Torah
6am and a howling wind
Turns out to be a countrywide siren
Like a long low moan
Signalling the end of days.

Tevach and
Wails of grief
Without end.

Suddenly it’s my new country
Standing alone
All eyes on her
In the family of nations
Am le’vadad yishkon.

The city is draped in yellow ribbons
And carries the scent of spring
Politicians play tug of war
While shadows call
From the tunnel.

The children are at school
They roll their ‘reish’ now
After school they climb the slides
And the ramp of the bomb shelter
Snacking on Bizzli
Drinking from the birziya
Mosquitoes at their heels.

9 months
Around 40 weeks
I know where to get my coffee
And where my absence will be noticed
If I don’t turn up at shul.

9 months and I know
The English section of the library
And the date when my books are due
And where to park and how
To get there without Waze.

9 months
Around 40 weeks
Thank you for my new life
Please let it be,
Let it be,
Let my new country be.

About the Author
Leanne Stillerman Zabow lived and worked as a clinical psychologist in Johannesburg, South Africa, before moving to Raanana, Israel with her family in 2023, where she runs a psychotherapy practice online and in-person.
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