The first thing that hits you as the plane starts the descent towards the airport in Israel is the difference in the colours on the ground. If you have just left one of the countries of Europe, as we did, there is a noticeable difference in the shades of green that you perceive. The brilliant emerald green of the fields of rural France (or Germany or England or wherever), even in the summer of 2022 when temperatures rose to unprecedented heights and there were restrictions on water usage, remained in one’s visual memory, only to be erased (or at least put in the shade) by the greys, browns and dusty dark greens of the Holy Land. And, of course, the ever-present white of the stone buildings.
Yes, it’s good to be home, to be back in our own comfortable home, in the bosom of our family, and to find a note on our door left by our kind neighbours welcoming us and inviting us to come and get the basic provisions they had bought for us. Who could wish for a warmer welcome? The neighbours in the village in rural France were hardly aware of our appearance in our house there, and wouldn’t dream of buying provisions for us. To each his or her own, and his or her own habits and customs.
The adaptability of the individual to changing situations is something that really deserves deeper study. In (almost) one bound we left behind the serene, silent tranquility of rural France, where the roads are wide and relatively empty, and drivers are almost invariably courteous and considerate, to find ourselves bogged down in endless traffic jams being hounded by anxious, stressed-out drivers who tootle their horns with glee whenever the fancy takes them.
After a couple of days back in Israel we are still driving as if we were in the Creuse, not hooting or pushing in but waiting patiently for every other car to join the lane we’re in. I’m not sure that the ‘Creuse effect’ will last very much longer though. I pride myself on having managed to drive to the supermarket, buy some provisions and return home more or less unscathed. It may be pathetic, but I consider that to be no mean achievement.
One of the great consolations of our life in Israel is the presence of friends and family. And also the cultural, especially the musical, life. We were fortunate enough to be able to attend a grand performance of Mahler’s monumental second symphony (The Resurrection) soon after returning, and that alone was enough to fill our spiritual and cultural batteries for some time to come. And of course, throughout the year there are the usual concerts, whether symphonic or chamber music, as well as operas, to look forward to. Not to mention our traditional Friday evening family meals when we’re able to catch up on the comings and goings of our children and grandchildren. The musical offferings in rural France are fewer and further between, and often involve driving for a long time to reach the venue.
In rural France we were more or less cut off from the news media, apart from the weekly French newspaper, but it so happened that the news of the passing of Queen Elisabeth reached us when we were visiting relatives in the south of France. It was interesting to see the involvement of the French media in the event as one TV programme after another focused on the life of the Queen and the developments in the Royal Family. It enabled us to exercise our French and share in the developments in England and elsewhere.
At home in Israel we’re enveloped by the news media, whether printed, broadcast or telecast, and the effect on one’s nerves is unavoidable. Add to that the constant barrage of information about political parties coalescing or separating, individual politicians bombarding us with news and views and predictions of impending election results, and it’s goodbye to tranquillity.
There really is no place like home.