An evening of Israeli dance for women was advertised in my town on Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day). Not to toot my own kick-ball-change, but I spent most of the ’90s Israeli dancing on the grass of Camp Ramah in Wisconsin. I can do Yoya in my sleep. This event was made for me. So I grabbed a friend and my finest blue and white t-shirt, and headed out.
Things were in full swing by the time I arrived. Women of all ages were spinning and stepping in time to a song that was decidedly not Yoya.
‘Minor setback,’ I thought to myself, as I dauntlessly proceeded to the dance floor. A line dance was beginning. I queued up in the back of the room so I could watch the instructor and follow the more experienced dancers.
Step to the left, step to the right, left hand, right hand, cherkessia, turn around.
‘I got this!’ I thought to myself with the spectacularly unearned confidence of someone whose downfall is imminent.
Because here’s the thing about line dances — they turn around without warning. So you there, rockin’ out a-rhythmically in the back where no one can see you, will suddenly be at the very front, leading everyone in Yoya. Which is not the song that is being played.
And that is pretty much how the night continued. Though now quite daunted, I decided to stick it out. I focused on the instructor, trying to match her grace and flow, hoping that a little concentration was all that separated me from the perfectly coordinated women. I tried so hard to be a good student, but I hopelessly went yamin (right) when she said smol (left). And when she said smol, I crashed hard into the unsuspecting women to my yamin. When the instructor told us to jump, I waited ¾ of a beat and said, ‘Wait, what? Now?’
But as my friend and I wrapped it up and headed home, we couldn’t stop laughing. While it turns out this event was not, in reality, made for me, it also wasn’t not for me. I came away lighthearted and exhilarated, reminded of the fact that trying new things (or more precisely, revisiting old things that you remember being good at but are now horrifyingly bad at) is fun and exciting.
This newfound willingness to cherkessia outside my comfort zone makes me feel like I have unlocked yet another aliyah achievement. When I first arrived here, my entire life existed outside of my comfort zone. Nothing was familiar, nothing came easily. All my energy was spent trying to gain or fake competence. But over time, I began to feel at home in my new Israeli skin. I have carved out a space for myself where I feel good and valued and at home. And like a hermit crab or a snail, or preferably some less disgusting creature, I am now ready to shed my current home to seek something roomier.
And since that fateful night, I have rededicated myself to experiencing new things. Earlier this month, I tried my hand at netball for the first time. The rules were weird and not at all intuitive (think of a cross between basketball and ultimate frisbee with a dash of quidditch). But I met some nice people and had a good time. I took a yoga class at sunrise, and I couldn’t stop smiling — even though sunrise, by definition, is really early, and I could totally hear all my Warriors (1, 2, and even 3!) whispering about how stupid I looked behind my inexpertly lengthened back.
I don’t regret the years I spent staying close to the familiar. Someone once told me that aliyah is like sandpaper. It rubs you raw, but it leaves you smooth and shiny. It makes sense that I felt raw for a while. But I’m so glad that I am slowly navigating back to a world where I can dance spontaneously without worrying too much about who I crash into, or what those catty Warriors might say.
And while I’m not sure that ‘smooth and shiny’ is the most accurate description of my current state, after yoga, I did feel energized and a little sweaty. So I’m going to count that as a win. Because if snails and hermit crabs are brave enough to risk vulnerability in search of something greater, then who am I to play it safe? So long as the next adventure does not involve any actual snails or hermit crabs, you will find me there with my dancing shoes, or my yoga mat. Or my quidditch paraphernalia. You get it. I’ll be ready, and a bit sweaty. And vaguely prepared.