Homesick, but for where?

Today, for the first time since August when I left my home in Boston and moved to Israel, I felt homesick. The thing is, I am not sure which home I am missing.

Today, on Marathon Monday and the day of yet another horrific terror attack in Israel–a day when I feel that I want to be in both of my homes at the same time–I am somewhere in between.

Marathon Monday is a day that we born-and-bred Bostonians know and celebrate almost as devoutly as any religious holiday. No school, no work. Walk to the end of your street, drive into the next town, do what you can do catch a glimpse of a runner, a wheelchair, the crowd, the cheering. It doesn’t matter if you have ever run yourself, there is something magical about watching the Boston Marathon.

Today, in Jerusalem after a few quiet weeks, there was an explosion on a bus. No matter where Israelis are–be it in Israel or elsewhere in the world–we feel it. We all feel the sadness, the fear, the anger.

Only today, I am not in Israel and I am not in Boston. I am on a vacation with my family a short plane ride away from Israel. Where I feel relaxed and at ease as we walk down the street. Where I have not felt the urge to look over my shoulder for potential stabbers or even think twice before I enter a museum with no security.

I woke up feeling sad to be so far away from Boston. I checked the Facebook updates of friends running the race, checked the Boston weather, and counted down until I could see footage or results.

Later, as we meandered the streets of the beautiful European city we are visiting, we came across an Israeli restaurant. Our kids were as excited as we were.

“Let’s go!”

“Can we speak Hebrew in there?”

“Did you hear Abba order in Hebrew? And the guy answered!!”

Even though we have only been away 4 days, it felt so nice to speak and hear Hebrew again. To eat the food we know and love. To hear the waitstaff speaking Hebrew, yelling at each other, and laughing with random Israeli customers who wandered in. It felt like home. It really did.

We all left the restaurant smiling. And then, my husband I both heard the ping on our phones. “Don’t read it,” my husband said to me, even before he pulled out his own phone. He knows that when I see news about attacks I get sick to my stomach. I get sad. I get scared. I waited for him to turn around and I checked my phone.


And because we were out of Israel, and because I was already missing one home, I did not know how to process the news. My thoughts and emotions went wild, as they have daily since we moved to Israel last August. I was scared and worried. Yet, despite all of that, I feel that there is nowhere I belong more than in Israel.

But then…there’s Boston. That is where I grew up. Where we chose to raise our kids–or start to anyway. How can I belong in two places? Where is my home, I wondered again. What is home anyway?

This morning we stopped in a bathroom at a cafe. As my girls argued about which stall had the most toilet paper, a woman heard us speaking English.

“Where are you from?” she asked with a thick accent I could not identify.

“Boston,” I answered, without thinking. It is true, after all. And, I have to admit, I was slightly nervous to mention that we were from Israel with all that is going on in the world.

This afternoon, after the attack, after the news alert, after the fantastic Israeli lunch, we stopped at another cafe for another bathroom. During the fight about who had used more soap, a woman asked me, “Where are you guys from?” Without thinking, I said “Israel.”

How can I be in love with two places at the same time? How can I call two countries “home?” It often feels like I am leading a double life. When I speak to friends and family in Boston, I say “I can’t wait to come home.” To my friends in Israel I say “I can’t imagine living anywhere else. How could I ever leave?”

And it’s all true. Every word of it.

I cry each time that I land in Boston and the customs official says “Welcome home.” When I land at Ben Gurion, I tear up as the passengers clap and the El Al attendant says “bruchim habaim.”  I know I am lucky to feel this way about two places, but it sure does complicate everything for someone like me who loves to know what my future holds.

“Be happy you feel this way about two places,” my husband always says. “Stop worrying so much. Enjoy each day as it comes, because you have no idea what will happen tomorrow.” My husband was born and raised in Israel. Can you tell? That attitude is in the genes.

Today, after the alert, we sat on a bench and watched our kids play at a park. I took one look at their smiles and listened to them laughing. They do not seem the least bit worried about where they live. They are happy as long as we–their parents–are happy and as long as we are together. They live each day as it comes, as kids do. From now on, I think I will try to do the same.

About the Author
Denise is a mother, a teacher, and someone who loves all things Israel. She even married an Israeli. They decided to move to Israel this summer with their three daughters. They cannot wait to see what the next chapter brings.