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Miriam Karp

Leavin’ on a Jet Plane

For those of us nurtured on the 60’s, leavings may stir up this sweet Peter Paul and Mary song from our vintage memory banks. “My bags are packed, I’m ready to go. I’m standing here outside your door. I hate to wake you up to say good-bye. But the dawn is breaking and its early morn, the taxi’s waitin’ he’s blowing his horn. Already I’m so lonesome I could cry.”

Tears. Hugs. Pulling away from loved ones is always poignantly heart tearing.

I even tear up watching strangers part, holding each other close.

But getting dropped off at the entrance to Ben Gurion is more.

It’s leaving our son, his wonderful wife and delicious children, who we won’t see for many months, at best, perhaps a year or more. But it’s also leaving this land.

When I posted shots from my trip on Facebook I got excited remarks from friends in the States, a variety of – so excited for you, enjoy, lucky you- type comments. Friends b’aretz wanted to know if we could get together. But one veteran olah made a comment that stayed with me.

Two simple words.

Welcome Home.

At first I was somewhat annoyed by Anita’s statement. On this my maybe 7th or so trip over, I’ve happily lost track, I didn’t feel the same rush of giddy excitement that I did on earlier forays. Maybe I was just too tired, but I felt a little blasé. Good to be here, glad to have arrived safely. But Ben Gurion’s looking a little shabby. And this and that observation. I did not feel high on Hebrew signs, the admas kodesh– the holy ground beneath my feet, tingling and zinging with every breath.

We planned a quiet trip, being part of the family’s daily life, taking little hikes and tiulyim. Going to the library. Playing board games. A cute coffee shop. I didn’t feel compelled to thirstily gulp down every view and jump lustily into every moment to explore to the max.

Maybe I’m just getting old, I thought. Twenty years ago, when I first started these jaunts, my energy level was different. And it’s summer. It’s hot.

The honeymoon, the OMG flying high, the drumbeat of when and how can I possibly make Aliyah? How can I go back to flat two-dimensional Cincinnati which feels like cut out cardboard and plastic life compared to this land pulsing with history, neshama, ruach and more? – has faded. I know more the complexity of life in this land and of life in general, with its many compromised choices and options. At 65 I’m more aware and maybe accepting of my limitations. Could I have the koach to truly start in a new culture, language; to gain so much through giving up so much? And I have so much in the States. Other wonderful children and their delicious families. A disabled brother I care for. Deeply meaningful work for me and my husband in a milieu we are fluent in.

So Anita’s words both touched and rankled me. Ya never know; but I’m not seemingly coming home. Not for a good while at least. Maybe they triggered a defensive reaction.

But parting from Chaim, his tears mingling with ours, was tough. Standing in the multiple snaking lines to get out of this place, realizing we were once again pulling out, made me so glad that for nine days at least, once again- I was home. I’m going to another home, at least another temporary stop while galut lingers, with a different flavor. Enriched so deeply by being here and by having, and being fortunate to know that I have, this home.

In truth, ain lanu eretz acheret applies to me too. I don’t really have another land. I’m drawing strength and light from this land, like every member of our fractious tribe and according to Kabbalah, every occupant of this fractious wonderous planet. Drawing on it to empower me to shine up the little corner of the world I seem to have been tasked to garden and work.

The touching posters from International Fellowship of Christians and Jews line the walkway to the plane. I saw them when debarking nine days ago. A predictably gorgeous and evocative shot of the Kotel and Old City lit up at night has me in tears. I’m an easy target for sentimental images and messages. “Welcome to Israel,” it says. “You will never be the same.”

True indeed. Thanks my homie home. You did it again, you crazy and beautiful land, filled me up. We need you and we’re rooting for you. Thanks for nourishing us all. And thanks to your brave, beautiful, heroic and crazy olim and natives for keeping the home fires burning for us all.

“Leaving on a jet plane. Don’t know (exactly) when,” but do know please Hashem, that “I’ll be back again.

Oh, babe, I hate to go.”

L’hitraot.

About the Author
Miriam Karp is a writer, artist, and lecturer, trying make light with her husband and family from their corner of the world, Cincinnati, Ohio. She is the author of Painting Zaidy's Dream: memoir of a searching soul and shares her thoughts often on Chabad.org.
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