Shalom wonderful people, it’s been a while, hasn’t it?
A year ago I was spending my final weeks abroad, preparing to leave a land that I had come to love. There was a sweetness in those last days. Every second felt special as we jumped back and forth between Israel and Palestine, took final trips to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, ate ALL the good food, laid out in the desert sun, and said goodbyes to our beloved teachers and friends.
For me, the time period was also incredibly emotional. I felt myself gripping to the landscapes, the languages, the cultures, and the people, terrified that I might forget what the desert looked like at sunset (lavender), or the vineyards looked like at dawn (golden), or a million other tiny-little-simple things. As excited as I was to come home, I was absolutely devastated to be leaving home. Israel had taken root in me in a way I could have never imagined.
The emotional conundrum between home and home did not end upon my arrival in California. Yes, returning here brought its own sense of joy and comfort, but my heart tugged (and still tugs) for Israel daily. In the year since coming home, I have tended to my nostalgia with tiny-little-simple things: adding tahini and za’atar to ALL meals, scrolling through my year’s worth of abroad photos, listening to Israeli music, (trying) to observe some sort of Shabbat, spending hours on FaceTime with my dearest friend Mimi, visiting with my California-girl, Maya, and jumping at any and all opportunities to talk about Israel and Palestine.
In the past year, I have also tried to digest my time and experiences abroad. It is an endless endeavor, that includes processing my opinions on the conflict, my views on Israeli political and social issues, my relationship to Judaism and religion in general, and my affinity for a region that is (for lack of better words) so fucked up. I also had planned on writing a collection of readjustment and reflection blog posts on these topics. But, as you might have noticed from my 12-month radio silence, that never happened. Oops.
So, why am I motivated to return to the blog-o-sphere now? Because on Monday I am boarding a plane to…Israel! I truly never thought I would be lucky enough to go back so soon. And yet, the world seems to tilt in my favor again and again.
This visit will be shorter (nothing can really compare to 49 weeks) and different in a myriad of ways. I am not who I was a year ago, and neither is Israel. Trump’s actions, the embassy move, and local tensions have all shifted regional dynamics. In the past few months, people have asked me if I am shocked, concerned, or scared about what is going on there. I tend to shrug. Now, more than ever, I think of the region’s tension like an EKG reading, bouncing up and down, constantly crossing a line of equilibrium. This fluctuation is normal (in the darkest of humor, dare I say it may even be healthy). In some ways, my response saddens me because I am ashamed to be jaded and unsurprised about periods of unrest, violence, and loss in a place I love. And yet, it also makes me smile because it is a characteristically Israeli response. A casual, blunt, acceptance of reality.
This visit will also be different because I will be with a new people, a group of UC Davis students. The trip was organized by the Israeli-fellow at the Davis Hillel and consists of students from various campus organizations, with a mix of Jewish and non-Jewish students, many of whom have never been to Israel or Palestine. The trip aims to provide students with an unbiased (or as unbiased as one can be) look at the conflict, and we will spend time in both Israel and Palestine. My personal goals for the trip are to learn more about the conflict, to ask questions that I have developed since last July, to engage with the other students, and to (of course) document it all on the blog.
In preparation for my return, I am trying to pull myself away from my year-long experience. I am attempting to loosen my grip on memories and beliefs in hopes of arriving in Israel as I did the first time: full of wonder and without expectation. I am reminding myself to remain levelheaded and to recognize that this experience might not be as glorious or as rewarding as my year was. And yet, it is hard to contain my excitement. My heart is bursting with joy.
Here I go again. This time, homeward bound.