crossposted at 60bloggers.com
A few weeks ago, I was asked how many times I had been to Israel. I think I’m up to seven. Given my short twenty-two years of life, I think that’s a pretty good track record so far. My experiences in Israel have forced me to feel as though I’m not really at home there or in the United States. I exist somewhere between the two.
Perhaps because of this, I have incredibly distinct memories of every time I leave Israel. Besides the fabulous duty-free shopping that is in Ben Gurion airport, there are always intense tears. The first time I left Israel, I was twelve. My parents decided it would be a brilliant idea to take us to Israel for a year and subject us to the wonders of the Israeli Education System. I was miserable for the majority of the year. My day-school education had not adequately prepared me for full-time Hebrew, and let’s just say that the discipline system in the classroom was a little more lax than what I was used to. Of course, my parents knew that this would be an amazing experience for our family and, I will admit, they were completely and totally right in the end. My last view of Mavo Dakar 3 (our address in Jerusalem) was through the rear windshield of the taxi taking us to the airport. I was sitting next to my Abba, and both of us were crying profusely. Up until that last moment when we drove away, I was sure we were going to stay. My living in Israel and that feeling of never wanting to leave has stayed with me over the past ten years.
I can say quite confidently that I love Israel. And contrary to popular belief, love does mean having to say you’re sorry. I can also say quite confidently that I strongly disagree with many of the Israeli government’s decisions and the army’s actions. I have had experiences that perhaps most American Jews have not: over the past five years I have been lucky enough to become friends with people who are Palestinian. Lama, Rawan, and Mohammed, among others, inform my views of Israel just as much as Sarah, David, and Nomi do. Once again, I am in limbo between two worlds â€“ only instead of being caught between Israel and the US, I am caught in a conflict that is made of history, religion, and directly opposing beliefs. I am constantly tested by these relationships. Most of my Palestinian friends have travel documents, not passports; their fathers and uncles have been in jail. I feel guilty for feeling guilty about not serving in the IDF. I am caught between two worlds.
At this point, I have been exposed to many views on Israel and Palestineâ€“ sometimes I agree, sometimes I don’t. I grew up in a traditional Jewish community, I have been to Ramallah, I have spent a lot of time in East Jerusalem, I have attended peace rallies in Rabin Square, and I still don’t have a solution. What I do know is that the only way to peace is through inter-personal communication. During my time in Israel, I have volunteered at Rabbis for Human Rights and the Interfaith Coordinating Council of Israel and in the US, I have worked for many years at Seeking Common Ground. Not everyone is willing to engage in this kind of dialogue, but those that are willing to do so, should. I have been fulfilled in immeasurable ways through my friendships with people that both support and challenge me.
I think my Palestinian friends would fight with me for saying this, and yet I must â€“ I wish I had Israeli citizenship. I always feel like I lack a certain amount of legitimacy in any conversation about Israel because I don’t have a teudat zehut. Maybe one day I will make aliyah. I haven’t decided yet; I’m going to give myself a few more years. For now though, I live in a liminal state. I go out of my way to stand next to the Hebrew-speakers on the subway, I’m constantly searching for authentic hummus in the Diaspora, and I take every chance I get to return. I love Israel, I’m disappointed in Israel, I believe in Israel, I’m confused by Israel. At the end of the day, perhaps both in spite of and because of all of these feelings, Israel is home. The words of Israeli poet Leah Goldberg, and most recently sung by Israeli singer Achinoam Nini, describe the feeling best:
Oh my darling, I have grown with you
But my rootsâ€¦ on both sides of the sea.
Perhaps only the migrating birds can know,
When they’re suspended between earth and heaven,
This pain of the two homelands.
With you I have been planted twice
With you I have grown, pines
And my roots are in two different landscapes.