Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Honeymoon's Over...

I'm tired of bourekas for breakfast, I don't understand the all-in-Hebrew e-mail I received from school, I miss my weekly People magazine fix, it freaks me out when cheese labels say "28% fat," and even iced coffee gets old.  I don't have a set of wheels and probably won't for the foreseeable future, have to rack my brains to get a full thought out in Hebrew nearly every time I open my mouth, stare intently when people speak so I can understand what they're saying, don't have a cell phone that consistently works (I'll take credit for dropping mine to its death, but the screen suddenly dying on my Droid is a sick trick Verizon saved just for arrival), and wanna know why the heck skim milk is non existent in this country!! Its my dang pity party and I'll cry if I want to... and I have.  A lot.

I love Israel.  I love what it means, what it stands for, that actual ancient ruins and holy sites are just 4 short bus rides away.  I feel like I belong, and that's not to say that I didn't in the States.  The difference is I don't just feel like I belong- I know I do.  And I also knew going into this full steam ahead, as I do with most things in life, that it was going to be hard.  All that talk about leaving everyone and everything? I get it now.  At this very moment as I digest my gazillionth boureka, stare out into a field that is yelping for water, and watch the dog sleep in the sunlight, I really get it.

I spent all of last year living in two worlds.  I always knew what time it was in Israel because our daughter spent the year here. My confusion is magnified now, in a reverse parallel universe kind of way,  because I'm working American hours. Add to that the fact that sometimes I really don't know where I am! I keep using the wrong words to describe America and Israel; America was always 'here,' Israel always 'there.'  But I'm not 3rd generation American HERE, nor am I going to live OVER THERE.  I am here, I'm from there and now I need more iced coffee!

I find myself struggling immensely with the world in which I now live, or more aptly, how my world view is shaping me and how I'm choosing to shape it.  I never believed myself to be a terribly materialistic person, and I still don't know if missing my purple carpet and view of the yard makes me a hypocrite.  There are things I can live without, no question, but at this very moment, I miss them.  I used to be part of a world where I was different because my hair was covered, because I took off on a bunch of holidays few were familiar with, and because I said it like it was.  That last part really put a damper on the whole ladylike thing;  much like Popeye, I am who I am.  Here though, I'm one of seemingly a million head scarf wearers who say it like it is and that's kinda' cool.  I don't have to get ideas about how to wrap my mitpachat (head scarf) from a You tube video any more- I can get them from the lady on the bus or the cashier at the grocery store.  I don't have to worry (as much) about kosher food availability or where I can purchase religious items either- they sell kippot (yamulkas) in the grocery store for crying out loud! 

But I also lived in a world where people view each other within the scope of color, race, and religion, both as a statement of what simply is as well as judgmentally.  Black, White, Latina, Asian, Jewish, non-Jewish, and the list goes on and on and on.  Israel is sadly not above that, but by and large, everyone here, no matter the color of their skin, country of origin, or length of their skirt or payot (side burns/ curls) is Jewish.  What I'm not used to in the full throttle way I'm experiencing it now, is the amazingly, painfully, and really sad ways the lines between Jews are drawn.  There are disparaging feelings shared between the Modern Orthodox, 'regular' Orthodox, and Chareidim (what many describe as the Ultra Orthodox or Chasidic); its a pathetic mutual non-admiration society.  Why on heavens we're debating amongst ourselves who "does" Torah or Judaism right-er, better, or more WITHIN the Orthodox camp boggles my mind.  That just means that there's more to get used to and in time, address.

I haven't had too many breakdown's since the Aliyah ball got rolling.  I've cried, L-rd knows I've cried, but actually feeling like I'm going to fall on my face from homesickness has only happened a few times.  I understand that my life is no longer about when I move- it's about where to get milk in a bag.  It's no longer about how good my Hebrew is or isn't, but how much I'm going to push myself to communicate and understand my environment.  And its not about saying goodbye anymore, but embracing every darned new thing in my path.  To quote a neighbor and others who've said this, "If [Aliyah] was easy, everybody would do it!" Well, it ain't easy by any stretch of the imagination.  

I'm trying to accept that the kinds of things I miss most are knowing where the post office is, how to get aluminum pans at a good price, and fully understanding the words I overhear in any given public place.  The honeymoon, wonderful albeit brief, is really over but I'm not leaving the marriage.  And as with my husband, who, on occasion makes me ponder how far he'd fly if I threw him out a window, I will weather the storm of marital discord with Israel.  There is no question that this is my homeland and that of my people.  But I'm not quite at the point where my physical abode feels like home and that's one of the things driving me batty. Being patient when you are naturally impatient makes for even more fun on this joyride.  My seatbelt's on tight though and the ride continues...


  1. door knobs, you are gonna miss door knobs. It is odd, but I promise you, in about 2 months you will cry if you come across one. In the mean time stop eating the stupid borekas, they don't taste particularly good, and they are expensive. Fresh roll, 2 eggs scrambled, in butter, salt and pepper, with a coffee. A NY breakfast from easily available parts.

    call me 052-502-9441 It took years but I got the food part down pat.

    Avi Rothenberg

  2. oh rachel... so eloquent. but i also know in a few months' time, you will be writing in a very different way... it is so good to get it out, and to explore openly all your feelings. but you are not alone. get yourself some cornflakes and milk and start having your old breakfasts again! just a small part of the day, but maybe will make it more better? xoxo

  3. As always, you can count on me to zone in on the stuff that, well, you would expect me to zone in on: "And as with my husband, who, on occasion makes me ponder how far he'd fly if I threw him out a window...." Priceless, truly.

    Hugs. And for G-d's sake, there are more breakfast foods than bourekas in Israel!

  4. So beautifully written, I'd like to think you labored over this entry for days and days. But something tells me it was so from your heart this was your first draft. I like to remind myself to view my life in chapters. This is the chapter of "getting used to it." Soon, there will be the chapter called "Really getting the hang of this thing!" Life is full of ebbs and flows. Just keep sharing and recording. I think you should write for a magazine or newspaper. Guest blogger about this amazing experience?? Check out as well . Hugs to you and keep on writing!

  5. I really just want to reach out and hug you. Its probably time to remember the Serenity English!!
    There is no doubt in my mind that you will get the "hang of it" long before you realize it. No, you are not unique in the usual sense, but you will always be unique in your thoughts and the way you express them......continue doing that, as it will be your refuge. And keep telling us, as we love you and help as much as we can.......How about a crate of Musli, or Granola Bars.........!!

  6. You live in Anglo-land, don't they have breakfast cereal? I have sworn off bourekas, I'm going to look like a house by Rosh Hashana if I don't stop eating them. I do wish they had skim milk here. At home I'm drinking 1% but it seems the cafes only have 3%? I should probably stop going to cafes too if I want to stay in the black in my bank account and also avoid the aforementioned looking like a house.

    Google Translate is my best friend these days.

    I also can't stand the divisiveness of Jews here but at this point I can't do anything about it. I just have to be the best Jew that I can be. And that is definitely in Israel!

    I just have a real sense of peace, after being in limbo for so many months - the planning, the packing, the good-byes. Oh! The agonizing good-byes. I am just really happy to be here. I'm sure I'll have a breakdown soon, but Thank G-d my honeymoon phase is still going on :)
    I'll call you when I need to sob.