Sunday, August 14, 2011

Wherever I go, there I am...

I have had moments, hours, even days, where homesickness has bitten me fiercely.  Today for example, I dried my hands in a public bathroom under a hot air dryer, read the company address under the manufacturer’s logo, and started to cry- it was made in Bartlett, IL.  I’ll be the first to admit that that's ridiculous for a variety of reasons. Let’s see, there are probably 15 Jews in all of Bartlett, I have no connections to Bartlett, and I've never BEEN to Bartlett!  But seeing a zip code that started with ‘60’ and an area code of 708 made me mushy.  I’m guessing the moral of the story then is that I should’ve used paper to dry my hands.  Sigh...

Things are moving along though and some are starting to feel OK.  Milk in a bag is just fine, as are 10 shekel coins vs. 10 dollar bills, the occasional iguana that graces my path, liter and a half bottles of soda, mailmen in shorts, T-shirts, keepah and tzitzit (the four cornered garment with strings worn by men), and kosher Doritos.  Hiking to the grocery store, the lack of closets, the inability to understand the writing on my shampoo bottle (I can only assume it says something like ‘hair will grow in thicker, fuller, and just like it was when you were 20’), and Splenda that can be purchased for the low, low sum of half a leg, are things I’m certainly less enamored with.

I try hard to be realistic though I know I can do my fair share of idolizing when I need and want to.  Honestly though, Israel, the hum-drum, everyday, go-about-your-business Israel, is a place, to a degree, like every other place. People here buy food, clothing, go to appointments, spend money on non-necessities, like their neighbors but dislike that one guy down the block- just like they do everywhere.  So while this is the holiest place on the planet, G-D is not literally standing in aisle 5 of your favorite grocery store ready to wait on you.  What I do feel though is a connection to physical land that I don’t think I’ve felt before.  It’s weird, but I know its there. 

But while there are things that are indeed new BECAUSE of Israel, some would’ve happened here, there, or anywhere. Take my children, for example, all Henny Youngman jokes aside.  I have been blessed with four bright, feisty, independent, stubborn, creative, thinking children.  Two are teens, one’s an almost-teen, one’s got a few years until he’s a teen, and I’m applying for sainthood now.  I love my children with my heart and soul, and every cell of my being, even when it feels like I have nothing left to give, or on bad days, like they've taken all I have.  Their job is to push boundaries and envelopes and my sanity to the brink and on certain karmic days, I get to do the same to them.  Still, I don’t envy them for having to recreate themselves at this stage of their lives because I realize that adolescence mixed with Aliyah can be ever so slightly mind-blowing.   Its daunting to witness, let alone go through I’m sure.

The days that feel like good ones, where things are steadily progressing, where I’m not completely overwhelmed by school forms, and where I feel at peace with who I am, give me the courage to wake up the next day.  Days that are less-than, make me sad, make me wonder why things don’t seem easier, or feel right.  Those are the days I now realize that not only have to give me the courage to wake up, but throw myself on the floor and say, “Get up dang it!  Life’s not gonna wait for you!”  The days I let other people’s bad behavior get to me, like the man who reached across my face to get a pen in a store that was 5 inches wide at its maximum, are the days I have to remember that people are, as corny as it sounds, people.  There are wonderful people in Chicago as well as Israel (I’ll give Mr. Pen-grabber credit for at least wearing deodorant when his armpit came dangerously close).  There are rude people in Israel as well as New York.  There are religious people, people who aren’t religious but dress the part, and people who couldn’t care less about religion, everywhere.  People in most places would do anything to protect their kids, are often in a rush to get somewhere, and hate traffic.  People are who they are no matter where they are and that, quite frankly, also includes me.  At the end of the day, or any part of the day for that matter, it really isn’t about bags of milk or the lack of closet space.  It’s about how I handle where I am and what I’m doing.  Only I can decide when the honeymoon’s over, where reality and imagination converge.  And for now, I’ve decided that I’m not so sure I want to separate them or at the least, determine they have to be separate at all.

I realize, now that I’m old enough to say I’ve been around the block, that I’ve learned a couple of things about myself.  New York is where I grew up and will always have a special place in my heart.  I accepted being in Chicago like a cat to water, but eventually, it grew on me and is really where I grew as a person and human being. Israel, this land of mountains that continue to take my breath away, is the keeper of my roots.  If you think about those plant projects we all did in elementary school, where you planted a lima bean or whatever was in your parents’ kitchen, you may recall a soggy, soil-filled, messy mush.  The bean smelled funny, it looked weird, cracked in half and seemed downright icky before it became what our teacher insisted it would.  And then it happened.  Our weird looking bean sprouted… and grew.  Like Mr. Pen-grabber, I will continue to take the path less-smelly.  But much like that lima bean, I’m sure I look a little funny to the natives, and I know that sometimes I feel torn apart, not terribly whole, and like a soggy mush.  But G-D promised us this Land and It’s where I belong.  This time I’m planting myself so that I can be more than that bean and let the roots take hold.  


  1. I love how you write so freely and eloquently. Bottom line, this is where we belong, and we know it. That's why we are here.

  2. You are an incredible writer - able to express & convey your thoughts & feelings so clearly to others. Simply beautiful. Thank you for sharing. Kol Tuv <3

  3. Rachel, you need to be a guest blogger, somewhere.. anywhere. Your writing and most importantly, your honesty, is intoxicating! Check out as a place to "self publish" your work and get feedback. I think your stories will be refreshing there. Amazing!