More Than a Year and a Lifetime Ago . . .

Yes. I’m a month late in writing this. So shoot me.

July 3rd was my 1 year anniversary of being an Israeli. I celebrated it quietly and singularly in Fairfield, CT. I was back in the States for a few weeks visiting my family and friends, and doing a bit of work as well (that included a trip to Cleveland, of which I will talk about in a bit).

I stayed the first week or so at my neighbor’s house, directly across from my old house on Woodbine Lane. I swear to you . . . it bothered me none. I had left that house long before the day I moved out. Actually, it was a rather freeing feeling. Not having something as big as a house filled with all the “stuff” that one accumulates was almost heady. Of course, a small portion of that “stuff”still remains at Fran’s basement in Weston, awaiting disbursement to the various kids who will need something for their apartments. Eventually, I’ll have to cull through all that stuff and simplify dramatically, but for this year it was good to know that I had a bit of leeway. Should you need something for one of your kid’s apartments, please let me know. I’ll bet I’ve got something down there.

I would be remiss if I didn’t share one most remarkable experience while back in the US. My friend, Laima, married the love of her life, Mukund Nori. It happened in a series of ceremonies that spanned a private wedding in one of the most exquisite back yards I’ve ever been in—pond, gentle jets of water arching into the air, rolling hills, cupola . . .  then a quick ride to a 2-hour Hindu wedding ceremony. The beauty of that ceremony will surely stay with me for years, with everything movement being a symbolic gesture. It was a pure delight and the 2 hours raced for me. If I remember anything about that day years from now, I hope it will be how their saris were tied together in a knot—put into that knot was money, then sweet and bitter spices representative of their future lives together. Tying the knot. Literally and beautifully.

Cleveland. Ohio. Have you been there? Are you Jewish? If you are and you’d like to know what it would be like to live in an American Israel, I recommend a visit there. It’s as if  the city is Jewish Disney Land. I never saw so many large, new, impressive buildings that all were there for the Jewish community. The Federation building is amazing. The schools. The synagogues, the Jewish shops. There’s no recession there. I will never make cracks about the Midwest again. Never.


But back to Afula. While I was gone to the US, I received so many phone calls and emails from friends wanting to make sure I was OK and would be coming back to Israel. Did they really think I would get to the US and decide that I didn’t want to return? I guess so.  Was I happy to return to Israel? Yes. I wish I could pack up my family and bring them with me. Doesn’t seem likely, but they’ll just have to come for visits. Being with my brother, my children, my family, my friends . . . it was wonderful. But I began to get antsy. I wanted to begin my return home—2 hours to drive to the airport (my dear, dear friend June drove me there), 3 hours at the airport, 11 hours on the flight, 1 1/2 more to get out and wait for a sherut to Jerusalem, 2 more to drive to Jerusalem where I could pick up my car, have a very strong cup of coffee, and begin the 1 1/2 hour drive back to Afula.  When I finally approached the city, I began to cry as the surrounding hills and then my apartment building came into view. I just wanted to get “home.”

I’m now back 3 weeks. In that time I’ve forgotten what it was like to be in the US. Rocco has forgiven me for leaving him. The children at the Centre are on a bit of a break, staying with supporting families and friends, returning on Sunday to begin the next part of our summer program. Many of them remarked on my absence and were happy to see me again.

My daughter Zoe has arrived on her aliyah a week ago. It’s been a difficult week for her as she mourns the ending of her life as an American teenager, and tries to wrap her mind around all the un-knowables to come. Saying you’re going to have an adventure and move to the Moon and then unpacking your 3 suitcases when you land at Tranquility Bay are two very different things. I wish her much success. And I wish myself much patience. It will be interesting to read this entry a year from now and see where we all are.

And so my readers, I will let Rocco write the next entry, as he is straining at his lead to do so (a dog’s version of “chomping at the bit,” in case you didn’t get it).

I’m off to go swimming at Merhavia, a life-saver for me. Hugh pool, shaded spots, some on Astroturf, some on real grass . . . take your pick, I guess. Tonight I’ll go for another walk through the almond groves across from my apartment and see if I can’t filch an almond or two as it lay on the nets upon the ground, drying in the intensely hot Israeli sun. I rank the experience of eating one of them with that of pulling a fig and pomegranate from the tree and eating it within minutes of its detachment. Frankly, it doesn’t get much better than that.



Yup. It’s a Year Already. . .

I’m sitting here at the home of my friend, Fran Bongarten,  in Weston, CT, where I am crashing during my first trip back to the US after having made Aliyah. July 3rd marks one full year since I arrived at the airport in Israel as an American and left as an Israeli citizen, complete with full medical coverage, shekels in my pocket, and registration for Ulpan, the country’s language immersion program. I had very few ideas of what would happen once I left the airport, but knew for sure that I could only walk ahead. Not backward. A year later Ireflect on a myriad of adventures (most of which you have already read about if you follow this blog), and consider how do describe what the passage of time feels like and how I see this  huge change in my life.

Let me reassure you all that I love my life in Israel. I’m happy to be here visiting my friends, hugging my children and brother and family members. I’m enjoying having this opportunity to do my first friend/fund-raising stint for Emunah and sharing what has become a burning passion to help and aid the quite remarkable children at the Emunah Children’s Center. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I miss everyone back at Emunah. And I miss Rocco, who is currently vacationing with Shelley, the vet’s assistant back in Afula. Lord only knows if he’ll even speak with me when I get back. Poodles get pissy, you know. But I have a strange inkling that he’ll be blogging his own version of his time away from his mom in the near future.

I am at a complete loss for words to explain or evaluate what this passage of time and change means to me. The question, “What’s it like being back?” has been asked innumerable times. The answer is, that I just don’t have an answer. I’m just here. I don’t feel like I’ve been away. Nor do I feel any nostalgia when I drive past my old house or through the neighborhoods. I am not aware of any passage of 365 long, adventure-filled days in Israel. They just “are.” And I just “am here.” I suppose that means that I’ve been able to let go of the difficult years and final days that led to the moment my brother picked me up here at Fran Bongarten’s house, exactly one year ago, to take me to the airport to begin my new life of many unknowns.  I’m only aware of how much I’ve done and learned since I left, and how alive I feel again. I had forgotten what having a purpose felt like. That feeling is what jumpstarts my heart each morning. I realize how much I love to smile and laugh and how easily it comes to me in Israel and around my friends friends and colleagues.

Many of you know that Zoe is coming to Israel to begin her own adventure and new life. She will be coming some time in the next few days, hopefully no longer than a week from now. But she is in charge of making that date. She is overwhelmed with ambivalence on an appropriately massive scale. For me, I walked, semi-zombie like to the airplane. I knew things could only get better (little did I know how quickly I would embrace my new life). Zoe is 18 and her experiences are, and should be, different. From an adult’s point of view, I don’t see why she should feel any anxiety. Her new life is tapping it’s foot, impatiently waiting for her to arrive and begin the new dance. But I’m not 18 anymore. Thank God.

As with Rocco, I’m sure there will be some Zoe-related posts once she gets over to Afula. In the meantime I continue to turn progressively more grey. For those of you cognoscenti, you’ll get my drift. For the others, you’ll just have make intelligent guesses and wait until the update comes.

The aroma of coffee is dragging me out of bed, where I lie, supine, typing on my MacBook. It’s time to grab my mug of coffee, sit on the deck with my dear friend, Fran, and see if we don’t spy some deer munching on the lush gardens that form her backyard. Let’s hope that the bear who was spotted taking a little stroll here the other day has decided to forage in forests further afield.

Yup. I’m good. 365 days and counting. It’s a good life. I’m grateful for it every day. And for all those that preceded it. Today I  celebrate my independence as well. Fireworks all around!

Happy 4th!!!