Monday, June 25, 2007

Where do you call "home"?

I went on my first trip to Israel when I was midway through high school, on a six-week trip for high school girls. I fell in love immediately, to the point where I phoned my mother midway through the summer and informed her very seriously that there was no way I was leaving; she just as seriously replied that I was free to stay in Israel...when I was of age and perhaps married into the bargain. So I grudgingly agreed to come back on the group flight, very much against my will and crying the whole way onto the plane and through takeoff.

For me, it was simple--Israel was home. I had never experienced such a closeness to the Jewish people and to Hashem as I felt when I was there. It was mind-boggling to be living in a country where the mail was not delivered on Shabbos (but was delivered on Sundays!), where all the shops closed early on Friday afternoons (I was in Yerushalayim for most of the trip, b"H), where the public buildings had mezuzot and bus and cab drivers kept sifrei Tehillim on their dashboards. And so much more. I just couldn't comprehend going back to chutz la'aretz and calling it "home".

So imagine my surprise and consternation when I was on the bus with a friend at the end of the summer and overheard her conversation on the phone with someone else. "I had a great time here," she said, "but now I'm ready to go home." What?! I thought. What do you mean, "you're ready to go home"?! This IS home! Of course, thank G-d I had the tact to keep my mouth shut, but it got me thinking. Why was it that I knew that Israel was home, but she just thought of it as a nice place to visit? What differences were there between us that would lead to our disparate lines of thought?

And then it occurred to me. I came from Yehuppitzville, USA. There was very little there in the way of Jewish life. Anyone who wanted to be frum there was fighting an uphill battle, and you had to really want to be frum to stick with it; it was so easy just to slip a little here, a little there, until you weren't really doing much but called yourself "Orthodox" because you went to the one frum shul in town. So for me, it was really like coming home when I experienced a place where Judaism was such a visible, palpable part of everyday life. It was like the world as it was meant to be. My friend, on the other hand, came from a large Jewish metropolitan area; anything and everything she wanted was accessible to her. Israel was just like home + the Kotel (granted, a pretty big plus, but still...). I couldn't blame her for her attitude; she was just comfortable going home because it wouldn't be nearly as different for her to go back to chutz la'aretz as it would for me. She was going back to Jewish schools, shuls on every other corner, Jewish shops, kosher restaurants. I was going back to...nothing. "Real" galut, so to speak.

But which one of us was more in galut? Me...or her?

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael


Chana said...

We all know the Aesop's Fable tale about the wind and the sun fighting each other.

"I can get that man to take his coat off," they both say.

The wind blows and blows but the man pulls his coat tighter. The sun, however, gently shines, and the man takes off his coat.

When it comes to galut, as we all know and have been told numerous times, it is the same. When people oppress us, we cling together- the Holocaust, for example, binds us together. When we are in a place where we are treated well, we take off the coat, as it were.

By the way, it is not only your friend who has trouble seeing Israel as home. Please see here.

Anonymous said...

i dont know about your friend. i have always lived in the areas of shuls, yeshivas, kosher everything. still, after my first time in Israel, I felt what you described, that feeling of being home. I think some people just feel it in their souls, and many just dont. I am always surprised when people say things like, "i have no desire to visit and/or live in Israel" Actually i find that shocking. I have YEARNED for Israel since that first time, and now everytime I go the yearning grows stronger....and so 25 years after that first feeling, my husband, children and me are making aliya be'ezrat Hashem on September 3!!!! Finally, coming HOME!!!

Anonymous said...

I second anonymous's sentiments. I've always lived in fairly large Jewish communities, and yet I always felt at home the instant the plane landed in Israel.

That longing is what keeps me going, what motivates me to work extra hard towards the ultimate goal of aliyah.

anonymous- mazel tov! kol hakavod! you and your family should have a successful and smooth aliyah, and a quick and painless klitah, ba"h. enjoy being home again!

Ye'he Sh'mey Raba Mevorach said...

Anonymous - kol kakavod and behatzlacha!
Scraps - I knew Israel was home when I came at 10 years old on a UJA family mission - and I wasn't religious at all then. Some people are more sensitive than others. For example (lehavdil) my middle daughter cannot wear socks with any embroidery whatsoever. My youngest son can have gravel in his shoes and it doesn't bug him.
But I agree that sensitivity can be dulled by familiarity. Great post. Thanks.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Scraps: Great post - thanks!

(I was in Yerushalayim for most of the trip, b"H), where the public buildings had mezuzot and bus and cab drivers kept sifrei Tehillim on their dashboards.

Not sure where the parenthesis belong, but you'll find mezuzot in public buildings all over Israel -- even in "hedonistic" Tel-Aviv and not only in Jerusalem :-)

Sarah Likes Green said...

great post.

while i may not be able to move to israel at the moment, my thoughts are along the lines of what anon said. it doesn't matter where else in the world you are, however the jewish community is, there's nothing like Israel.

Erachet said...

I think it depends on the person. I remember when I was in Israel for the year, in the very beginning of the year I was too homesick to feel like Israel was home properly. As the year went on, I warmed up to the idea and eventually knew I wanted to make Aliyah. I even spoke to my parents and grandparents about it.

When it came time to return to America, at first I was careful not to call America home, because Israel, I felt, was my true home. But I couldn't ignore my emotions and eventually I felt that to do so would be lying to myself. America was my home, too. Perhaps my home away from home, but still home. I grew up there, I am comfortable there, and I feel safe there.

I still have these conflicting emotions within me because I'm perfectly comfortable, perhaps even too comfortable, with the place I grew up. But then again, I DID grow up there, so it's only natural to feel like it is home. So while I know that Israel is my true home, that Israel is where I really belong, I can't lie to myself and push away the place I've lived my entire life, either.

It's just, well, hard.

Michael said...

Interesting comments; I think I know how you all feel.

I've been living here in Israel for two and a half years now. At first, the excitement of aliyah held off any "homesickness" for Michigan, and by the time the excitement faded, Israel was home.

I was back in Michigan last fall, and I'll be there again in October, and the truth is, going back was like putting on a really comfortable old shirt. It just felt right, like it had never really left.

Other Anglos I've met have described similar experiences. I think it fair to say that many olim do legitimately have two homes, as previous commentor Erachet said.

Anonymous said...

true great post, and touched on an important topic, the difference among yidden who grow up in yehupitzville to those who grow up in yente-town USA

For one, I admire you guys from yehupitzville for you strength to Torah and Mitzvos and Kashros on things that came so naturally to us

I had that feeling in israel as well, but ya'know it's not Moshiachs times yet,
and for me it will stay a beautiful spiritual place to visit where i do feel closer to hashem, and enjoy all those things that u mentioned, but until i hear that long awaited Shofar Shel moshiach, physical home stays in Chutz learetz on the other side of the atalntic ocian, although in our hearts Home is there, as we mention it numerous times in out tefillas.

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