Living Israel

“So where are you moving to?” she asked.

“Moshav Zanoach” I said, desperately trying to pry a stick out of my son’s grasp.

I was too caught up in parenting to notice her reaction.

She kept quiet for a bit.

“Hmm” she finally said, and I turned because I could hear her eyebrows raise and her mouth turn down into some sort of scowling judgment.

I don’t know why, but I found myself explaining.

We’ve always wanted to live on a moshav.

We can’t afford to live in Ramat Beit Shemesh anymore.

We want to be in a more Israeli environment.

We’re not such city people.

I stopped when I caught myself starting to say something about the stupid politics.

Over dinner, I told my husband what my neighbor’s concerns for us were.

She thinks we need friends.

She thinks we need a community of people just like us.

She thinks our kids won’t find playmates.

She thinks there’s no place for people born in America among people born in Morroco.

And then, after we laughed about how she was just reinforcing our decision to leave, we began to reflect on the other kind of feedback we got.

There was the cab driver who asked me where I was moving to…and then his face lit up as he told me over and over how beautiful it is there, and how the people are so nice and amazing.  Another driver told me I was doing the best thing for my family, and every Israeli who heard about where we’re moving to enthusiastically said “Kol hakavod!”

It’s interesting to see things from this side of the fence.  For so long, we’ve known that in order to live in this country and be a part of something we chose, we would have to live an Israeli lifestyle in an Israeli environment.  But so many things got in the way.  The language, the culture…the fear of feeling lost and alone…and even a fear that our American family wouldn’t care to visit us in our little Israeli community.

So we stuck around the other olim and tried our best to raise our children with values that would help them fully integrate.

It didn’t help any.

It made us feel stifled and foreign all the time.

We didn’t belong with the Americans, but we still didn’t belong with Israelis.

And neither culture understood and accepted us.

We started to see that we don’t need anything from America anymore.  We don’t need deodorant and shampoo to be packaged in English…and tomato sauce can never be something to pine for.  We also came to realize that we don’t always want to understand every little thing our neighbors say.

So we found an apartment in a small Moshav near Beit Shemesh.

We brushed off the criticism and embraced the approval.  We took a big leap of faith and plunged right in.

In the past two weeks, we’ve been in an entirely different world.

And we love it.

We slowly shifted our minds away from where we were born and what we were raised with and are grateful to say we have finally arrived…here.

When Terrorists Die

On December 1, 2001, my husband stood on an unfamiliar street in the heart of an unfamiliar country.  He had just turned eighteen and his life was shit.  He just wanted a little something to numb the pain.

This was the place to be, he was told.  Here was the action.  By day, a bustling pedestrian mall, by night, a refuge for the down and out to come nurse their pain with whatever was available.  This was where the action would be.

The street was full.

He was standing in an alleyway, right next to Burger King, when the first bomber blew up.  He told himself it was a sonic boom.  Then he walked a few feet forward and saw the carnage.

A man lay on the floor in front of him with blood pouring out of his head.  People ran past, up and down the street, oozing blood, their clothes torn…their hands holding pieces of themselves.

He walked down, to the right, propelled by the masses of people.  There were bodies on the floor.  It was surreal.  Smoky.  Dark.  Chaos.

And then the other bomber burst into a shooting flame, rising above the buildings, right into the crowds running away.

That’s when he realized there was nowhere to go.

That’s when he realized what it means to live with enemies.

By the time the third bomb, hidden in a car up the street blocking access to emergency personnel blew up, a new reality had formed in his mind.

Half a bottle of vodka later, as he watched the news play the scenes he witnessed over and over again, he noticed he was still shaking.

He was eighteen, in an unfamiliar land.

*          *          *          *          *          *          *          *          *

We’ve been reading the news and following up on what happened in Boston.  I don’t know if we have a right to comment.  I don’t think it’s fair to compare.  But I do have one thing on my mind.

That night, back in 2001, 13 people died; 11 civilians and 2 terrorists, and 188 civilians were injured.  When the death toll is counted, there is always a pause before this is said, but it is said.  Two bodies, however mangled and destroyed they are, are gathered and taken care of.  I don’t know if they are buried with anything more than a shovel and a box, or how often they get returned to their families, but they are not left to rot.

Because the dead, despite who they were before or what they did, deserve a bit of dirt to disintegrate into.

It’s not the least or the most we can do.  It’s not a favor.  It’s not anti-justice, or pro-terrorism.  It’s humane.

We live in Israel.  We suffer at the hands of people who think we have no right to live.  But we maintain a spirit of humanity that we can’t deny.  We come from dust and we return to dust.  Once we are nothing but flesh and bone we must return to the ground, despite our breathing moments.

There is a terrorist who is nothing more than a body now.

As long as he lies on a table with nowhere to go, he has taken away an entire country’s ability to rise above in the fight for a higher ethical code for humanity.

Jonathan Pollard and a Coloring Book

We’re going to the US in two weeks.

It’s a big trip.  It’s a huge trip.

We haven’t been there for three years and when we left last time we were a family of three.  When we went to get our son’s Report of Birth at the US embassy the consular clapped as she declared our son the newest American.  We get to travel with eight passports.  It’s a big deal.

Traveling with two children halfway across the universe is scary, and exciting – mostly scary when I think about getting there – but when I get past that first day of hellish traveling, I get excited.  About the wedding.  And the other wedding.  And the grandparents.  And great-grandparents.  And Chanukah with real, biological family.  And SNOW.  And Wal-Mart.  And Target.  And malls.  And outlets.  And museums.  And zoos that take longer than an hour to get around.  And flea markets.  And used bookstores.  And cheap, cheap clothing.

So we made lists.  Essentials (shoes, underwear, socks, pajamas), Needs (dishes, knives, towels, bed sheets) and Desires (toys, books, art supplies, accessories).

I also allocated space in the four suitcases we plan on bringing back for a few neighbors to order some of their Essentials, Needs or Desires.

The passports are all in place.  America is waiting.  All we have to do is sit tight and try not to add anything to our lists.  And we also have to live the next two weeks out in a semi-normal fashion even though the excitement/fear is overwhelming.

Tonight my daughter’s Yemenite, extremely Israeli friend ate dinner with us.  The prevailing topic has been the upcoming TRIP and tonight was no exception.  He got involved in the conversation, asking when we were going and for how long.  My daughter was letting him know all the things she is excited about (the gigantic dinosaur made of bones we promised she’ll see at the Museum of Natural History and snow, real snow not imported from Northern Israel, but real falling snow) when she offered to bring him something from the great U.S. of A.

He smiled sheepishly and shrugged his shoulders.  But when I reiterated the offer he looked at us, and in all seriousness, asked for the one thing he wanted from big, ol’ America:

Jonathan Pollard.

Yup.  Seven year old Chizkiya, the boy next door who plays on-again, off-again with my little girl, the kid who covets the little playmobile king that came in her princess set, the child who dresses up as a cheetah and pounces around the house as she dances alongside him in her Cinderella dress, wants us to free Pollard and bring him home.

The silence was broken by my little girl asking me who Pollard is…and as I tried to stutter a reply my list seemed to shrink and become just a bit silly and meaningless.

We offered to buy him a coloring book with cheetahs in it.

He accepted the compromise.

My list still stands.

My awe of all things American, however, does not.