As you may remember, our Fulbright adventure is for 20 months. We arrived at the end of September 2012 and will return to the US probably in July 2014. The purpose of the program is to experience living in Israel while participating in a cultural exchange with the people we meet. Therefore, the expectation is that we will spend almost the entire 20 months in Israel. Adam is given two weeks vacation each year that we are here and is allowed to leave the country for work related trips, like the trip to Bulgaria he will be taking in July. When we learned about the vacation time, we originally planned on coming home in the summer of this year to visit family since it was the half way point. Early on we changed that plan to January 2014, since this would be an ideal time for Adam to be in the states. He will need to interview for jobs at this time, and it makes sense to couple visiting friends and family with this. So we will be in Israel for about 2/3 of our adventure before we visit the US again.
If it seems like a long time to you, you can imagine how long it feels to me. I have not exactly been hiding my feelings of homesickness, and this really is the longest I have ever been out of the state of Connecticut before. I have to admit that I am pretty proud of myself for having dealt with it this well. At the seventh month mark (which was last week), we are happily busy here in Jerusalem. We are settled and have made lots of friends, established a place in a community, and have explored various parts of the country. We have utilized technology to stay in close contact with family, and it has really helped to shrink the distance. But I can tell you for certain, nothing beats a real hug from your mom and dad.
Our plan to come home in January 2014 has not been a secret, especially from our families and friends. Every one knew it would be a while before they got to see us in person, and as a testament to how wonderful our family and friends are, many have expressed interest in coming here. The barriers to coming to Israel (flight costs, vacation time, etc.) prevent many from following through, but the idea that they want to come and that they have even looked into it is enough for us. It is so meaningful that so many people would come so far just to see us (oh right, and Israel!). The barriers that prevent friends and cousins from making the trip, however, were not large enough to keep our parents away. Adam’s father made the trip in February for a week (as I previously wrote about in my post Kudos to Olim) and hopes to come again in October or November. My parents came two weeks ago.
Having my parents here was so wonderful! They arrived on the Sunday of Yom Hazikaron (Israel’s Memorial Day which Adam will blog about shortly). I had to babysit, so Adam went to the airport to meet them. I was home when they got here and met them in the stairwell. My dad gave me the biggest hug ever; he said he had been looking forward to doing that for a while. I gave my mom a hug as well, and then we continued up the stairs with their luggage. Then it was like Chanukah! They gave us all the stuff that they jammed into their suitcases and carry-ons for us. Each item was exciting to receive…even the shampoo!
Since my parents traveled with us throughout the week, there are too many details to contain in just one blog post. I figured it would be best to describe each day of travel in separate blog posts, which should come in the near future.
My general reflections on the visit are the following:
The best part of my parents being here was waking up each morning and jumping on their bed to wake them up. Each morning, I got to revert to my childhood days when I would snuggle between them in their bed, chatting until we decided it was finally time to get up and get the day started. The next best thing was being able to give them hugs and kisses every night before bed.
The most rewarding part of my dad being here was watching him experience Israel. This was his first time in the country, and he really seemed to connect with it. To be honest, when I was growing up, I never had a connection with Israel. I always wanted it to exist because it was the land of my people, but my connection didn’t really go much deeper than that. I used to feel so guilty about it, and when Adam and I came to visit for the first time about 2 years ago, I was very stressed about what I would feel when I arrived. What if I didn’t feel anything? But I did then, and I feel even more connected now. As we prepared for my parents to arrive, I was very anxious about them having a good time. I don’t think my father ever felt a deep connection with Israel either, and I really wanted him to feel what I had felt as I got to explore the land. I really had nothing to fear; my father arrived ready to make that connection and each day I could feel it get stronger. Every day he was bubbling over with excitement about what he was seeing and learning about the land, historically and biblically.
The most rewarding part of my mom being here was hearing how much things have changed since she was in the late 1960s with her parents and sister. So many things are different now, and she hopes to find the pictures they took when they were here so Adam and I can see how much they have changed. It was nice to hear about her travels with my grandparents. 🙂
While my parents main goal while here was to see as much of Israel as they could in a week, our goal was to show them what life is like for us on a daily basis. We wanted them to experience our neighborhood, see the synagogue that we have committed to, and meet the people that we have become friends with. They got to see the neighborhood for sure; we went to a few of the restaurants on Emek Refaim, which is a street nearby. They also got to see Ben Yehuda and Yaffo with me, and the shuk with Adam, both of which are a bus ride away from our apartment. They went to the grocery store with me and got to see one of the malls where we get our basic essentials. They went to synagogue with us on Friday night and Saturday, so they got to see they type of place that we have spiritually settled into. Amazingly, it is not that much different from our beloved Beth David Synagogue in West Hartford. They also got to meet a number of our friends that we have met here. By doing the mundane amongst the touristy things, I think they have a better picture of what we do here and where we go when we talk about our daily activities.
The week went by so quickly. Each day was packed with things; we always seemed to get up early and go to bed late. Saying goodbye was absolute horrible…there was lots of crying on my part of course. We stayed for as long as we could before we had to leave the airport to get home. We were both pretty mopey when we got back; the apartment seemed so empty without them here.
As soon as I got up the next morning, I started tracking their flight. Overnight my sadness about them leaving changed into concern about them getting home safely. The sadness and worry diminished further when we got a chance to video chat with them for the first time since their return (we woke them up from a nap!). Now we are back to our original schedule of video chatting almost everyday. We won’t be seeing them again until we go home to the US in January. I know that they want to come back since they told us so, but the logistics won’t work out with vacation time. Hopefully our second 7 months will pass as quickly as the first and then in no time they will be hugging us as we get off the plane.
Until then, we look forward to our next visit from home which will be my brother and his family. There may also be a few friends who will make the journey in November or December. We will welcome them with open arms.
Until next time…