About a week ago, we returned from our visit to the United States. It was a busy few weeks visiting family and friends, but it was great to be back with everyone even if it was just for a short while. It was hard to say good-bye at the end of our trip, but we still have unfinished business here in Israel.
How did it feel to be home for the first time in a year and a half? Emotional. My parents met us at the airport and got to hold Adina for the first time ever. The day we arrived we went to see my grandmother, and I got to hug her. That same day my brother and his family surprised us by coming to my parents house for dinner. Since this brother and his family haven’t been able to make the trip to Israel, it was the first time we got to see them in person since we left. It was amazing to see my one year old nephew walking and talking. I think the last time I had held him was his bris. It is amazing how little adults seem to change in a year and a half, but how much children develop in that time. It felt like we missed so much while we were gone even though we use the web camera all the time. For the first time in a while, my homesickness was gone.
The highlight of being home was seeing friends and family. The bonus of being home was the chance to reflect on how much we have changed since we left. The day after we arrived we returned to West Hartford to move our furniture out of out apartment since our subtenants moved out, and we could no longer hold the lease (it’s a long story…). Returning to the area, driving the same routes that we used to, and visiting our typical grocery stores, left us feeling like we were in a dream. From my perspective, it felt like I was dreaming that we were back in the US. Everything was familiar but a bit uncertain since it had been a while since we traveled these roads. That uncertainty gives a hazy feeling to what you see, so it almost feels like a dream. For Adam, the quick return to where we used to live made him feel like maybe Israel was the dream. Had we really been there or did we just wake up in West Hartford like Rip Van Winkle?
As we spent more time in the US, we were happy to find that Israel has become a part of us. We didn’t feel like we experienced what people refer to as reversed culture shock, but our conversations (particularly while in the car) focused more on the differences we noticed much in the same way we did when we first arrived in Israel. What we determined through these conversations is that our time in Israel has changed our perspective. Things that used to seem important, don’t seem as important anymore. They seem like “first-world problems” to quote a blog I read recently. First world problems include things like what shape your kid’s cake is going to be or what color tile you should put in a room. These types of problems just don’t seem as important when you have to worry about sirens and the instability of the region. People here also do with a lot less because jobs pay less here, but often they seem happier. There is a greater focus on people and places and less focus on stuff. We have always been like this, but now we are even more so. We also appreciate living in a culture that in general feels the same way. (Please note that people in Israel do also suffer from first world problems sometimes; it just seems less prevalent)
Upon our return, I could tell that our family felt less anxious since we were no longer in the volatile Middle East. It is so dangerous here and so safe there right? Interestingly, we almost feel safer in Israel than we do in the US. I think it is the known vs. the unknown. In Israel, while the threat is very real, we are very certain of what that threat is. We are always on alert, looking for suspicious bags and listening to the news to hear what is happening. Yet, we know what places to avoid, and we know that we are safe when we go to places like the mall because there are security guards checking bags and car trunks to make sure we are safe. We don’t worry about shootings because there is a different expectation when it comes to guns. While we were in the US, a man was killed in the movie theater because he got into an argument over texting. There was a shooting at a mall where Adam’s uncle and aunt live. It seems scarier sometimes being in the US, where bad things happen out of the blue. You have no idea who might suddenly start shooting which is scary. The threat is also very real in America, we are just far less certain where it will come from.
Being back in the US, it was also interesting to hear how little is known about what is going on in Israel. In discussions with my family, I learned that they get most of their information from us since rocket fire in the south (which has been going on for over a month now) never makes it on the news channels in the US. Someone made a comment to me about how the situation in Israel will stay stable if Netanyahu doesn’t do anything too rash. I could feel myself tense up at this, even if it was said half-jokingly. Everyone was shocked when I spat back that Netanyahu wouldn’t have to respond if five rockets weren’t shot in the south the prior week, two of which were toward Eilat. Everyone seemed surprised by my response. I’m pretty sure it was because they hadn’t heard about the rocket fire, but it was also probably the first time that I ever showed that I have an opinion about this stuff. I have always had an opinion only now I’m better informed, and I have enough Israeli in me to say what I think.
So, our time in America definitely revealed to me how much Israel has become a part of our lives. Don’t get too excited…we are still NOT making aliyah. There is too much we still have to do in America for that. However, that feeling of being torn between two countries that I mentioned in an earlier blog post is now a bigger reality. When we move back to the US in July, there will be a tug back toward Israel. We have friends here, really close friends actually, so we will always miss being here. It is a good thing we have a credit card that earns us airline miles! We hope to visit Israel often, even if it is quite expensive. It is a priority for us so we will make it happen even if it means sacrificing that big screen TV that we don’t need nor want.
So with our new perspective fully revealed, we returned back to Israel where we jumped fully back into life. The day after we arrived was my academic orientation at TRY, so I had to go to work jet lagged with a jet lagged almost 6-month old who woke up at 1:30 am the morning of orientation to play. Life has been very busy this first week back. Adina is almost back to Israel time, and we are learning our new schedule with me teaching and Adam going to the university. Even though my homesickness has returned in full force, it feels good to be home with our stuff and with our routines. It is hard to live out of suitcases for 3 weeks no matter how nice it is to be with family!
Before I end this post, I thought I would quickly mention the top three things I loved about being back in America besides being with friends and family. It is amazing how happy the simple things in life can make you feel!
3. Cheeze-Its, Capecod Potato Chips, and Near East Rice Pilaf – We have access to so much kosher food and products in Israel, but nothing compares to what you grew up with! Do you know how yummy cheeze-its are??
2. Having a Car – I was a bit nervous at first since I hadn’t driven in a year and a half, but you just don’t forget. It was really nice getting errands done without the backache that comes with carrying everything with you along with your baby.
1. English – It was great being surrounded by people who speak my native language. You don’t realize how exhausting it is living in a country where you only somewhat know the language. Going shopping was easier when you didn’t have to spend the 10 minutes before you leave thinking of the phrases you need to say to get things done. It was nice to just be understood. I greatly respect all of the people who have relocated to America and had to learn English. I know people get frustrated with second-language learners but cut them some slack. It is hard to learn a new language while trying to function normally. Try it sometime before you get mad at them…
I think that is enough for now. If there is anything people would like me to address about our trip back to the US, please let me know. I don’t know if I have covered everything.
Until next time…