A little over a week ago, Adam returned from his trip to the United States. If you didn’t know, Adam went to a mathematics conference in Moab, Utah and then to Arkansas to work with a colleague. He was gone for just about 10 days. Adina and I didn’t accompany him since I had to work. It wasn’t the first time Adam has left me alone to go to a conference, but it was the first time as a new mother. Ironically, he left for the conference on Mother’s Day.
Last year when Adam went to a conference in Bulgaria, it was just a very pregnant me left behind. I spent my time mostly in our apartment, crocheting and watching TV. I only left to go grocery shopping and to babysit. School was already over at this point so that wasn’t an issue. Adam returned from his trip on a Friday afternoon, so it wasn’t even a full week that he was gone. This year things were much more complicated. May is the busiest month with TRY as classes wind down for the semester. Of the 10 days that Adam was gone, I needed to work for 6 of them, which meant that I needed someone to watch Adina while I was teaching. In addition, we were on “greeting duty” at the synagogue we attend. It was our job to sit by the door and wish everyone a “shabbat shalom’ as they entered the shul.
Adam’s being away highlighted how much stronger and more confident I have become since we moved to Israel. Back in America, whenever he would leave for a conference, I would rely on my family to help me get through it. I would talk to them a few times a day and would spend Shabbat there since it is hard to be alone on Shabbat. Being in Israel, I couldn’t rely on family, and I couldn’t just hide out in the apartment like I used to. I also couldn’t just call my parents whenever I felt lonely because of the time difference. I had to be my normal self for Adina. We had to go to work, we had to go to the grocery store, we had to follow our normal routine. I just couldn’t be mopey.
As you all know, being away from family has been the most challenging part of being in Israel. Because they are so far away, we have to rely on people from work, people from the synagogue, and friends to help us when things are more difficult. In Israel, there is a concept known as Protexia, which is a slang term that people use to refer to the personal network they have to get things done in Israel.
Protexia is part of everyday life in Israel, mainly enjoyed by those born in Israel as opposed to Olim. As Israel is like one big family (of Jews) people tend to look after their own and help others out. Most Israelis have an aunt in the Iriyah, an uncle on the police force and a cousin in the bank. Let’s say you go for a job interview and end up getting the job because the job interviewer was in the same unit as your dad in the army, that’s protexia.
Olim have their own sense of protexia, however. Because they are all far from home and know how hard it can be to live here, they tend to look after each other to make sure that newcomers are successful so that they will stay. Here, your community becomes your support system since your family is so far away.
I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who helped us get through the time that Adam was away. My colleagues at TRY, friends, community members, and babysitters really came together to help support us when we needed it most. Thank you so much!
Until next time…