Last week we moved into our new apartment in the US. In case you haven’t heard, because of my new job’s location and a combination of other factors, we decided to move back to the same town, West Hartford, we left two years ago. Our new apartment is now about 1/2 mile from where our old apartment was located. We also spent our first shabbat back in West Hartford in two years. The combination of moving into the apartment and spending shabbat in West Hartford brought home the realization that we’re not on vacation; we actually live here now. For me, this meant that I experienced a flood of conflicting emotions.
I miss Israel. I miss hearing Hebrew spoken all around me. I miss seeing signs in Hebrew and I miss seeing the Israeli flag. I miss our friends and our family that still live in Israel. It is weird coming back to the country I grew up and, even more so, a town that I lived in for 5 years and not feel like it is home anymore. It is weird to feel like as nice as it is to live here, and there are many things that make it easy to live here, that I just don’t belong here. Don’t get me wrong, I love my new job and it’s been great being so close to family, but I can’t shake this feeling that our time in the US is only temporary. Of course, when I say our time here is temporary, I mean an indefinite number of years, but the goal is to make aliyah at some point down the road or at least that’s what’s in my heart. Until then, we’re here and I’m finding it hard to be wholeheartedly happy about it. Why? More than ever before, I feel like Israel is my homeland, the homeland of the Jewish people. After having lived in Israel, where the culture/religion is palpable on the street, where the dream of Jewish sovereignty in our own land isn’t a dream anymore, but a reality, everything else seems like a pale imitation of the vibrancy of Jewish life in Israel. Just like I now feel Israeli in my heart and have a goal of making that a reality one day, I want our daughter to feel the same way.
Looking around, I see that while there are challenges of living in Israel, there are in some sense even greater challenges living here. What challenges am I talking about? The challenges of maintaining and strengthening our identification with Israel, of living a Jewish life, of raising our daughter to feel a part of the Jewish nation and identify with it. I’m sure that over time, and I can already start to feel it happening a little, some of these feelings will dull as I get used to, for example, everything being in English. I’m also sure that some of these feelings are deeply lodged inside of me and will not go away. In fact, I don’t want them to go away. Because of this, I decided to do certain things to keep these feelings alive. First, unconsciously, since we came back, I’ve found myself wearing blue and white a lot more than usual. Second, we want to introduce more Israeli cuisine to our diet here. Third, we want to make frequent trips to Israel, if not every summer then every other. Fourth, I have decided to try to speak only in Hebrew with Adina. This last has been the most frustrating because there are times when I’ve been having trouble expressing myself, but after one week of doing this, it’s getting easier. When we were in Israel, many people spoke Hebrew with her. Now that we’re here, I’m feeling the weight of the responsibility to speak Hebrew with her fall completely (or almost completely) on my shoulders. So friends out there who know Hebrew and are reading this blog, I encourage you to help me in this venture and speak Hebrew with Adina.
Living in Israel has shown me that there are many places in the world where we can choose to live. We don’t have to just choose which town or state to live in, but we can also choose which country to live in. If we lived in an ideal world, I would live in Israel with all of our family close by, but this is not reality. The reality is that our family is here in the US and Israel is 7,000 miles away. Therefore, for now, we are here with our family, but my eyes and heart will always be turned towards Israel and our eventual return.