Friday, May 25, 2012
A Blog from Israel
Last week I was too busy to write a blog entry because I was too overwhelmed with the end of the spring semester. I had to give grades to nearly one hundred students and write a few letters of recommendations before leaving for Israel, the place I still call home.
“How could you have left all this?” my American-born daughter asked me six years ago, as the two of us were walking with her toddler daughter on Tel Aviv’s waterfront esplanade. She did not allude to only the sweet scent of the Mediterranean summer, emanating from the vapor of the powder blue transparent sea, and the golden scorching sand under that bluest of skies. Neither was she alluding to only the energy rising from the beach-goers, protected by rows of orderly placed persimmon orange, hunter green, or ultramarine blue umbrellas, depending on the section in which the bathers sat; the beach-front cafés, the hip shops, and restaurants.
Nor was she referring just to the neighborhood and home where I grew up, our visit there being the highlight of that trip for my daughter. She mostly meant the friendships and the deep love and warmth that are revealed to me by family and friends whenever I visit my place of birth, regardless of how often I do so.
“Life can take you to places you had not planned to be, and force upon you decisions you never thought you would have to make,” I answered her.
This time I arrived in my beloved Tel Aviv yesterday, both excited and emotional to meet the family and friends and visit the place I missed. There are already family gatherings planned for my husband and me, as well as concerts, operas, and plays to see.
It’s a fantastic feeling returning home, as I am sure many who emigrated from their birth places sense when they visit their home towns, regardless of how assimilated they have become in the places where they chose to live or how deeply they love their adopted countries.
For me, the anticipation when I visit Israel is always mixed with a heaviness I describe as a rock that is sitting in the center of my chest, solid and gray and defined. The rock is my past filled with tragedy: losing a husband to a brutal death, and growing up with a mentally ill mother. I only understood the extant of her illness after reflecting on my childhood with the depth of a writer.
Next week, following the holiday of Shavuot, which is so connected with the tragic death of my husband, I’ll visit his grave in the military cemetery that is located outside of Tel Aviv proper. My husband of forty years, whom I married five years after my first husband fell in war, may join me. Regardless, my past and present will intertwine as they always do, making me the person I have become.
My conversations about Prime Minster Netanyahu, whom Time Magazine featured on its cover, labeling him the king of Israel because of the wide coalition he managed to build, and the prospect of him making peace with his Palestinian neighbors, will wait for my next blog entry. Right now I have to prepare to go to my grandniece's Bat Mitzvah party.