Friday, July 15, 2011

Far From Home

I had to leave Israel on very short notice to take care of some pressing business far from home.  At 3:45 AM on a quiet street in Jerusalem, a pierced, Israeli man, wearing a blue polyester track suit, sticks his shaven head into the half-full sherut, looking for travelers to America so he can shout, "I love America!"

I keep silent.

In a transit airport, I feel conspicuously Israeli.  There is Hebrew on my shirt, shkelim in my wallet and an Israeli passport among my documents.  "Travel on your American passport," I was told in one international capitol.

Scrolling through pictures of chayalim on buses on the camera roll of my iPhone reminds me of home.
The contrast between the chayelet in uniform and the poufy straw beach bag amused me.

I cherish this image of a chayal davening on my bus in the morning.
But I am not home.  I'm suddenly in an international airport, with hours to pass before my connecting flight. I wander into the "Multi-faith room" looking for a quiet place to say a few chapters of Tehillim.  At the door, I see a Muslim man in a western suit, bowing on his prayer rug.

In the women's section, separated by a half-wall, are three women of indistinct national origin, asleep on the floor.  I turned away, feeling distinctly unwelcome in the multi-faith room.

The shops are clean, well-lit, creatively organized and filled with over-priced consumer goods that I have zero desire to acquire.  There is a paucity of kosher food options.  The only items I'm sure about are bottled water and shortbread cookies marked with a kosher symbol that I recognize from America.

I am surrounded by naked commercialism, much like any department store in America, every element designed to seduce me into parting from my cash.


I'm tempted twice.  Until I do the currency conversion and gasp. Shopping in most places in Israel just isn't this slick.

There are random Jew sightings:


but mostly it's an international European crowd, heavily accented with Muslims.  Right.  We Jews are a minority population in the bigger world.  I forgot.  Not intellectually.  But experientially.

Walking the streets of Jerusalem, I'm used to hearing many languages, but here, there is so much English around me that I am disoriented.  After a year in Israel, I am still cautious about speaking to strangers in public places for fear that we don't have a common language.  Suddenly, I am nearly universally understood and the awkward, deer-in-the headlights look I perpetually wear in public in Israel is gone.  I understand so much of what's going on around me.  It's very disorienting.

Even with that, I wish I was Homeward Bound.

1 comment:

rutimizrachi said...

Looking forward to having you back, my friend.