My staid existence was recently both stirred and shaken. This was not a particularly difficult thing to do, since as I mentioned before, very very staid. Coming off of months of teaching teenagers in return for a PDF (instead of money) I literally could not have imagined a better idea than fleeing the country. Israel took this challenge- to reinvigorate my very being- extremely seriously.
From the first sleepy days in Tel Aviv thinking “gee, this looks a whole lot like Southern California” except for the whole I’m in Asia, and this is the Mediterranean part; to the last day in the Golan Heights, savoring every moment of the last sunrise over the hills and sheep before I had to leave, the trip was incomparably magical. I rode a camel, introduced s’mores to the country and climbed an ancient mountain in a 24 hour period. I made some friends and kissed some boys. And I may or may not have worn Ugg boots to a night club (I will never confirm).
My teacher tendencies only escaped my careful tethering when it came time to organize Shabbat. My lack of aptitude with Hebrew notwithstanding, I can power trip an event without trying. There was candy. And crafts.
I had the privilege to experience the supreme pleasure that is taking off 5 layers of clothes that I slept in and a sports bra, slathering my entire body in mud, and wading into the Dead Sea. And then the supreme honor to tour Yad Vashem mere weeks before International Holocaust Remembrance Day, and seven months after my visit to the DC museum, under the tutelage of a fellow history teacher. Given my recent writings and rumination on my own family’s experience in this vein that day was particularly evocative. The Israeli people are incredibly open and engaged and refreshingly forthright. This meant I was told to eat new and delicious foods that I probably wouldn’t have chanced on my own, and enjoyed immensely, while deciphering Hebrew conversation- mostly through a thorough analysis of expressive body language and inflection. Turns out pasta should always have sweet potatoes in it.
I saw Israeli soldiers with M16s across their lap texting their friends and Hasidic rabbis on scooters. Walked on three thousand year old stone pathways and touched a wall that has brought peace and hope to millions. My new Israeli friends gave me a new perspective on life with the realities of military service, managing interesting and unfounded stereotypes, and the importance of hummus. The only thing I could have asked for is to have stayed a little longer.
Everything about this trip felt like a much needed deep breath. And if the transitional space that I find myself in results in a return trip, then so be it.