Holy Moly Land

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.

masada sunrise

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.

israel cities sign

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.

Off to a Sexy Start

I was always completely aware that the trip to Israel was going to be much worse than the trip in Israel. A redeye from LA followed by an 11 hour flight to the promised land on an airline that promised to interrogate me. All of those dreams did come true.

In my ever logical and valiant efforts to arrive  in Israel relatively bright eyed I resolved to stay awake all of Saturday night and sleep through the long haul flight. In this pursuit I decided that eight new books might be adequate to keep me occupied and awake. Little did I know I wouldn’t need any of them. By fate, or possibly a fatal combination of obliviousness and tenacity, I kept the poor man sitting next to me up for 5 hours; and he kept me up.

First, there was the mandatory tail feather flaunting of what schools we went to and what enviable jobs we have had. And then we had to prove how clever and smart we were. But then hours  passed in a haze punctuated by in depth literary analysis, rather  intimate commentary on our lives thus far  and candid musings on our  purpose and very selves. The flight crew, who were already striving for new levels of on board cheek, gave us a bottle of wine, and we drank it- at three in the morning. This, of course, both mellowed and intensified an already heady conversation, though wine did feel more appropriate than breakfast.

He decided he knew me well enough to flick me when I was being cute, and I decided he might be allowed to finish his own sentences instead of amusing myself with my own endings.

As any heroine would, I wrote my name in the back of his novel, and left him enigmatically at the gate. All before I ever left the country.