Before I got miraculously accepted into Bard, I went to a New Jersey community college to work on my English. The place, and especially my English Composition classes, was full with immigrants and busy people who already had children. I became friends with a girl from Kosovo who won her green card in a lottery (“I am incredibly lucky.”) and a Korean girl who wasn’t half as shy as she first looked. Both never heard about Israel. “There is no way your country is smaller than Korea, I can drive across Korea in one day!”
One morning, an Israeli girl appeared in one of my English composition classes. We discovered each other faster than the speed of light (“How did YOU end up HERE?” she demanded). She was older than me, very confident, with straight impressively long black hair that used to be curly. We shared a desk. Class started and we got an assignment to write a short essay about something from our home country that we missed. There were so many things I missed. But I didn’t know how to name them or how to pick one. Eventually, I wrote about Tu Bishvat.
In that moment, Tu Bishvat symbolized the earthy atmosphere I grew up in and the countless trips I took with family and friends to visit nature, a specific kind of wilderness New Jersey simply doesn’t have. Tu Bishvat also tends to arrive when winter is weakened and you can finally take off your coat. One of my favorite moments in life.
“Oh Metuka Ktana At ! (you little sweetheart)” she laughed, so amused by my topic. After class, she sat with me outside and told me all about her essay in details. It was about the IDF. The experience there, apparently, was very meaningful to her. While listening, I couldn’t help but feeling as if she was striving to educate me. She was telling me to grow up. And not to write about Tu Bishvat next time. Maybe it was only in my head. Surely I focused on the differences between our choices instead of listening to her.
A few hours later, my other friend told me about the war in Kosovo during the 90s. I didn’t know much about it. She told me it was horrible. People she knew died. I found myself gazing at a specific spot on the wall. I was about to cry. God knows why. I went to the bathroom to do just that.
I missed Israel but I also didn’t miss it or the obligation to protect it.
I grew up a bit and I have a similar feeling today.
Tu Bishvat was my lonesome then, I would still write about it today, with love.