On graves and love

My week started with watching my Grandmother being stored in a drawer. I visited the dead city to witness it. A huge graveyard of a town somewhere a bit north to Tel Aviv. The graves are so numerous that they started building towers for them, piling them up on top of each other.
I was horrified by it. Burn the body for all the soul cares, I think it will be much more proper. But it is not allowed in Judaism. Unthinkable, even among the non-believers.  
I wasn’t that close to my grandmother. Although she loved me. She loved me the way she knew how, which was very glum compare to other forms of love I got blessed with in my childhood. The war touched her life in a way it never recovered from. She always had a relationship with death. I could sense it even when I was very young. I didn’t like it, I wasn’t willing to face it. And maybe I am still a bit of a coward.
My other Grandmother, born and raised in Israel, has a different place in me. She was very much alive until her last breath and I still can’t believe she is not. She is buried in a forest next to the town her family founded. A peaceful place. My mom said she got a privilege. But I don’t think the dead get any privilege. You only get it in your life. My forest buried grandmother, who I love and miss so much, got the privilege of love.

I am grandmotherless now.

No regrets in the forest

Lately, I am starting to think about going back to New York.

My plan of coming to Israel was pretty much a “no plan”.  And it worked great for the past six months. I’ve been doing some interesting stuff. 

I think New York became a real deal after my dad came to visit me and went back, leaving me here with the hole of his absence.

It was great having him here, we drove around and met people, laughed at old jokes, old memories. It was like we never left, never moved to another place.
We were listening to the radio, amused by the silly commercials, embarrassed by the boldness of Hebrew and Israelis. Everything has so much nerve in this place… everything is so dumb. I think it was always one of the best things about Israel: the joke that it is. 
My dad is really funny too. 
After ten days that seemed like two, he left.
It was one thing to be in Japan without my parents for a long while, but it is a whole different story to be in Israel without them.
My grandmother would say that now I’m all hers. She used to say this a lot. With a loving pride.
She was born here. Looking back from my current viewpoint, I see how rooted in this place she was.  I do wonder how it felt like: living in Israel/Palestine for 80 years. Without really being out of it.  80 years of colorful adventures in this crazy tiny place, speaking Hebrew and eating all familiar tastes for a very long time.
I never thought of it as something special that my grandmother was born here and spoke only Hebrew. But now I know that it is a little bit special.
She was so hurt when we left here, left her. I could see it in her eyes. I was her first granddaughter, the one who turned her into a grandmother, I don’t think she ever imagined me crossing the ocean like that, tearing away from her and this place.  
Being back here I feel like I am doing something to make her happy.  I am a bit late, but I am loving everything that reminds me of her.  I am here. And I am sorry.
I am sorry that I left. Yet,  at some point, I will be leaving again. Because this place is nerve-racking, this place is hectic, it wrenches people to tears and blood. 
And because part of me is not sorry at all: I gained so much from being away, I collected many good memories, I got over monstrous challenges and I met with wonderful people.

It’s nice being a foreigner in New York sometimes. It’s so trippy. 

Back here, I so very often read the news, hear something on the street, or crash into an awful conversation that make me want to leave. Immediately.

I cannot handle this.

I do not want to take part in this maniac piece of earth with this insane group people I share so much with. 

Then I go on a trip like I did this past weekend, and I sit there in the forest. It is a small forest, nothing like the massively heavy and rainy forests of north America.
There aren’t that many trees, and all of a sudden, I smell all those delicious aromas I remember so well.
The earth is different here. The sounds are so specific, unforgettable. I just want to eat it all up, to core myself into it. And if I close my eyes I am almost enjoying it too much. 
This essence, this very real rock I am sitting on. Everything here is so much more alive. I am feeling so alive.

Yes. This little forest, with the shy poppies sprouting around, is much better (to me) than the beautiful forest in New York.

Then I become alarmed by the sensation because maybe, just maybe, I am just as insane as everyone else around here. 

And I shouldn’t let this craze get me.

But it’s obviously too late.

Back where I left my childhood

Before coming here I thought it will be cool to pick up from where I left this blog, in Japan, and continue writing from my “homecoming” trip. However, a bit more than a month here in Israel and I’m still floating in a shock mode. And so for a while, I really wasn’t sure how to approach this blog again.

I am back at the one and only spot on the map. The one many of my great grandparents only dreamed of,  the land I spent most of my life at. The latter is significantly more meaningful to me I must admit.

I didn’t plan on coming here so early.  After graduation, I spent a month doing nothing. not knowing what now. but all I had in mind was Israel.

It was time.

Which surprised me because I never thought I would feel so desperate to come here.  Actually, I was desperate ever since Japan, where I realized, maybe for the first time in my life, that I will always be more “Israeli” than American or any other thing. Only in Japan, I realized that I grew up in a certain place, under a certain culture. I am who i am.

And so, it was a very short call, a week before my flight I’ve decided that I’m going. Now. Without a major plan as for what to do or where to stay. i had to go back.

Back to where the most of me was formed, back to where I tried to detach myself from.

My childhood friend came to pick me up from the airport. She hasn’t changed much. She is still exactly how i remembered her. But I’ve missed a large step of the road, and she has experienced things which i wasn’t part of.

I still don’t know how much I’ve missed. I will never know.

She drove us to the yishuv we both grew up at. My heart was racing fanatically all the way. I couldn’t believe my body’s reaction. Why would this influence me so much? I never felt like this before.

Leaving this place at 17 years of age I thought I could move on, change myself, adapt, feel comfortable enough in a different language, even forget where I’m from and just be a human with no previous connections. I wanted to start over and just be open to whatever comes.
It sounds bad I know, but I was angry with Israel. I was an angry rebel minded teenager. I’m still angry but it is also clear to me that i was wrong with my approach. I was a foolish girl.

It took me years of trying to fit in with my constantly changing environments, almost half a year in Japan, and another year of soul searching to realize that this place will always be an inseparable part of me.
That I was brought up in a certain way, that my native language in no less than beautiful, that there is no need to go extreme. No need to hit myself, I can hold opinions and rage over things and still miss home.

I must appreciate the certain life I was given here, and being here helps, it helps me come to terms with who I am.

Back to the Yishuv, my house was standing there but not mine anymore. My parents recently sold it. The strangers weren’t home, so my friend and I opened the gate and sneaked in.

I circled the house and kissed every corner of it with my eyes. Then I sat on the grass and cried.  I wanted to cry much less but I needed to cry much more. It scared me a bit.

a lovely corner of the garden 

 This was truly my house. Since leaving it I moved so many places, all of them so different than this. Transitions became my life. Which part of me loves. But having a home is valuable and fragile almost, and I forgot how it feels.  I really shouldn’t. It might not be my house on paper anymore, but the many memories it holds for me will always be mine. 
I learned to value them while far away from here.
Am I being too dramatic?

The view from the roof
On the following days, I moved to a friend of my parents’ apartment in Tel Aviv. He very kindly agreed to take me in for three weeks… I am not sure why. But it was amazing. A fancy place with a balcony and a beautiful view of the sea. I did feel extremely imposing over the first week. But later on I ate dinners with his guests and we drank wine and some of them had the most fascinating stories to share.

Oh, and I worked in a קייטנה (summer daycare?) for a bit. Earned some cash to buy mangoes and pay for the bus. These two are probably what I spend the MOST money on. I LOVE the mangoes here! Fruits, in general, are really a bliss here. No milk, no honey: -fruits-

the view from the balcony in Tel Aviv. I missed Tel Aviv so much


One of the things I missed the most is the beach. The smell, the breeze, the salt, the musky feeling of the skin while walking along the shore. All of these were away from me for too long. I truly love the upstate new york’s forests, the small waterfalls,  the fresh air. but the Mediterranean wins over them all, really.

And maybe I’m just nostalgic.

My parents took me to the beach a lot when we lived here. My mom loved it especially. We used to come late afternoon when the sun is almost down, and stay for hours, until dark. There was nothing more exciting to me than staring deep into the sea at night. I love this powerful, even dangerous body of water. I love Knowing that the waves are coming all the way from far away places, where I cannot see, and getting the most pleasurable shivers from the thought of how big the world is. How small of a part of it I am.

Visiting the city on my own, not following the footsteps of anyone, I’m asking myself why do I love Tel Aviv.

Besides being a cool place, I have so many pieces of old memories attached to it.  The first four years of my life were here. In a small apartment. With two smart young parents who each had their favorite coffee place.
Before my sister was born before my mom decided to move to the “countryside”, before Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated.

My first memories are all from Tel Aviv. My first impressions of the world were all in Tel Aviv. I remember the wonder and the confusion. They were pleasant. There was this wonderful feeling hovering above me for more years to come, until it was taken away, that I live in a fun world, and a fun country. 
But I didn’t really know anything about countries or division. Israel was simply everything. I didn’t even know I was a jew because everybody was a jew.

My dear Grandma was still living in Tel Aviv after we moved out of the city.  Visiting savta often as I did flood me with loving memories of her and Tel Aviv.
Being here without her, without my parents and without my house is tougher than I assumed.
I feel familiar with this place, the pieces are falling together. But some pieces are missing. In addition, I myself changed, or just been through a lot abroad. I am a piece that I’m not sure how to connect to the puzzle.
Very near the Tel Aviv apartment I am staying in. Was taken on my way to the bus.

not sure what made me draw this
My old friends all served in the army and I didn’t. Nobody really cares for excuses. so I don’t go for them. I know I’m an outsider.  Not only because I didn’t spend 2-3 years of my life doing something many of them hated, but because I’ve missed a step, a step Israelis go through. A hard one.
But each have their path.
I had my own ups and falls while away. Therefore, I don’t feel like I missed out on the road, I’m just having a different one.  I like my path.
Some of my old friends don’t really buy this. They look at me from far away.  But it’s okay, I understand. Still, I feel welcomed. It’s nice to see them again. and their interest in me is not something to take for granted after all these years.
What has been the biggest bliss of them all though is meeting my family again.
Some meetings are more difficult than others, and my family, in general, is not so big. I feel guilty. guilty for being away, guilty for my absence.
My parents have been the closest to me for six years. So close. Shielding me from the US and its norms.
Discovering more people who care for me as family again is something I’m not used to. I need to repair my relationships with them, Prove that I’m worthy of their love.

And maybe I need to let go a little bit.

My uncle and aunts, from both sides, have been really nice to me, invited me for dinners, conversations, a heart to heart advice. Even if at times I feel like I don’t deserve this, I have received an expensive gift.

Those Shabbat dinners are something I’ve missed way more than I imagined. I wish my parents were here to enjoy them too.

I’m constantly moving places: Tel Aviv, Ramat Hasharon, soon Yahood , Jaffa and then Jerusalem.

I’m a big girl now, so I really should just move on. “move on” sounds a bit unfitting. There is something extremely trippy about visiting my childhood and maturing at the same time. I’m still not sure how to take this. How should I behave?
And though free to use my native language: What should I say and How should I speak.

Hopefully, with time I’ll figure things out.