September Update (and a bit of October)

Hello!


Summer is gone, the holidays are finally over, fall and reddish colored leaves are not really something you see in Jerusalem, but October in the holy land will always be my favorite kind of October.


September was a shaky month, I faced some down thoughts and emotions. They related to a few uncertainties and challenges that are going on in my life. But that’s life. And I am working on embracing them. Overall, I think the changes are good for me.

In a month and a bit, I will be heading to the US, for a long period of time. I am planning on taking part in an Artist in Residency there this winter; something I’ve been wanting to do for the longest time.
My parents, who had their green card for a while, will soon be able to vote, which excites them. I, the only american (on papers) in the family, have been feeling very detached from the political scene there. Honestly, my interest mostly comes from how it influences Israel/Palestine. But lately, I’ve been far from that too. It’s probably better like this, for now. The things I am looking forward to the most in the US are simple: going groceries with my mom (checking out all the options Israel doesn’t have), sit at Barnes & Nobles with my dad and talk about nerdy things (I can do this for hours) and hear from my sister (who isn’t american on papers) about the american slang I never heard of (none of it basically).
One of the doctors I visited this past month told me: “you are very close to your family but you are trying to run away from that. Don’t worry though, once you form your own family you will feel better”. Sweet of him. Though I don’t think I will “form” a family anytime soon. There is still so much I want to explore on my own.


On Sukkot, I traveled north to the Golan to visit my aunt, who keeps with the mitzvah of building a sukkah every year, without a man. Women are not committed to a sukkah according to the texts, but here it is anyway, and it is marvelous. 

It’s a shame sukkah’s lifespan is 8 days and then it ought to be gone.    

Drawings of earthy growing foods. Seriously the most beautiful sukkah ever. My aunt is traditional and does things according to the halakha, but always adds her own artistic touch to everything. 

The round table in her studio 🙂 
A mountain monster in my sketchbook

The area where my aunt lives
Part of our breakfast. 
The candle is for my grandma who recently passed away

I’ve been meditating regularly for the past two weeks. I have a long way to go in my meditation journey, but I try to gently focus on the moment, on each morning, and each breath. 


Another Sukkah. Karen and I made drawings for it in my living room. It supports the Palestinian Beduin community at Khan Al Ahmar as they face the threat of demolition.
I am still thinking about the concept of sukkah against demolition. There is room for more on this topic, for sure.

Old City discoveries. Matilda (who speaks and reads all the languages) translating some Arabic as I take a photo. 

More from the old city. Some very beautiful calligraphy. 
I especially like this one.

Another page from my sketchbook



Seeds of Peace

Last month I have started my journey with Seeds of Peace. As a new staff member in the Jerusalem office, it was essential for me to join the 2016 Seeds of Peace’s summer camp which took place in the forests of Maine. 
During the first week of July, we had our staff orientation. I quickly realized that a fair amount of counselors were returning counselors who knew the drill of peace fairly well. But I was surprised by fellows who never been to the “region” most of the kids were about to arrive from. Somehow, with all my years outside of The land, it conquers 80% of my soul at times, especially the times I go to a peace camp.
I guess I wasn’t expecting the other counselors to be too different from me in this regard.  Not sure what I was expecting exactly. But they ended up being a sweet mixture of special backgrounds and talents. I hope these people will stay in my life forever 🙂 
We were all in the forest for the kids and their extraordinary experience, that, more than anything, made me feel in the right place.
Kids came from Israel/Palestine(West Bank and Gaza), Egypt, Jordan, US and the UK. We welcomed them with the most noise I’ve ever heard or produced with my lungs. Cheerful screams and hugs were flying around when each delegation stepped out their buses.
For some, it was overwhelming, confusing even, others appeared very confident and in control. I was somewhere in the middle. But as a counselor, I just kept smiling for hours.
The Israeli delegation, of two buses, were mostly kids from my area. Hamerkaz. And evenדרום  השרון.  In short, Kfar Saba and the much smaller towns around it. When I was their age, my mind pumped with Jewish solidarity, bible stories and shadows of doubt, that tiny area was my life. Those days seem far away, but they aren’t really. 
I didn’t say this out loud because the counselors were supposed to keep neutral as if we came to this world in our olive green t-shirts and peaceful sing-song minds. Kids are smart though and I’m really bad at being mysterious so it didn’t take them too long to figure me out.

All the photos here besides the ones with a flower beneath them are with credit to Bobbie’s Pictures from SoP Intl Camp
As the first couple of days rolled in, I found myself comforting and joking with kids from places I used to associate only with wars. I wasn’t at all surprised by our similar concerns and happy moments. I was a homesick kid too. Today, I am just a few years older.

Sport and art activities alongside daily dialogues of discussing the conflict came one after another. I was making art with people who weren’t sure what to do or never used clay before, they ended up creating marvelous things.

When I was really happy about someone’s work I became a bit childish or overly joyful. It happened at meals too, when we shared pudding. It happened everywhere if I wasn’t too tired.

I was yelling Yallah and Khalas on everybody here and there because it was incredibly more effective than English. But English was everywhere and people stuck to it more than I was expecting, even those who struggled with it.
After hard dialogue sessions, however, people run back into the shells of their native tongues. Frustrating and aching in Arabic or Hebrew, crying and seizing each other in small groups.
We as counselors were there to listen and bring back the English, alongside with trust. Trust is so fragile to maintain. It wasn’t easy and sometimes I felt bare and useless in the face of someone’s hurt or anger.

Who am I to convince them to “trust the process”?

Back when I was a teenager, I felt like my “side” was lying to me, even using me. But I didn’t know much about the “other side”. Later on, I was angry with the “liberals” for twisting Jewish history. Eventually, I learned that being a person means more than taking sides, seeing the world in black and white or being angry. I learned that each person, everywhere, and on each “side”, has a story.
We cannot ignore people’s stories because they will catch up to us in the end. Because in Israel/Palestine we are all connected and taking sides gets us farther away from peace.

Our hatred and fears, our conflicts, are not bound to last forever, but they cannot solve themselves.

The process is long.

Historical facts, myths, and world views aside, being so far away from home in an environment that challenges your basic beliefs and constantly pushing you out of your comfort zone, is hard at any age. Being there in the forest with those brave kids, I cherished them.

Soon, the spirit of togetherness dominated the camp and every person had a meaningful place in our young community.

It was beautiful, yet filled me with sadness.

How far away is this place from home? Sometimes it felt so far, too far. How will these kids face home? Home is cruel, home is anguish.  But home is also home.


Overall, I have had a special month in a special place surrounded by dear people. It is only the beginning for each one of us and I look forward to our next meeting in the holy land. 
I am hopeful, I am inspired. 

Balance


I have been back in America for a while now, trying to adjust to it all over again.  I have never actually… adjusted to it.  

I’m just slow. I still strike everyone here as an obvious foreigner each time I go anywhere. Starbucks, the doctor, the supermarket. People hear my accent and get SO alarmed, or curious(which I prefer). They give me this surprised look!  Israel is almost never on the list of guesses to where I’m from, and if it is, well, how intelligent of them.

I don’t know what is my problem exactly.  I mean, I lived in the United States for a WHILE. Yet, it seems to be getting worst: my accent, my mentality about the situation, the food. I used to be anxious about this, Thinking: “Efrat, you must stop being so obvious. Act American.”.  But I  learned to give it a rest and just let myself be. I guess I am slow.  that’s ok.

I have to admit though, I never tried too hard: many of my friends in college were foreigners, and I studied about China and Japan most of the time in AMERICA. I am very close with my parents who are more Israeli than me (experience wise) and to whom I talk way too often about too many things. In addition, I never watched Gossip Girl!

But I do enjoy season 6 of Game of Thrones these days, yes!

With all due respect to these minor issues, the amount of luck that I have, being able to simply jump to America like this, stay and be,  is enormous. I am the only one in my family with this privilege. Which I got by luck. As I grow older, I get to understand my luck again and again. 

When I was little I was bullied a bit about this in the Kibbutz: “You are not a real Sabra” some kiddos said. Which made no sense to me, of course I am!,  I thought, what else can I be. The answer is:  So many things.

Trump or not Trump, America is to me, and will stay, a refuge, a place to rest and clear my mind. Truly, the land of the free. Though our relationship is subject to change. 

As I travel around the US and meet people, who speak and think unlike me, who teach unlike what I was taught, who inspire me, make me happy, or hurt me deeply ( I am sensitive. Not a Sabra at all in this regard.), I realize that in the end, I go back to my roots, and I learn to value them, to pull strength from them. It doesn’t matter where I am. 

I have to create my own balance. Define myself, without letting others do it for me. Then, I don’t feel like a stranger anywhere. 
It takes time. But it is ok to be slow.

I hope that as I become even older, busier and in love with the people around me, a bit more in love with myself as well maybe, I will find the time to look back at this period and see that it was healthy.

A piece from the SVA Chelsea Gallery beautiful Illustration exhibition I visited today