Saturday, July 28, 2007

gone to israel

why am i so scared?

i don't understand myself. i don't understand at all. britain, japan, hawaii, france...sometimes it seems like i would rather be going almost anywhere than israel.

and it's always been this way. ever since i was in elementary school, which is about when the first of my peers made the trip. the prospect of israel did not excite me, did not make me swoon with love - it formed a knot of dread in my stomach that even then i could explain to no one.

i thought about it in high school, before stern accepted me. that was the thing to do, right? everyone went to israel for seminary. seminary was where you became truly grounded in aidelkeit and judaism, where you sprouted roots to the holy land, what gave you strength to live your life, proudly, as a jew on G-d's path. but i did not want to go. not even a little. i was paralyzed by images of the prim, powedered seminary graduates who made life miserable for me in school, by news videos full of carnage and blood, by the sweltering heat, the language...and, i think most of all, the fear of the unknown. as much as i hear people speak about it and look through their photo albums and study their tongue and listen to their radio, israel remains an unknown quantity to me. i'm convinced that i could make it on my own if i had to in the u.s. or canada, or even england. but israel inspires in me nothing less than panic.

everyone tells me i'll love it there, and for years i have been trying to convince myself. i think of jerusalem, close my eyes, try to see king david sitting on cobblestone streets, composing tehillim to Hashem. but my notion of jewish history is so vague and blurred - and my grasp on the heroes of the tanach even more ephemeral. they were always so much beyond me, on such a high pedestal - we weren't even supposed to formulate an image of them in our heads - and i failed to connect to them as a child. they were faceless angels, immortal in their purity...not people who really lived and breathed like me. as much as i tried to conceive of it, i never succeeded. moshe rabainu, avraham avinu, rachel imanu...my mother grew up with a very different style of teaching, to the point where she felt as though she knew them all. my father's mother sees such a human side to everyone in tanach that she weeps every time she takes down the chumash. but to me they were an abstract math theory i knew how to apply yet never understood. the beliefs in my head never made it to my heart.

strangely, my view of G-d is nothing like this, perhaps because we were encouraged so much by so many different teachers and rebbetzins to think of G-d in very personal terms. one speech that has stayed with me everywhere spoke of G-d as a father coming home to us, and us being little children standing in the window straining to see. we were told to tell G-d everything, even the littlest things that troubled us, nothing was too petty to ask Him for help with...and the rabbi of my community in particular is known for his uncanny ability to speak of G-d in terms that have meaning to anyone, that even someone as uncertain as I can internalize. so while i have my own struggles in that arena, G-d is, incredibly, easier for me to deal with than the country that has been the birthplace of my people and the sanctuary of my Creator.

weird.

i dearly hope that this trip, like a shove into the deep end, will banish my fear and clarify my emotions. i don't want to be afraid of israel, i don't want to feel like an impostor in a world full of jews. i guess i want tanach to be real to me, i want to believe that moshe and avraham and david were people too. so far, king david is the one i grab onto wholeheartedly - because he wrote tehillim, and tehillim sounds so much like my own prayers and feelings. they say king david understood every kind of pain there was in the world and wrote a psalm that dealt with each. if he understood what it is i'm feeling, then he must have been human, too, in addition to being brilliant and righteous.

i just wish everything in judaism could be so tangible to me.

6 Comments:

Anonymous Safranit said...

It is a real place with real (modern--and not so modern) people. With cafes that are open til all hours, and beaches (both mixed and separate) it is old and new...it is an amazing place...with amazing people.

There are reasons to be afraid...in the US you can believe that all Jews are good (if you don't look to closely) and here you realize they are human...sometimes too human.

Just absorb it all...it isn't something to fear. Except for the fear of falling in love with it.

11:24 PM  
Blogger Chaikers said...

"Just absorb it all...it isn't something to fear. Except for the fear of falling in love with it. "--so true!

it isnt the country as a whole really that breathes Judaism. It's the land itself that makes you fall in love with it. Not physically. Spiritually.
Somehow, when you are standing on the cobblestone streets, even if they were just made, the kedusha that permeates every inch of the land (most of the time) can be felt soaring through your body.
Not saying much, but at the kotel, it's as if Hashem is literally just on the other side, listening, and for lack of a better comparison, with His ear against the wall.
It's amazing! And if you don't feel that amazement when you're there, there's no doubt that when you come back, just thinking about those streets, the sky, the hills, those views, will tug at your heart and you won't know what hit you.

9:17 AM  
Blogger Chana said...

Firstly, I absolutely wish you the best and hope the trip helps you.

Two things:

A) I also see God in personal terms.

B) I am also unable to relate to Israel as I should.

The point is not that you have to be like me, as just that you should know you are definitely not alone in this.

11:37 AM  
Blogger SJ said...

Dearest Fudge, you don't have to be able to visualize the avot and imahot to love Israel...I myself just returned from an all-too-brief visit, and rediscovered the emotions I left there the last time I visited. Certain things there help me feel connected to our past--a past that I too have a hard time visualizing--but other things pull me toward our future, a future of the Jewish people as one united whole. I sincerely hope that you are able to feel it during your stay...but if not, do not give up for good...it wasn't until months into my year in seminary that I felt anything. And now, this past motzei shabbos, as the bus left Jerusalem to the aiport, tears poured silently down my face as my heart grieved over my departure.

I hope you have a safe and wonderful trip.

2:29 PM  
Blogger PsychoToddler said...

i just wish everything in judaism could be so tangible to me.

That is what this trip is for.

10:53 PM  
Blogger Jameel @ The Muqata said...

but israel inspires in me nothing less than panic.

I hope your visit caused you less panic than you expected.

7:13 AM  

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