Posted in Israel, Life

The First One Away

It’s Yom Ha’azmaut and I did not go to a Tefilla chagigit last night. I didn’t go out and dance and drink all night long in Jerusalem. I’m not going BBQ hopping and seeing everyone outside in the park, with everyone enjoying the sun and air and not caring that the entire country smells like a BBQ.

I’m in New York. Actually I’m in bed because I’m not feeling so well. I’m not sure if it is because I am sad or exhausted or allergies or in the process of getting sick or a mixture of all three. Yesterday on Yom Hazikaron I did not have a moment of silence (actually the night before I was at a wedding…). I went home early from school, but being in school did not even feel like the day. It was just a day like any other, just my heart knew that my friends were sitting at the graves of their loved ones.

Last night I went out for burgers with a friend instead of going to a tefilla. This is her third year not in Israel and couldn’t bring herself to go to shul. She warned me that it would be really difficult, and I just followed her and had a burger. It had to be burgers so at least we fulfilled the obligation of having burgers on the day (there aren’t many obligations, but this sounds like a good one).

Yom Ha’azmaut last year turned into the day that I broke up with A. It was the marker to the time that I had left in Israel, as I flew out only a few days later. It is the marker that it is almost a year since I left, and coming even more in my mind after coming back to NY and knowing that it looks like I will not be there for a while still…


Posted in Israel, Life

Being Back (Part 1)

I’ve been back now for almost a week at this point. I have been meaning to write about it, but writing has seemed both too overwhelming, but also underwhelming at the same time.

I feel like I’m home. I’m walking the streets that I see in my mind. I’m meeting up with my friends as if 11 months have not passed. As I go from place to place I inevitably bump into people. People smile at one another, make eye contact, actually engage with one another even if they might be a stranger.

On my first day back I went out to lunch with a friend to our “usual” spot. Just like that. I was back to being me. It was amazing to catch up. Yes, much has changed in both of our lives, but our essence was still the same.

I went to other friends who this past year both bought and apartment and had a child. In many ways they are different than when I left them- it would be strange if not. And I do miss who they were, our conversations, and even their other friends, are talking about breastfeeding, poopy diapers, and sleep schedules. I am still close with them, but I feel like I am not able to interact in the same way as I once was.

I hosted seder with D and J. Seder was really a lot of fun. I wonder if I will be able to have that again. Where we all are there to just sing and learn. We stayed up till 3:30am. We had costumes. We had props. Food was good. Jokes were had. I try not to to think about it now, of where I will be comes next year.

I went back to the nursing home I worked it. Again I was greeted by familiar faces that were excited to see me. Wanting to know if I have returned to work, or where I have been because they haven’t seen me in a while. Even the residents who have dementia and rarely remember things, remembered that I was someone they knew, I was someone familiar to them. I met the new manager, and even before we spoke she offered me to come back.

I had a meeting with her, where she offered me a job as the organizer of cultural activities. I told her thank you, but no thank you, because I want to be able to pursue my role as a rabbi. I did give her the idea of bringing me in as a rabbi, to run programs in the home, to bring people from the outside in- she wrote everything down, and even took my contact information. I don’t know what will come out of it, but I do know that I tried. I also know that apparently everyone has been talking about me, and how everything has been different this year.

It feels so nice to be back and to feel at home. For the most part this trip has been wonderful. I am pushing myself not to think about the fact that I only have two weeks left or that I don’t know when I will be back again. But I am remembering how important friends are. How nice it is to have people around you, who care for you, who make you feel like you are part of something bigger, who make you feel like you matter (maybe why I find NY so uninviting is part of how no one will look at strangers in the street).

Even with these thoughts, I want to make sure that moving back is the right thing. I want to make sure that I am not giving up on too much – being able to work, being near my parents and grandparents as they are getting older, being near my nephew so I can be a real person in his life…those are all important things that I will have to give up to be here. I just hope when the time comes I am able to make the right choice.

But for now, I am going to just enjoy my time being with friends.

Posted in Israel, Life

Being a Guest in My Home

It is almost a year since I left Israel. I know that a lot has changed -babies were born, new jobs were found, jobs were lost, new relationships, breakups, moving apartments, finding new friends, new people in the social group…

In my mind’s eye I can see the streets of Jerusalem. I can see the street that I lived on and how to walk to my friend’s houses. I can see my friends, and feel the joy of bumping into them in the street, the mall, the restaurants, the shuk, the bus, shul….I can see the sunlight on the Jerusalem stone. I can see the people on the bus, in streets, the shopkeepers, the kids walking to school. I can feel the heat of the sun. Smell the juniper and the stone and the sand and the oven cleaner that fills the air right before pesach. I can see the giant vats of water with the Yeshiva boys waiting patiently to help people kasher their homes.

I know my life has changed. When I left I was dating someone. I was a chaplain in a hospital. I moved to Australia and was a rabbi. I moved to New York. I have been lonely and sad and figuring out what is next while here. I have a job for next year in New York.

I know I am no longer who I was 11 months ago. I know that they are no longer who they were then either. My heart longs to be in Israel, to be in Jerusalem, to be among my friends…but I also know that what is in my heart might not (is most likely not) the reality.

I know that it will be hard to fit in again. That I am going to be a tourist, a visitor, someone just passing through. My three weeks will be trying to fit in as many people as I can. Catching up, hearing what people are up to, what has changed, what is the same, what is going on in the city and community that I chose to be my home. And I know that I will have to tell people over and over again how CPE was almost a year ago, how Australia was, if I am excited about finishing school in only a few months, and answer the dreaded question of what will I be doing next…and have to answer it looks like I will be in New York for maybe one more year. And have to be there in the moment of how they are excited for me, and how great an opportunity this is, and yes of course I need to do what is right for me professionally, and yes they miss me.

But I know with time they will miss me less, my presence will not mean much…I know that I will miss them less too. I know that yes, I do need to do something for myself professionally. That I need to feel real meaning in the world, even if it might hurt…these are the things I need to give up on in life- we are not meant to get everything. And I know how great an opportunity I am being given. And how lucky I am to have friends that are so supportive of me, even from a distance, even when we haven’t seen each other in almost a year.

In less than 24 hours I will board a plane to go back for the first time. I am simultaneously excited to see everyone and to be where I have been dreaming of for the past 11 months, and at the same time terrified. Terrified of how to be a guest in my home. Terrified of seeing everyone. Terrified of failing people. Terrified of all of my friendships and relationships being in my head, and maybe I really am just alone. Terrified of having to say goodbye…again…and not knowing when the next time will be…


Posted in Israel

National Mourning to National Celebrating

Yom Hazikaron

Every year it amazes me how such a simple thing as a siren will stop an entire country. The siren goes at 8 and at 11, and everything stops- people in the middle of the street stand at attention- standing up straight and feet together. At night while rushing to get to where one needs to go, there is a one minute pause to start the day of sadness. To start the day of mourning those who have lost their lives in events that are still happening daily. So when a phone drops from your hands at the beginning of the siren- you just leave it on the floor for the rest of that minute. The phone is not as important.

Sitting in a café on a sunny morning, again the siren goes- this time for two minutes. Everyone in town gets up, goes into the streets from their store, to stand alone but at the same time together. You stand still. You stand tall. You stand with your feet together. You listen to the piercing siren and the birds chirping. That is all the noise that is around. No one is talking. No cars are moving. Just the siren and the birds, with a bit of wind.

Yom Ha’azmaut

I had a hard time this year celebrating. I wanted to be celebrating- but it hurt a bit. The entire time I was thinking about how this might be the last one- because so much of this will not be the same even if it is replicated in the US.

The same way that there is intense sadness in the air on Yom Hazikaron, there is immense joy in the air on Yom Haazmaut. Singing a musical Hallel, outside, with many different people from different walks of life. Going into town with it being full of people of all ages until 4am. Looking off the bridge by the Begin Center, while listening to the trance music coming from the party that is happening outside the old city- and it is already 3am.

The smell of BBQ filling the air of the entire city. Going from park to park to have more BBQ and to see friends. The park is filled with Americans, French, Ashkenazim, Sephardim, Iraqis…you name it, they are there in the park together side by side. Singing Mizrachi karaoke music. Playing soccer. Having a shaving cream fight.

As the sun slowly goes down so do the fires. The wind picks up and it starts to get chilly again, and people start packing up to go home. After taking a day to mourn together, and then another day to celebrate together- it is time to go back inside. Back to our own small worlds, with little bits of remembering we are one that will hopefully last for the rest of the year.

Things I Will Miss

  • Hanging my laundry to dry in the sun
  • Walking in the streets and bumping into people I know
  • Walking in the streets and knowing the shop owners
  • It being safe to walk home not matter what time of night it is
  • Having my close friends only a few minutes away
  • Getting vegetables for the prices I get them for
  • Not having paid for a scallion in 6 years
  • Paying 4 shekel for no matter how many carrots and onions I buy
  • Having theological conversations with the owners of shops
  • It not being creepy to talk to an old man when he sits down at a café





Posted in Israel, Life, Uncategorized

Six Years!

6 years!

6 years ago today I landed in Israel as a new immigrant. Finally after years of coming back and forth, I decided that this is where I was going to live, for the unforeseeable future.

But here I am 6 years in, and I know that I am leaving in May, again for the unforeseeable future. Usually I have a party on this day, but this year I feel strange doing so- almost like I am lying by celebrating. (That is for another post when I have more time and energy to reflect on this reality).

But on a positive note, I think that I have accomplished quite a bit over the past 6 years:

  • I have been employed the entire time, and only in things that I see as are in my field.
  • I speak Hebrew fluently, and in a way that people can’t tell that I am American, or at think that I have been here for much longer than I have been.
  • I work in Hebrew (speaking and writing).
  • I run a community that still functions.
  • I directed plays, and actually got paid for it.
  • I am a person that people know, and almost everyone knows where my house is.
  • I have been in the same apartment for the past 5 years.
  • I have friends, an apartment, and am financially independent- even 6 years in.

At times I feel like I have been here forever, while other times I still feel like I am new. It will be interesting to see what happens when I go back to the US, a place I haven’t lived in since 2008 (when I was still in college). And interesting of what it will be like, if I do move back to Israel when I am done with school.

But until now- Happy 6th Aliyaversary!!!

Posted in Israel

It Happened

It happened. After all the years of both partially and actually living in Israel, I know someone first hand that was murdered.

When there are military operations, stoning, rockets, stabbings, other terrorist attacks the first thoughts are: “Where did it happen? Do I know anyone that lives there? Is everyone I know ok?”

Up until know it hasn’t been anyone I know (thank God), most of the time they were complete strangers. Sometimes they were people that were very close to friends of mine (one degree of separation). I remember vividly when I was 18, sleeping over at a friend’s house. My friend was so excited because she was going to her friend’s wedding the next day. But when we woke up, I saw her in tears. Her friends, along with her father were both murdered together on a bus bombing.

Up until now that is the closest that I have gotten. My friends in the army have lost friends. My friends living here for longer have lost friends and family. Yom Hazikaron is one of the most difficult days at work, as there is not a single resident not mourning for someone- let alone what it feels like in the country itself.

But it has happened. Rav Yaakov Don z”l was murdered last Thursday. I taught with him for 3 years. His class was the one that happened right before mine. We never really spoke all that much, mostly because I was getting him to finish on time so I could start teaching. But you could always see that the students were drawn into his class. He loved teaching. He loved being with people. He loved sharing his knowledge and receiving new ideas from those around him.

This morning my Facebook feed was filled with videos of the beginning of the funeral for Ezra Schwartz z”l. You have 18 year old boys standing at his coffin leaving the ambulance. You have 18 year old kids leading a funeral procession for their friend, someone they will never see again. You have 18 year old kids and lots of people from the community (and by community I mean the country), coming out to escort his coffin to the airplane that will take him back to Boston so his parents and siblings will be able to bury him and mourn.

This needs to stop. We need to find a way that we aren’t getting used to the fear. That we aren’t getting used to going to funerals. That we aren’t in a constant state of fear-mourning-back to “normal”, always trying to figure out how to actually enjoy oneself, while knowing horrible things are happening, or could happen at any second.

May this week be a week of comfort and peace.


Posted in D'var Torah, Israel

What if the Two Nations in Her Womb Worked Together?

Shabbat was nice, quiet, restful. After Shabbat finished, I turned on my phone. All of a sudden I saw that friends of mine in Paris had “checked in”, but for what? Was there a natural disaster there? Or something worse…?

Shabbat can actually give this feeling of connection to the immediate world around me, while at the same time disconnection with the greater world. There is something nice to not be connected all the time. To somewhat forget that the world is not always the greatest place. To just hang out with friends, almost with no care in the world (I am still living in Israel).

I remember this feeling a few years back, when there were constant bombings in the South, and earlier that week they reached Tel Aviv. I remember going away for Shabbat, and it was the first time that I wasn’t glued to the news. Yes, the radio was on in the safe room, just in case something happened, we would be able to be informed. But there was this feeling of maybe it actually is as quiet as it seems (unfortunately that Shabbat there were at least two air raid sirens in Jerusalem).

I felt this two summers ago during Operation Protective Edge, where daily people were being killed. And there was this want for Shabbat, so I couldn’t look. But also a desire to know, because not knowing can be scarier.

This Shabbat, Israel too started with a tragedy. A father and son were murdered their daughter was supposed to be married this week.

The fighting around the world continues. I know (unfortunately), there are many places in the world that people are dying. People are afraid to walk outside, because of suicide bombers. People are afraid to walk outside because of terrorists with knives. People are afraid to walk outside because of rape.

In this past week’s Parsha, Parshat Toldot we hear that Rivka has two nations in her womb. They are fighting even inside her. They are born, and are very different from each other, but they are both loved and praised for the things they are good at. Yitzchak loves Esav because he goes out and hunts, and is a good hunter. Rivka loves Yaakov because he is quiet and stays indoors. It is because of trickery that the fighting starts. There are many commentators that say that Yaakov was in the wrong- wrong to buy the birthright the way he did; wrong to trick Lavan; wrong to try to trick Esav later when they re-meet again. What would have happened if they did not fight? What would have happened if they worked together? We are not able to have a world without food, nor are we able to have a world without the quiet times of intellect.

I pray that all of the families around the world that have suffered loss find some form of comfort. I pray that those who have suffered shock find solace. I pray that as a greater world community we can come together and find our way of working together- not trying to change one another, rather using each of our skills, desires, inclination for the greater good.

May we all have a week of peace, comfort, and happiness.