The view from my *Magical Meerpeset* (balcony) here in Yerushalayim
Eskimos have 9 words for ‘snow.’
And the Zulus have numerous words for the color ‘green.’
So it should come as no surprise that the Jews have several words for ‘to make a dream come true.’
See, “l’hagshim” is for when a proper dreamt-of-dream manifests.
“L’mamesh,” is used when one realizes one’s self.
And then another word, “l’kayem” articulates the realization of an idea, a plan, or a promise.
…And that only covers up to level gimmel in ulpan.
Dreaming and the realization of those dreams is the through line of the Jewish people, of Israel, of Israelis. “If you will it, it is no dream,” Theodore Herzl said, as he envisioned a Jewish state. Historically, famously and sometimes begrudgingly, we are a people of visionaries, dreamers, thinkers and creators. And to only have one word for ‘to make a dream come true’ – well, that’s just ineffective. So, in our language, Hebrew, both our experience and our selves are expressed.
I too am a dreamer. I dreamt of coming to Israel to learn Hebrew and live in the land since I was a young lady. It took a long time, but my dream came true. As with anything, if you think too much in advance, expectations can grow, often creating fertile ground for disappointment. The longer the anticipation, the more elaborate the conjectures. So imagine how high my expectations were for this adventure? I’d thought of it for over a decade. “I’ll learn the language and live in the most special place on earth!” Yup, that could be a set up. So, picture the swell in my chest and lump in my throat now, as I write with utter appreciation and complete gratitude that being here has exceeded every imagining I could have imagined. And now the time to leave draws near.
Stay! Go! Don’t go! Go and come back! The debate within me rages. Being in Israel is more than a vacation. It’s a return to yourself on numerous levels. Those who move to Israel are said to make “Aliyah”- which literally means they ‘go up.’ So that means leaving Israel is, let’s face it, going down. That’s not just a saying –it feels that way, like you’re moving from high to…well…less high.
On the one hand, I’m excited to go back to the States. I desperately miss my family, my friends, my dog, Feivel Flapjack. I miss certain conveniences. Practically, work awaits. And isn’t 5 months enough?
But that is a trick question if there ever was one. What is ‘enough?’ There is no objective ‘enough.’ Enough is when we say it’s enough. Sometimes I have a sense of what that is, as in: “Does he have ‘enough’ good qualities that I can build a future with him?” And sometimes I don’t, as in: “$X is ‘enough’ money.” But ‘enough,’ in and of itself, just doesn’t exist. It definitely doesn’t when it comes to time in Israel.
Slichot erev Yom Kippur, in the Old City, I looked out over the Kotel, from atop a nearby building to witness a biblical scene. Past midnight, wall-to-wall people milled, bustled, exalted and prayed, the energy something from another world. The hair on my arms prickled. “This is what Mount Sinai looked like,” I thought to myself in disbelief.
When has one had ‘enough’ of being part of the prophecy?
Post-Yom Kippur, no time wasted, all of Yerushalayim began building – sukkahs. Look up, sukkahs grew out of every meerpeset (balcony); look down onto Ben Yehuda, they lined the street, look out into every neighborhood, pomegranates hung from thatched roofs. Look anywhere – this is what belonging looks like.
When has one had ‘enough’ of not having to explain? Had ‘enough’ of being home?
Near Yam Hamelach (the Dead Sea), Idan Raichel performed in Nahal Zohar. Appearing as though he and his company organically grew out of the epic setting amid ancient cliffs lit in mystical blues and enchanting purples – truly putting Madison Square Garden to shame – they sang and danced, Jews of every color, freely and completely expressed and expressing.
When has one had ‘enough’ magic?
There is no such thing as ‘enough!’ something inside me screams as I watch children speaking Hebrew, playing in Jerusalem’s streets and splashing in Tel Aviv’s waves.
But, these gifts are not free (as Michael Oren enumerated beautifully here). All those moments were fought for and are at this very moment being watchfully protected. This too comes with the Israeli reality, causing another invention of the Hebrew language: many words for the English term ‘to manage.’
“L’haspeek,” we say when we’ll ‘make it’ regarding time.
“L’histader” we use when saying we’ll ‘make do.’
“L’hatzliach” we use to describe whether we’ll be successful or not.
Whether we’ll manage and how we’ll manage and at what level of success is forever in question among Jews and especially here in Israel.
I celebrated Simchat Torah with the Shabi family in Rosh HaAyin, a suburb of Tel Aviv not far from Petach Tikva. Omri, one of the ‘kids,’ picked me up from my bus stop. I sat in the backseat, next to his army uniform. His miluim (reserve duty) would begin after the holiday, causing him to miss a family wedding. He didn’t argue and wasn’t terribly upset; he accepted this was part of his duty. His story does not stand alone. Many are being called to miluim. Most people sense something ominous on the horizon and it’s scary. I’m scared. I’m scared for my friends. I’m scared by the news. I’m scared for Israel. And were I to stay, I’d be scared for myself.
“We finally have a home to live in,” I challenge myself. “Why choose exile?” Look, I am not so self-important as to believe my choice makes such an enormous difference. But I am one of many, and together, our choices do create an existential crisis, and a tangible one.
“Stay! We need people like you,” I’ve heard more than once from various people. The words strike a chord with me because they’re true. They’re true not because I’m so special, but because Israel needs all of us right now. Israel needs passionate people who believe in her and will work for her. Between the ‘brain drain’ (a phenomenon whereby successful Israelis leave Israel for higher salaries), biased media, low Jewish birth rates, outer threats, inner challenges – Israel needs each and every one of us to build her! Leaving does feel like abandonment, does feel cowardly, disloyal, wrong. This is not a self-imposed guilt trip, but rather, awareness.
But for now, I have a plane ticket to Texas. And until I arrive at the long-term answers for me, I can do my part to build Israel regardless of location, being a soldier on the front lines of the war of public opinion. That means speaking up when people misrepresent Israel and standing for her well being, even when it’s uncomfortable or unpopular to do so. This is a commitment to truth. And, finally, I will return.
When I came to Israel, I noshed on pastries from Berman’s Bakery. I took a walk through Emek Refaim and discovered Rechov HaRav Berman (Rabbi Berman Street). More than fuzzy feelings tie me to Israel; our connection is evident. And each of us has such a story. We are bonded to her, to one another and each have a role only we can realize in dreaming the dream and making it come true.