April 8, 2008
I am plagued by a certain mental malaise every time I return from a trip to Israel.
I feel run-down, depleted, out of sorts.
It’s not the usual back-from-vacation-I-wish-I-wasn’t-at-work sluggishness. It’s different. It’s deeper and harder to shake off.
Israel leaves an aftertaste that is a combination of fatigue, nostalgia, emptiness and expectation.
The frenzied pace of life - the fast-talking shopkeepers, the reckless drivers, the crush of people everywhere you go, the whisp of danger always swirling in the air - drains you of all reserves of energy so that it takes at least a week to recover; longer if you had a return flight at 4 a.m. with a 7-hour layover in Switzerland.
Almost as soon as I arrive at Ben Gurion airport and make my way through the long security line, I begin recalling all the things I love about Israel: the Mediterranean climate, the sweet and spicy meals, the roughly handsome men, late nights at Aroma - Israel’s improved-upon version of Starbucks, and most of all, the fullness of being surrounded by loved ones.
The intense attention and warm affection of family members who see their relatives from America once every year or two at best was coupled on this trip with the eager observation and enthusiastic embrace of my soon-to-be extended family, who will be making up 400 out of the 500 invited guests at our September wedding. A steady stream of beaming faces paraded through our ten-day trip, filling every minute of every day with banter, questions, drinking, singing, eating and laughing. After that, who wouldn’t feel empty sitting alone in their car for 45 minutes on the 101? Or getting only a handful of phone calls throughout the day? Or waking up on a Saturday morning with no one waiting for you at the kitchen table?
I always return from Israel with a sense of expectation. As if I’m waiting for something. Waiting for the next trip to Israel, that’s for certain. But also, a larger sense of waiting. Waiting to return to Israel for good. Every visit to Israel tightens the strings that connect me to my birthplace, pulling me closer to the day that I become a toshevet choseret - a “returning resident.”
Returning to Los Angeles, I feel like I left home and came home at the same time.
It’s no wonder I feel out of sorts.
(Top: Purim Parade - Holon; Middle: Shabbat dinner - Hadera; Bottom: My sister’s wedding - Haifa)
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