Friday, July 23, 2010

Maybe Thomas Wolfe Was Right...

...when he said "you can't go home again."

Habaita in Hebrew is a command word meaning home. As in go home. As in the name of this blog Habaita Y'all. I have always felt that Israel was my home. And for the last 20 years all I've wanted to do was to simply go home. If you've read my other posts you will know about the pull and love I feel for Israel. About the feelings I have of belonging here yet feeling a total stranger at the same time. About knowing that my past, my history is here yet not actually feeling that I've participating in said history and the guilt and confusion that it stirs within me.

For the last 20 years I have put Israel on a pedestal. It was a magical place. It was a place that I belonged. Not just because here my name is common. Not just because I am Jewish. Not just because the national language here is the language of my childhood. It was an indescribable feeling of simply belonging. Of knowing that Israel is the place I am supposed to be. It just felt...right. It was home.

But then something shifted (and my relationship with Israel shifted right along with it - a topic I will be exploring in a later post). I realized that part of the reason I so longed to be here all of these years was due to good old fashioned nostalgia. We all idealize that time in our lives when we were children and things were simple. So when we smell, see, taste, etc things from our childhood all of those memories of carefree summer days and slumber-party-filled winter nights flood our memories. The only difference for me is that I have to travel 5,600 miles to experience those sensory driven memories, whereas most of my friends still live in the same town where they grew up, or at least get to visit it more than twice in two decades. You see, for me, once I left Israel, eating a borreka while watching Alf with Hebrew subtitles wasn't readily available. Hearing Hebrew wherever I went wasn't a reality. Introducing myself without having to explain how to pronounce my name ("I-Yell-It, like I-Scream-It, Ayelet") was a rarity. Not to mention that my first month of being back in Israel this summer was like a honeymoon. I got to spend time with friends and really get to know my family. I got to go to the beach during the day, party at night and really relax. So of course when I got to experience all of these things I was overwhelmed with feelings of belonging and love and happiness. But then, after a month or so, the nostalgia wore off and the honeymoon ended and I was just another woman in another country. And I had no idea where home was.

So now what?


Now it's time for me to create my home, instead of going on an epic journey looking for it. Now I know that home can be anywhere in the world, as long as love lives there. Now I know that home is wherever I am happiest. Now I know that home is where I set my roots and create a family and community.

I think this song explains perfectly where home is. And when you listen to the lyrics of the chorus the "You" is my family, my friends, my partner (whomever he turns out to be).

I've been writing and re-writing this post for over a week now. At times the post got me down, confused, frustrated. Now I just feel ready. Ready to go home.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Answer

In my last post I had a lot of questions for myself. One that has been sticking out was "Am I supposed to go through life with moderate to low expectations so I'm not disappointed as easily or am I to stay true to my nature which is to love and smile and laugh and get excited over anything, from delicious chocolate morsels to helping save a dog's life? "

I found the answer. It's the latter.

As it turns out life can be as wonderful as I imagine it to be and there is nothing wrong with loving and laughing and getting excited over silly small things or truly important things. Going through life with low or moderate expectations will just make life dimmer. And if I keep searching for what I am looking for I won't be disappointed because it's out there. In the past I was held back by fear. Fear of leaving Comfort. Fear that moderate happiness is really the best that is available (so why bother looking for better?). Fear that I will walk away just before things become good. But I know now that Comfort is a wolf in sheep's clothing. Moderate Happiness is an oxymoron. And that if I wait for things to become good I'll never find that something that already is good.

Since arriving at Kibbutz Holit life has turned around. I have found a calm happiness that I didn't know I ever craved. Before life on Holit I could never imagine myself living anything but the crazy busy city life, but being here has shown me that life can actually be more fulfilling with less. For the first time in I-don't-know-how-long I've felt stress free. Truly and totally. I'm not worried about meeting quota for my job or if I have enough cash to go out for Happy Hour. I'm not concerned with who is doing what to whom and who is winning. There is no TV show that I am rushing to get home to watch (or DVR as it were). No racing heartbeat when I hear the subway coming and I don't have my metro card out to catch it in time. Life is simple.

I supposed I should give you a glimpse into my life here on Holit to paint a picture of my new summer life.

Sundays through Thursdays:
Wake up at 6:30am (which I don't even mind so you know something is special here)
Have breakfast with my bosses and co-worker from 7:00ish-7:30ish.
Work in the orchards from 7:30ish - 12:00ish (with a 30ish minute break at 10:00ish).
Lunch with everyone on the kibbutz from 12:00ish-12:45ish .
Work in the orchards from 1:00ish - 2:30ish

I use "ish" because that's how time works here. The world doesn't end if you take a 32 minute break. Somehow we still manage to go on if we start lunch at 12:03. And low and behold the world doesn't end if we don't get picked up from work to go home until 2:41.

After work we (the volunteers) hang out, go to Computers (the computer room), play Corn Holes in the back yard, kick the ball around (or in my case watch the boys kick the ball around), watch TV, read (we do that the most), nap, catch up on phone calls, etc.

Then at 6:30 we all (the entire kibbutz) have dinner together in the dining room until about 7:30.

After we eat most of the people from dinner hang out together in the court yard watching the kids play and the dogs nap as we eat our ice cream and candy and talk. (And a lot of the talking is in Hebrew which only adds to the happiness).

After sunset we do more of the same that we do between work and dinner. Sometimes the volunteers (there are 5 of us) and some of the other younger people on the kibbutz also play cards, watch movies, or just hang out together as someone picks up the communal guitar and sings. The conversation flows and at times so does the wine and beer.

The weekends are just as relaxing.

Fridays and Saturdays:
We have a pub on the kibbutz (which is actually a bomb shelter) so we sometimes drink there. We go down the cement stairs as someone turns on the music and yet another pours the drinks and opens the bottles. Or we'll take a day trip to the beach or maybe find a small mountain/hill to climb and look over to Gaza and the other surrounding areas. Sometimes we'll just climb a building (the laundry room, a monument in the area, etc) and make tea and talk. This past Friday night we went to a Moshav about 15 minutes away from the Kibbutz. We parked the cars by the reservoir, turned on the music, fired up the hookah and star-gazed.

It just goes to show that not giving up the search to find what I was looking for was the right move. Settling is never necessary. It's out there, what I want, what you want, we just have to be willing to look for it, and sometimes create it.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

I think I owe you an explanation

I think I owe you lovely followers an explanation. I posted on Facebook that I was leaving the kibbutz and did not tell you why. There are so many specific stories to share but I'd like to give you a broad over-view.

There were a few key points I was looking for when deciding which program to participate in this summer. I wanted to be with people my age range (25 - 35), mingle with Israelis, have weekends to see my friends and family, and be outside as much as possible. I was elated when I found out about the Kibbutz Program Center - it was as if I had written a list of the qualities I was looking for in a summer program onto a sheet of paper, ripped that paper into pieces and threw it in the fire place (a la Mary Poppins), and poof, Kibbutz Program Center came swooping in on her umbrella in form of a website.

When I got to Kibbutz Bar'am however I discovered something quite different. The age group here is mainly 18 - 22. The first night I was here the main activity was mixing any hard alcohol that was around with punch and smoking cigarettes while listening to trance music. Awesome. If I wanted to party all the time I would have stayed in Manhattan, where the drinks are quality, the music is bumpin, the company doesn't require fake IDs (mainly), smoking is banned inside and the night life scene is one of the best in the world. I got the whole partying thing down and G-d knows it'll still be there when I get back. I came here for more. Much much more.

Also, not one of the 50+ volunteers are Jewish and we don't even really get a chance to mingle with the Kibbutznikim (people who live on a kibbutz). Many times I have been asked by the volunteers "Are you a Jew?" Seriously. Of all places, Israel is not the place where I should be hearing this.

I was working all day either packing apples in a factory, with only my music to keep me company, or most recently cleaning the Plastic Factory. Believe it or not, the cleaning job was actually like striking gold in comparison to packing apples. As my brother so eloquently put it "You know you're in trouble when cleaning the shitter is a good job." On top of this I am way up north and getting to and from Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Beer Sheva (where my friends and family are) is nearly impossible. In short, this was not what I signed up for.

Now comes the growing...

I felt so conflicted about what I should do. I wanted to give this place a fair shot and not regret leaving it. But the more I talked about the Kibbutz with friends and family the more I realized just how unhappy I am here. I kept going back and forth, mainly trying to convince myself to stay. And then I realized that if I stay here I will eventually convince myself that it was an alright place and that nothing is as wonderful as you hope it to be. I would have let the summer pass by and and would have convinced myself (and everyone else) that it was a good time, knowing all along that I wanted more.

And then BAM!

I realized that this line of thinking is exactly why I found myself in a five year relationship that should have ended after three. Or maybe two? And if I didn't take action and improve my situation immediately then all of these months of growing pains would have been for naught. And as I said in my first post on this blog - I'll be damned if my life isn't over-flowing with joy.

So now what...?

There are a lot of options and I am trying to decide where to go. There is a Moshav between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem that is taking volunteers, there is another kibbutz (near Gaza) through The Kibbutz Program Center that has Jewish volunteers and are looking for more, there is the option to get a job and apartment in Tel Aviv, or perhaps skip around between friends and family and do some traveling. The point is that I am not stuck. I never was and I never will be. All I know is that I am leaving this Kibbutz as early as Thursday.

I keep feeling like I somehow failed. Or that I was duped. Or that I am being unreasonable. I want to make sure I continue to stay present and embrace what is presented to me. If I leave am I just pushing away change or if I stay am I only repeating the same pattern? I feel silly for having been so excited to come here. Did I set myself up? Am I supposed to go through life with moderate to low expectations so I'm not disappointed as easily or am I to stay true to my nature which is to love and smile and laugh and get excited over anything, from delicious chocolate morsels to helping save a dog's life? I suppose right now I'm feeling lost. I feel like I need to just take a huge step back and deprogram in a way. Let go of my assumptions about how life is supposed to go and get in tune with how I want my life to go. I think in order to do that I need to reboot. Reset. If only I could find that little button....

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Survivor's Guilt?

I had planned on writing this post as a sort of detailed agenda of what I did during my first week in Israel. I had a title picked out and everything. But as I am learning to go with whatever life throws my way, and be ok with changing even the best laid plans, I find myself thinking, and therefore writing, about Survivor's Guilt.

I have always had a little nagging feeling of guilt not being in Israel, especially when there is some sort of war or attack happening here. I think, why should I be at home, comfortable, watching CNN or reading YNetNews while other Israelis are living in Israel, defending it, ensuring it will always be here so the rest of us can come for a vacation every too-many-years, spend our dollars and euros, and then go back home, where we don't have to walk through metal detectors before we enter a mall, or sleep in bomb shelters for a month straight because it's easier than having to run down the stairs every single night when the sirens blast, or worry that if we only have two children then we are running a huge risk of leaving one of our kids as an only child? Being here for only a week has turned that nagging feeling into full blown guilt. It's not Survivor's Guilt by definition, but it makes me feel guilty that other Israelis have had to live (and fight) through wars and terror attacks while this Israeli is leading the typical American life - with her blond hair, blue eyes and not a callous on her freshly manicured hands.

For the last week I've been going out every night dancing, drinking, talking, laughing, eating and simply being among Israelis. Between chasers (what they call shots here) or bites of shawarmas I find myself thinking what gives me the right not to live in Israel and still claim to love it as much as I do? Before the calls start coming to my pelephone (cell) convincing me not to make Aliyah, let me say I have not made any decisions to live here. But I do find myself at odds.

On my way from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv I found myself sitting at the back of the bus with a clear view of the rest of the passangers. As it was a Thursday afternoon the bus had quite a few soldiers on it who were on their way home for the weekend (which is Friday and Saturday here, not Saturday and Sunday). The bus was packed and people were squeezing by to get a seat or a more comfortable place to stand. It's a dance any New Yorker knows...The Dance Of The Crowded Bus...hugging your purse into your body, or placing your packpack on the floor between your legs - anything to minimize the space you are taking up. And here, in Israel, these teenaged soldiers have also mastered the Dance Of The Crowded Bus, except their dance partners are M16s instead of backpacks.

It was second nature for them to move their gun this way or that to let someone pass. Just as it is second nature here to open your purse or bag to be checked by security before entering any building. Just as it is second nature to look for a place to protect yourself when you go to a new restaurant during war-time should an airraide siren blast. Some people think this would be a reason to never want to live here. For me however, for reasons that only a trained professional could explain I'm sure, it draws me in.

I suppose I am comparing this to Survivor's Guilt because when all is said and done, it comes down to the fact that I don't think I have the right not to go through the trauma other Israelis have had to endure and still call myself an Israeli.

And though this post is a bit darker than I had hoped I have to say what an amazing time I am having here. It's incredible to be surrounded by family, having more cousins than I know what to do with! Looking around the room on Friday nights, between the kiddish and dessert, seeing the 20+ faces whose names one way or another have a spot on my family tree, it reminds me just how important family is to me. Perhaps more important than I ever realized. Yes, being in Israel is openning my eyes to many facets of myself. And I love every second of it.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

I am here in this room

Well, here I am.

As we were nearing Tel Aviv and I could see where water met land I thought "well, this is rather anti-climactic." I thought I'd be more emotional, more moved. And then...

I found myself feet off of the runway, face pressed against plexiglass, eyes fixed on the ground, holding my breath, waiting for the gentle thud of wheels hitting tar, connection with the land, with Eretz Yisrael, and with every second of anticipation my smile stretched wider and wider and my body was screaming for air but I couldn't let go, not yet, not til we touched the ground. And Exhale. Laugh. And then the tears started flowing. Such wonderful warm-fuzzy tears. I'm here. I did it. Ready or not, here I am.

As we made our approach I put all of my focus on what I want to get out of this experience. I made a huge change in my life and I want to use this time to really focus that change, become clear on my intentions. This is what I came to realize: I simply, maybe not simply, want to be here in this room...

Let me go a few steps back. More like ten years back. When I was a freshman in my BFA Acting program (Elohim that was 10 years ago, oof) I had a movement teacher named Diana. She had a very simple exercise that helped me become present and grounded, two buzz words that are fundamental in acting school. All we would do is stand still, look at an object, breathe in and on the exhale say "I am here in the room." It's a reminder to stay present. A reminder that we are present. A reminder I need. Constantly.

With the MANY hours I had to simply sit with my thoughts on my journey to Israel I found myself thinking about the various weddings I will be going to this summer/fall, my trip to California in August, meeting my new niece in September, what I will do to make money when I return to NY in October, who will stay in my life through the summer and beyond, who will come back into my life in the fall, and who will have simply moved on, and then it hit me, I am already thinking past Israel and I've not yet landed.

And that's when I came to realize that this summer, in Israel, I want to really learn how to remain present. I want to learn how to really be here in this room.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Hot, Dry and Sunny

Living in America, especially in Manhattan and other cities where the residents depend on public transportation, we get into a routine of checking the weather before we head out the door for the day. Will I need a jacket, an umbrella, will my feet be cold in sandals or hot in boots? It's a dance we dance with Mother Nature and our trusty weather-(wo)man (who 80% of the time isn't so trusty in the end).

But in Israel...ah Israel. The weather there during the summer is hot, dry and sunny. And guess what? It's gonna stay hot, dry and sunny all summer long. None of these random summer storms, or unseasonably cool days. Just hot. Dry. And sunny. Packing just got a whole lot easier.

5 days til take off.