Everyday life in an extraordinary place.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Where is Home?

This Postcard from Israel was originally written on 16 September 2000

I know a number of North Americans who made aliyah (moved to Israel). Each one has a different story: the why of it, the reactions of family and friends left behind, and the personal realities of adjusting to life in Israel. I have known ardent Zionists who finally managed to fulfill their life-long dream of moving here, only to discover that they simply couldn't adapt to life here. I know others who have lived here for decades and feel that this is the one place on earth they were meant to be. I know people whose parents were proud and delighted at their child's decision, and others whose parents have refused to speak to them since the day they left for Israel.

I have lived here for five and half years. Most people I know have been here much longer than that, and are in a slightly different place, emotionally, than I am as regards living here. I haven't made a study of it to see if there is a recognizable pattern to adjustment to Israeli life. I can tell you that my own experiences have included feelings of confusion, regret, and indecision (should I move back to America? did I do the right thing, moving here?). The longer I live here, the more certain I am that I have done the right thing, the best thing for myself and my family. Yet, every time I have gone back to America to visit my family, I have been haunted by a lingering sense that there, too, is home.

How can I deny or forget the place where I grew up, when every trip to the store, or to see friends there takes me past places that have meaning for me, even today? "See that building there?" I asked my daughter Liat a couple of weeks ago, as we drove along College Avenue in Berkeley. "That's where my high school used to be." Now, why should she care about that, especially since the high school buildings are long gone, and the school is thriving in a different location? But it matters to me. "See this furniture store here?" I asked her a different time. "Your aunt and I used to come here and shop when we were teenagers. It was a clothing store called The Little Daisy back then." I didn't blame her for her noncommittal answer and small shrug. But how could I not feel a pull, a sense of belonging, to places that hold so many memories? And feeling that pull, how could I resist trying to share some of my past with my daughter?

But the more I looked around, trying to reconnect with my past, the more I saw how much things had changed. That doesn't affect my fondness for the places I remember, but it reminds me that time doesn't stand still. And that's as it should be. Sometimes the visits I make in my mind to the places of my past are more meaningful than the reality.

(c) Amy Samin

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