In my glory of being reunited with America, I’ve promptly forgotten about the perils of this sometimes drama-ridden blog and thus have almost forgotten to do my last post (sorry Professors!) Alas, I keep remembering and am finally sitting down to write it. Part of my hesitation is truly because I have forgotten about the journey that this blog has taken with us and am so immersed in life here I haven’t had time but the other part of me has hesitated to write my last entry because I truly don’t know what to say.
It seems like lifetimes ago that we were packing up our apartment on our final day on French Hill. That Sunday we finished our last cleaning, expectantly waited for the silent man to inspect our rooms and grunt an OK or order to clean under our beds just a little better before we leave, went into town for a bit and then began the final wait for Monday morning at 3:30 for our sherut to take us back to, for most of us, our homeland and away from this religious one. Natalie and I watched as first Jiajing fluttered off to another side of the world in the morning, Katy left in the afternoon for her yearlong stay in another part of Israel that sometimes seemed like another part of the world, and at night when Carole left to go back to her native land. As we waved Carole out the door, Natalie smiled and shrugged her shoulders at me: “and then there were 2!” and plopped down on the couch. We had a light dinner, attempting to figure out a way to eat without silverware, plates, or glasses, and cuddled into our beds for an internet-less night of expectation. Whenever I would pause my reruns of Friends on my computer (the only entertainment I could think of to try to lull myself to sleep despite my excitement), I would hear the murmurs of her Friends episodes through our wall and laugh to myself at how pathetic we were without our beloved internet. We somehow managed to make it through the night getting bits of sleep here and there and were off the next day.
I know we are not supposed to have a nicely wrapped-up two sentences about how we feel about Jerusalem, the conflict, our internships, the GES in general, our experiences, etc but I do feel like that is what people are looking for when they ask “so…how WAS it?!” I am almost learning more about my friendships in terms of how I answer that question. To those who I don’t feel like explaining things to or I don’t think would understand, I just mutter off what I know they want to hear: “it was really fabulous and I miss it a lot though I’m glad to be home.” But to those who I am closer with, I hesitate, as I’m sure all of us are doing and try to explain: “It was really good. It was great, actually. I loved it. But…it was so hard. You can’t really describe it – there was so much tension everywhere you go – what you buy, what terminology you use, it was all political and you can’t escape that in your everyday life. It was difficult to have such religious extremes – on both sides – and to know there is so much anger and frustration and just extremism present in such a small, hot, crowded place. You had to be on guard everywhere you went. Yes, I felt safe. But in some ways I wasn’t. It’s complicated.”
Not to be elitist about it, but no one gets it – except for the other 9 in the group. When I tried explaining to a family friend that “it was a really hard place to be in” she responded “you mean, like customs? it was hard to go through customs?” I tried not to laugh when I answered that wasn’t exactly what I meant.
I loved it and I hated it, I miss it horribly and can’t imagine going back anytime in the near future. As Natalie just posted, I find myself thinking about the familiar streets and foods and shops but I can’t quite grasp them – it all feels like a dream. Perhaps it will feel more real when I see people back at school and we can reminisce. I still find myself half awak on Friday mornings looking for Carole to go get challah or disappointed on Saturday afternoon that I really want to get something from the store but, alas, it’s shabbat and everything’s closed. Then I laugh at myself as I grab the keys.
I thought I would have more nostalgia for this country – we would joke that when we first went into Target or Stop and Stop and realized that most anything we wanted was in one single store that we would kiss the ground and run around so happy to be back when there was an aisle with bandaids right next to an aisle with bikes right next to one with towels. But I’ve realized that I’ve been in tons of stores and places I thought I would die with happiness to be back at and I didn’t really notice – it goes to show how Americanized we’ve become – how ingrained it is that we should expect to have everything in every place we go. While I’ve missed the people horribly, I’ve gotten used to my American life a little too easily and wonder what that says about me. I’m trying to remember the values I learned in Jerusalem, however clique they may be – a meal where you literally can’t stop eating the homemade challah and fresh figs from the market around a table with your closest friends laughing so hard they fall on the ground as you can feel the hustle and bustle of the week slow down into a night and day of rest can be the most important part of your week.
I hope as time goes on I can figure out how to more eloquently explain what I “got out” of the summer and how it changed me. For now, I’m still stuttering over my words…at least there are 9 others who know exactly what I’m trying to say.