I'm sitting in Jerusalem, in the apartment of a guy I found on Couchsurfing, who just happens to be mutual friends with one of the people who sublet my apartment in NYC for June and July, dating the cousin of the person who housed me in Jerusalem my first night after Taglit, and whose girlfriend's sister almost sublet my apartment for August. (These sorts of situations have occurred quite frequently here.) I've been up since 6 --- cannot seem to sleep in this country, my mind is constantly going a mile a minute, and there is so much to see and do --- trying to get some photo editing done before heading out to face the day with my host. Well, for a few hours anyway. Seeing a friend from New York, who is here for a year studying in seminary, and then meeting up with the remaining Livnot chevre to celebrate the birthdays of two of our bnot sherut (our national service ladies... hope I spelled that correctly!). It promises to be a beautiful day.
I thought I might write another post trying to cover events between Livnot and now. Seeing how long the previous post became, and knowing how, um, verbose I can be and how many adventures have filled the time between then and now, I will have to save those recaps for another time. For the curious, though, the post-Livnot path has been as such: Jerusalem-Tel Aviv-Cairo-Dahab, Sinai-near Nuweiba, Sinai-Cairo-Luxor-Cairo-near Nuweiba, Sinai-Tel Aviv-Jerusalem-Tsfat-Kibbutz Yizre'el-Netanya-Tel Aviv... and back to Jerusalem, where I sit now. Anyway, all in good time, all in good time.
Besides, most of the previous post was about physical journeys, and there have been some pretty big mental ones as well. I came here with no expectations... without expectations, you cannot be disappointed. However, I was a bit disappointed at first. I felt emotionally... numb. Frustrated that I was not feeling connected to much of what we were seeing and doing. But I realized, too, that I had been feeling like that in life in general for awhile. Once so connected to my inner life, I had been simply going through the motions for awhile. A year? More? I'd had a tumultuous few months before leaving on this journey, so that certainly fed into my disconnectedness here. They are events I don't really need to discuss here --- many of you know them, and they are not what I need pervading my present existence, so far away. They are events that I kept to myself until sharing with a few people at the very end of Livnot, not wanting them to pervade everyone else's experiences either.
Numb. Tense. But at some point I started to feel again, "slowly, slowly." I started to feel alive, feel full, feel like me again. I was free, I AM free, from whatever preconceived notions others might have of me, from roles I somehow fell into playing for others. What was I doing? I do not have to live for anyone but myself, nor should I ever. Somehow I had lost sight of me, that true, unwavering sense of self. I was a shell... but I am slowly filling back up. What a wonder to be able to feel again, though.
And here everything is felt so much deeper. Connections are deeper (hence the name of the blog), which is something I realized pretty quickly. What you see is what you get. The real thing. People do not walk around with facades. (Well, some do... but I digress.) People open their homes, their hearts, their wallets (ok, the latter is perhaps a bit rare compared to the others) without a second thought. So many people have come into my life here for whom I feel such a deep sense of love and gratitude. Some of these people I knew before, but that connection changed here. It was unavoidable. Some of these individuals were part of my time with Livnot, so we have those experiences that unite us, but continued time here has deepened whatever connections formed over those two weeks. Being here has, for me anyway, deepened the connection to the chevre back home with whom I've been in contact. So many of the new people I've met since Livnot --- in Sinai, in Egypt, all over Israel --- nearly instantly became friends that I know I will remain in contact with for a long while. The main thing that always drew me to Judaism was community, and I have been constantly in awe of the communities that form here, quickly and intensely and so heartfelt. The people... they make this place.
I do not feel like I am very clearly imparting what it is that I want to impart... I am not sure how, honestly. The depth of experience here escapes description. But it has been filling me up, slowly, slowly. (Slowly, slowly... it's a phrase common here, and one we heard quite a bit in Egypt and Sinai as well.) Changing me. Or maybe not changing me, but leading me back to myself. It certainly has created a strong magnetism between two poles: me and this country. Landing here and feeling so little, this has obviously surprised me. I have been forced to face so many opinions I had before getting here (some of which I still hold, some of which are melting into others), to really question my beliefs, to try and reconcile the contradictions between what I thought before, what I've seen before me, and what I have yet to see. This will remain an ongoing process; if a liberal arts education taught me anything, it's that nothing can be taken for granted... one must question. It also taught me that, in the scheme of things, we truly know nothing. There is so much to learn. And I'm trying... I came here feeling very unprepared because I'd spent the prior few months mired in my thesis, whereas I would have liked to spend time reading whatever I could related to Israel, the Middle East, Judaism, the conflict(s) here (wow... that's overly-simplistic...), and so forth. Instead of feeling like I could confidently and intelligently engage in any sort of discourse, I found myself learning from listening to others' conversations, and being very grateful for their willingness to allow me to sit in.
It's a neverending conversation here. Everyone you meet has an opinion ("Hey! We're Jewish!"), and most are willing to debate and discuss. Right, left, moderate, impossible-to-categorize... I've spoken to people with all sorts of beliefs over the past few weeks as I've become more comfortable engaging in the conversation. It's a struggle, though, to be faced with opinions so different than my own, but so well-supported that they are still convincing on a lot of levels. Hence that reconciling... or not... but I never dismiss anything immediately.
Anyway, Jerusalem is saying that I need to get out the door.
Until next post...