Monday, November 4, 2013


Coming back home, no matter the length of time one's been away, is always an adjustment. Al achat kama v'chama - how much the more so - when one's been in Israel.

Aside from the obvious time change and jet lag, there's also all these other factors that you have to sort of re-jigger your mind for. You have to account for the difference in language & communication, the difference in what things look like and what people look like. You have to prepare yourself for the change in atmosphere; the weather, the buildings, the signs and whatnot. But especially after leaving Israel, one experiences a total shift in the level of intensity; the thickness of the air surrounding you. 

Many people know the Hebrew word "aliyah." When one makes aliyah they figuratively ascend to something, including Israel. (It comes from the root l'alot, meaning to rise) There's making aliyah to become a permanent resident of Israel, doing an "aliyah" to the Torah, ascending physically - aliyah style - to the city of Jerusalem, which is high up in the hills. 

But when one makes "yeridah," which comes from the root laredet, meaning to go down, they literally descend from Israel. It's used as a derogatory term for those who have lived in Israel but leave, whether they do so in search of greener pastures or for family reasons or a job opportunity. It's not a kind expression. 

Each time I go to Israel it feels like I'm stepping up to a more concentrated intellectual experience, a thicker slice of life, a more polarized and less wishy-washy, highly opinionated, intense existence. When I leave and go back home, it feels like stepping away from the furnace, taking a step downstairs, entering a more calm, carefree zone, and taking a deep breath of fresh air. The terms aliyah and yeridah sort-of describe, at least for me, the never-a-dull-moment experience of going to Israel and the sudden shift in coming home. And I definitely felt that yesterday when I left the airport and came back to our apartment a mere three miles from the glorious Pacific Ocean. 

Let me be clear - this is not an endorsement of either term. It's simply a way to describe the experience of being in such a uniquely intense place and adjusting to coming back home. 

The question on the table is this ... how does one take the transformative and powerful experiences of Israel and bring them - in my case - to their congregational internship, to school, to her families and friends? How will people take to the highly-concentrated, bottled-up, intense collection of experiences I've garnered over the past ten days? Will even people listen?

These are questions I'm sure I will ponder as the days go on. For now, I'm rolling back into school and catching up on emails. I've got a strong cup of coffee to my left and my day planner to my right. Bring it on. 


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