5.21.2006

Israel, America, Home, and Homeland

Read this article from the latest issue of Zeek, by Sara Sherbill, titled "Leaving Homeland." I didn't live in Israel for seven years, but I did spend 10 months there, plus three summers, plus, I think, seven 2-3 week trips.

The reasons that Sara moved there are some of the reasons that I would move there (I also have others):
  • "I felt more at home than I had ever felt before: in America I had felt Jewish; in Israel, I felt like myself."
  • "Still, living there made me, if not a holier person, a wholer one."
And the reasons that she eventually came back to the States are some of the reasons that I think I could never live there permanently, at least not with a year or two back in the US every so often (I also have other reasons):
  • "The longer I lived in Israel, the more I came to feel an odd mix of belonging and not-belonging. After years of living there, I felt both utterly at home and foreign."
  • "But eventually, a part of me came to feel trapped. My world was small and circumscribed, and I started to wonder about all the parts of me that were going unexplored. I hadn't changed jobs in seven years because good English-speaking jobs are in short supply. I never found a group of writers with whom I could really share my work. I grew tired of everyone around me always talking about God and His books."
  • "So many Americans come to Israel to do their seeking, but I was tired of seeking. I wanted to talk about other things. Living in Israel, I always felt I was part of Jewish history unfolding, but eventually I came to see I wanted to feel my own life unfolding."
Even if you can't or don't identify with these sentiments, you should read the article because it is beautifully written. It also might help you understand why other people feel this way about Israel and why they feel this way about America. Perhaps I will write more about Israel and America another time.

3 comments:

BZ said...

"I felt more at home than I had ever felt before: in America I had felt Jewish; in Israel, I felt like myself."

That's one reason why Israel didn't work out for me. In America I feel like myself; in Israel I felt American and neither-secular-nor-Orthodox. (Yes, in America I feel Jewish, but that is feeling like myself.)

ALG said...

Hmmmm... I agree that feeling Jewish is feeling like myself, but I sometimes feel that the Judaism gets in the way of others things (interpersonal relationships, socializing, jobs in the past although not now) in the US. I never feel that way in Israel. It's true, though, that feeling American sometimes does a similar thing in Israel, but when I'm in Israel, I feel less "set aside" as an American than I feel "set aside" as a Jew in the US, if that makes any sense. I guess there are so many nationalities and backgrounds among Israelis that I feel less "outside" because of that there. It's true in the US, too, but Christianity is very dominant here.

If I felt neither-secular-nor-Orthodox I'm sure that I would have a harder time in Israel. As it is, I don't identify with most religious Zionists (superficially the group closest to Modern Orthodox Jews in the US, which is superficially the group I am most like in the US), but I think there are enough almost-Orthodox, semi-Zionist Jews in Israel that I fit in with them just fine.

Richard Martinoff said...

The question may not be whether Israel feels comfortable, but whether, ala Zhabotinsky, there is an obligation to stay or live there that nudges at us subconsciously.
Richard M
P.S. I went to elementary school with Sarah. She was an accomplished writer even back then.:)