I was walking home Shabbat afternoon and of course I started thinking. Apparently nobody told my brain that it had the day off but nonetheless I’d like to share my thoughts with you. The idea somehow popped into my head that I should probably visit Israel once more as a “tourist”, well as much as one can be a tourist in their people’s homeland anyhow. But this idea started to develop more and more and now it’s reached the point where I’m planning to look into travel dates during my mid-winter vacation.
I remember when I went to Israel shortly after my barmitzvah. Until that point, Israel had been some faraway place you heard stories about, but the second I stepped off that plane early that September morning, it became a moving reality. I remember as I was going in to the airport, I heard a few people cheer out “we’re back”!! It was really wonderful start to my Israel experience.
Over the week I was there, I crammed many things into my itinerary. The first day I was there I went to the Kotel. Looking at the only remnant of God’s great temple, where Jews of all colors and stripes come to pray to the Almighty, I felt a deep spiritual connection. The kosher Burger King on Ben Yehuda Street convinced me that this place wasn’t bad at all. I probably visited more kosher fast food joints than I did family.
The next day was Friday. My mother and I went to have breakfast with my aunt and uncle at a winery close to their kibbutz. After a delicious meal, we headed back to the kibbutz so I could meet my cousins, some of whom I had never met before. While we were on the road, I looked out at the beautiful scenery all around and I turned to my mother and with tears in my eyes I said “I belong here”. And it was at that moment that I decided I would make aliyah – even though it wasn’t a conscious decision.
I spent my Shabbat with my other aunt and uncle on their yishuv near Modiin, and I have to say it was a very memorable Shabbat. To date, it’s the only time I’ve been to shul while the other attendees were toting assault rifles, but it’s an unfortunate need that I assume I’ll get used to in no time at all. Shabbat afternoon I attended Bnei Akiva with my cousins, which I found quite amusing because me, the good yeshiva boy I was then, had no knowledge of Ivrit whatsoever. Try playing a game and not knowing what everybody is saying, not much fun, but it was an experience.
Over the rest of my stay, I spent some quality time visiting my grandparents in Netanya, visiting my great-uncle on kibbutz, as well as a wide assortment of cousins. During my stay there, I fell in love with Israel. I loved the holiness, the history, and the fact that I will get to carry a gun was pretty cool too, although I’m assured I’ll get used to it….. Right.
All this has led me to where I stand now. 9 months left until I walk off that plane onto Israeli soil with the biggest smile on my face. 9 months until I come home. But I’d like to make that final “tourist” trip home before I officially come home.