Did you have one of these shape sorters as a child? (Maybe your kids did!)
Look at all those shapes. Some of them are very similar - the pentagon and the hexagon; the trapezoid and the square; the triangle and the little rounded cone-triangle (is there a name for that shape?).
(Babies were smarter in those days, I guess - newer shape sorters are much simpler.)
The fascinating part was that no matter how similar the shapes, they wouldn't slide nicely into the wrong hole.
So I think I'm like that, a bit.
We're back in Israel now. We got home at midnight last night.
And so now, I can tell you my secret: I was half expecting to hate it here. Maybe more than half. My daughter was in tears as the plane was taking off, leaving behind so many of the people she loves in Canada. I braced myself, just in case I got here and felt SO depressed to be back.
I even thought about this aliyah blog, in those few minutes on the plane of wondering. If I stopped loving Israel, would I fake it and continue to post, or just let the blog die on its own?
When the plane took off, leaving Israel, I cried, totally out of the blue. It almost hurt to leave. That never happens to me, so I was wondering if I'd feel the same leaving Canada to come back here. Sad, torn, bereft.
I thought the heat, the sand, the dry and brown would all combine to make me feel just awful the minute we arrived.
Beyond the general “drat” feeling of a long-awaited vacation that’s over, I just feel regular. I miss my family like crazy. But just like slipping back into my right-shaped slot, I feel like I'm back to my regular life in a way I haven't in a month.
Some (read: your own cynical 19-year-old child!) would argue that you can't just pull up tent pegs after 40-something years and set up shop in a whole new country and have it be "home" right away.
So I agree, to a point. Israel doesn't always feel familiar. It's only been two years for us; it doesn't have to happen overnight.
But I also disagree. I don't think it matters what shape of a Jew you are, Israel still feels like home. It still IS home.
Here is what I believe about Israel: You (yes, you!) will find your place here, and live a better Jewish life, more easily than you could anywhere else.
Pretty simple, if you think about it, but I’ll put this epiphany here in big letters just in case you missed it:
There is no better place in the world to live as a Jew.
Some people don’t think it’s so great, actually.
In fact, it irritated some people in Canada when I said this - rather outspokenly. And the irritation is mutual: some people in Canada irritated me by standing up and talking about how important Israel is when they would never dream of living here themselves.
I don't mind bugging people a little with my opinions. It's not like I'm not putting my money where my mouth is. I'm walking the walk. I live here, and I wish they were, too.
Here’s why the same country that’s perfect for ME is also perfect for YOU: Israel is the shape sorter of our Jewish lives. It doesn't change who you are. Each of us has our little slot where we fit just perfectly through the gates of aliyah. And once you've found your way in, you're home.
Do you know how many of my posts here end with a final thought containing the word "home"? I don't. I've never counted. But I'd bet it's a whole lot of them. Sometimes, there's no other word for what I feel here.
"Home" can be a scary word, of course. Right up there with “forever” as one of the very scariest, especially if you already feel like you ARE home somewhere else. Canada, say. Or the United States. Or England. Or Australia.
I just spent four weeks watching, talking to, hugging and enjoying a whole bunch of Jews who feel, pretty much, like they are home already. And that they're doing just fine Jewishly. They may be. I admit, it's pretty hard to imagine some of them actually living here.
But that doesn't mean there isn't a place for them. Because really, truly (and here I go again), there's no place like home.
It’s good to be back.