This interterm/winter break, I am going to be taking 7 flights: 5 domestic, and two 12-hour international flights. This is not an unusual plan for me. I travel… a lot and always have. I have memories of being woken up extra-early on a Monday morning by my mom with the words “How do you feel about Kansas?” and then not fully waking up into I realized we were touching down on the tarmac in Kansas City, Kansas (or was it Missouri? I still can’t remember…) Sometimes I love flying – it makes me feel high-powered, professional, and efficient. I love that scene, near the very beginning of Fight Club:
“Everywhere I travel, tiny life. Single-serving sugar, single-serving cream, single pat of butter. The microwave Cordon Bleu hobby kit. Shampoo-conditioner combos, sample-packaged mouthwash, tiny bars of soap. The people I meet on each flight? They’re single-serving friends.”
Okay, I’m definitely not a Tyler Durdon type (what kind of type would that be? and would they even identify themselves? Probably not…), but there is something to that immediacy, the disposable quality everything has. When you’re flying, or while you’re in transit, you get to completely re-make yourself, if just in your head. It’s a refresh button on your life, especially if you’re traveling alone.
There’s also this sadness that I always, ALWAYS have in transit. This feeling that I have left somewhere, a time in my life, and I will never be able to return to it.
I consider myself bi-national, of two national identities. I am American and Israeli. Israeli American or American Israeli, depending on the day…
I see these two identities in conflict: Can I really serve in the Israeli military after college if I am also an American citizen? Can I really vote conscientiously in the US if my loyalty also lies elsewhere? What if America and Israel were no longer allies? Granted, if this happened, Israel would probably be obliterated by its neighbors, so this would probably only be a problem for the 1st 30 seconds after breaking of ties before Israel was nuked, and I wouldn’t really have time to think about it… On a less political train of thought, I constantly have to consider the question: “Where is home?”
I am both lucky and unlucky to say that I have always had two. There is the “easier” home to identify – the brownstone that my parents and I moved into when I was two. Then there’s my more complicated home, my Jewish one, the socialist agriculturally based community (kibbutz) where my grandparents and the rest of my dad’s family lives. There’s a feeling I get when I land in Israel that is completely unlike any else I know. It’s “Home” in the greater sense, knowing a belong in a country who actively WANTS me to be there, will do things to ensure my, personal safety. Obviously, it’s more than that. Israel is a place where the models on magazines kind of resemble me… where I don’t have to seek out prayer, or food that is Jewishly clean (kosher) or nice Jewish boys, because it’s a country of people who also want those things.
Yes, Israel has its problems, both social and political and there is certainly a time and place to discuss those things too. I think it’s very easy to forget, when debating two-state vs one-state and the truly fucked up politics of everyone from Hamas, to Netanyahu, is that it’s also a real PLACE, a HOME. When I hear “Israel” I think about the smell of cows, and fresh baguettes sold on the side of the road, and the way the sun bounces off the desert. In the next week, I’m going to try to post a couple things about THAT Israel, which I feel like Americans are generally much less familiar with.
Part of going back to Israel though, is remembering that while I’m at Amherst, studying in the below 0 winter, I’ll be missing out on the end of my second year of army service. When I was born, my parents chose not to claim my Israeli citizenship so that I wouldn’t be drafted when I turned 18. They wanted to give me the choice about whether or not to join the army. (In all honesty, my mom, like all mothers, was hoping I wouldn’t). In Israel, there is mandatory army service for 2 years for women. As a woman, and an Israeli, I feel like this service is compulsory for me as well, even though I would technically be a volunteer.
Obviously I decided to go to college first, but a big part of that decision was the realization that with a college education I could get a more interesting assignment during my service. (NB: This is definitely something I go back and forth on a lot – only graduation will tell if I actually make it to the army…) Point being, that it’s always disorienting for me to see all these kids, my age and now younger than me, in their uniforms and with their M16s while I’m here… studying? Playing around with my friends and my feelings on this over-sized playground for not-quite-grown-ups. On the other hand, what are they doing – fighting in wars they don’t care about? Devoting two years of their life to wandering around Haifa with a gun?
Sometimes being home is like watching my life take place in a parallel universe, and it’s just so frustrating to me that I can’t hold on to both. No matter how hard I have tried to straddle these two worlds, two languages, and two paths, I can’t actually grow up both ways. I just have to content myself with a visit every couple of months.
So yes, I travel a lot, and it’s hard, but it also never feels like enough.
See you on the other side! <3 ConstantLy