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Before Israel

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When you read these words, I’ll be probably on my way to Israel already, to visit family, friends, and the old country. While I’m not making Aliya, it’s certainly feel like I do; in the sense that I haven’t been in Israel for so long, according to my “book-of-visits,” that it does feel – no matter how much I try to convince myself that it does not – like a “Return to the Homeland.” Or חזרה למולדת. Emotionally it feels this way, you see, even if I’ll be there for just short of three weeks.

I used to go more often, in the first years after I’d left the country. Mind you, it was never that I left the country “for good,” really. It was more like one big road trip across the sea and ocean to the land of new opportunities, with a new American wife. Will see what happened, I told myself, see if we can fulfill some dreams. And here I am still, thirty years later, older but hardly wiser. And now that I’m getting on in years, and the boys are striking it good on their own, both in Israel and in America, and money is fixed and in short supply, it simply that much more difficult to embark on such a long trip.

In fact, the last time I was in Israel it was on the sad occasion of my father’s death; also on Chanukah, as it happened, only then it came at the end of November. He just turned ninety-year-old, but I was not there for his birthday, as I’d promised I would be. And now I remember it every day, as I talk to him daily. And it is why I’m eagerly looking forward to this trip, when together with my adapted brother we will visit his grave in the kibbutz; there in the Jezreel Valley, under Mount Gilboa, where I grew up. A village and a childhood I miss so very much. Even though I know that the place I left behind is no longer the place I left behind. It is a “community” now, whatever that means. A “Bed and Breakfast,” as a friend who came back from a visit once observed. And yet for me it is – always will be – home.

Because home is where the heart is, isn’t that how the saying goes? Or where you left your heart. Where all the memories permanently reside. But of course, I have plenty of memories from my crazy days in Tel Aviv as well, after leaving the kibbutz, and later on upon returning from my studies in London. And there in Tel Aviv my family now lives, including the new arrival, a granddaughter, whom I’m yet to hold in my arms. She is the daughter of my Israeli son and his bright and beautiful wife. How sweet that’s going to be to see them all, and celebrate Chanukah together. And for me, to learn how to be – even if for such a short time – a grateful grandfather.

And of course – first and foremost – my mother still lives in that city. And even though she had experienced the horrors of the Holocaust, and all that had followed, she is reaching another milestone, as she turns ninety-year-old while I’m there. How cool is that, I ask you. And also the most important reason for my visit, my friends, to make sure I see her one more time. Enjoy each other’s company, talk things over, make a lasting peace if possible. As my Israeli son had pointed out when visiting me here two years ago: It’s better to see her while she’s still alive, even with her health deteriorating, than to come over for the funereal service. Well said.

I will meet and visit with my sister, of course, in the hope of spending some quality time together, help each other in preparing for the years ahead. And then there’s a woman friend in Tel Aviv as well, going back to those crazy days in Tel Aviv of the early eighties, both of us in the filmmaking business back then. We will meet, and hopefully reconnect. Who knows what we will find in in our hearts. Feeling young never gets old, they say. I will see, too, what’s new on the streets and cafes in Tel Aviv. I hear and read that the city, very much alive and crazy back then, is even more so now. A modern metropolis by the Mediterranean Sea, where every wave that comes ashore creates a ripple effect of renewal for the city itself and its people.

A “perpetuum mobile” of sorts, that what is. And so it is for me: a perpetual motion. Maybe a renewal awaits me there as well. Who knows. A new adventure. A new discovery. This is not a political visit, my friends, I promise you that. It’s a personal visit. Will I remember the road not taken? Of course I would. Reevaluate the road I had taken? You bet I would. I hope you’d forgive me this once for being so personal, and look forward with me for my report – After Israel – when I come back. Shalom.

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