Conversations with my Rabbi / Lori Mendel
#2, March 15, 2020
There are some questions that even Rabbi Ayala Samuels may not be able to answer!
Why is it that I, who didn’t know my family was Jewish until I was 20, who had a really nice life in California, who had a job at the time that I was overpaid and under- employed, came to Israel in 1986 on the way home from visiting Egypt and felt THIS IS HOME?
I had toured the glorious beauty of Egypt. I met a nice woman at the synagogue who invited me for tea. Why was she still there? For the old people. I went to Alexandria because I had read the Alexandria Quartet and needed to be there. But after visiting the former Jewish community that she connected me to, there was no place I could be. A single woman cannot comfortably walk on the street, sit in a café, or…
So I called El Al and said “Get me out of here!” They had an undisclosed address but I did fly out to Tel Aviv. When we landed, I thought everyone on the plane would kiss the ground but it was just a commuter flight.
I stayed at the Sheraton in TLV. In the morning I walked along the lively Dizingoff… and was intoxicated by the faces, the smells of good things cooking, the music… I was overwhelmed.
THIS IS IT! I said to myself. I HAVE TO BE HERE!
I thought about it while sitting in a café on the corner of Frishman and Ben Yehuda and the nice owner came to help me work it out. I could do it: divorced with no children, no house.
It was October… ski season coming up. Stay in Israel and ski for a week in France? Have my friends send my meager belongings? Or go back, quit my job, and go skiing for the whole season? I did… and when the snow melted in Deer Valley I told the Israeli Aliyah center… I am ready.
How is it that it still feels like HOME? My Hebrew very limited… I miss all the jokes. My background limited.
Even though I have been here in the country for 34 years, and have worked for Misrad habitahon, Hel Avir, Bank Hapolim, El Al, and taught at Shenkar College for ten years, I still find my feelings of HOME a mystery.
I have talked to other olim from the US and who have the same feeling… like Gershon Baskin who felt it as a youngster, who wrote about it in my book The PLACE I LIVE The PEOPLE I KNOW and in his book, PERSUIT OF PEACE IN ISRAEL AND PALESTINE.
Where does this come from? How does it persist?