Friday, June 20, 2014

As the American.

Standing amongst a group of all native born Israelis, I have never felt embarrassed about growing up in America. I stand proudly as an Olah and all the strength that dances in the two intertwined flags. I know my ascent sounds misplaced and my mannerisms don't match everyone else's but I find a subtle confidence in my identity. Having dual citizenship has been an honor and when I think of the democratic process and worldly education I have received, I couldn't be more thankful. I connect with American ideals of rooting for a success in journeys via hard work ethic, and when I hear someone speaking English, it brings me indescribable amounts of joy. I am American.

But, I am a Jew. First and foremost, my identity card is the one that put my people in death camps, the one that kicked us out of Spain and the one that suffered in pogroms. The DNA that flows through my twenty year old body connects me to the people who experienced the miracles I celebrate, and passed down a book of our story of finding morality. I inherit it all regardless of acceptance so I guess I choose to follow nature here; even when the tides of action twist in contorted figures.

Daydreaming out the window, my phone vibrates with a what's app message from my friend notifying me that three sons of my people were kidnapped on their way home from school. Later on, news updates drown out the world with details. Not just kidnapping, but by a terrorism organization. Trying to make sense of the sudden weight in the air, I find an angst of unease in the silence from my birth country.

It's tough to be the only American. The jokes. The random questions. The frustration in the lacking materialist ease that I am used to. But nothing is harder than the self disappointment in representing a country that cares more about celebrities and sporting events than crimes against humanity. It's tough to swallow the embarrassment of voting for a President who hasn't made a single comment about innocent boys being held captive by terrorists, a president who hasn't mentioned that a citizen of The United States was kidnapped by terrorist. I find myself doubting the beauty of my first passport, not because it's not a good place to live, but only because it's not my place to live.

Last night, my roommate woke up at 2am from the boom of rockets nearby. In San Deigo, that sentence would never make sense. Last night, there were mothers clutching their children, praying for the return of others. In San Diego, the news taking place on the other side of the world notifies about the hostage of human beings. Last night, I went to sleep in a Jewish country. In San Diego, the graffiti on the side of the bridges often resembles swastikas.

It's been a week. A week of the unknown; except for knowing the pain. A week of tragic pride, of reactive Zionism; a tearful hug of my people. My expectation of American assistance is far-reaching; our friendship has boundaries. Overly involved diplomacy is also a messy business. I would just hope for words of compassion in trying times, like many other international leaders.   Maybe a mention of combating terrorism, a possible comment about freedom or the simply empathy for the parents of the boys..... Maybe I'm just being overly American in that way.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

It does Exist.

There's something very vibrant existing in the land; an authentically pungent yet invigorating quality empowering the country. Maybe it's in the soil that fuels the ridiculously incredible flowers blooming in every pocket of Israel. Maybe it's in the nods of helpful hands of strangers or maybe it's immersed in the geographic location of our home. Lately the news of naively hopefully talks have confronted the foreign relationship of my birth country muddling in the tricky politics of my new neighborhood. The problem of peace talks is that rockets from Gaza sent me a different message. The problem with the news highlighting a few quotations is that the real life stories feel silenced. The two democracies of the United States and Israel thrive under divergent environments and it's the differences that compliment the friendship. The reality of the day is the existence of Israel is dependent on the answering of the call to exist.

The magic in one of Aleh Negev's youngest residents finding a new family to adopt her in love and in recognition of her potential exemplifies the great hope in the quite miracles here. The past month of watching a 7ft tall Dutch volunteer care for the residents with such radiance that glistened from his blond locks, my heart grew from the undefinable energy he endorsed. Standing at attention for the siren of Holocaust Remembrance day next to Russians, Moroccans, Yemenites, and Arabs, one of the residents reaches out for my hand. The unity of the contradictingly non unified population stands in defiance of a pledge, in remembrance of innocent victims and paradoxically, in initiation of living together in a land that we all identify with somehow.

Touring Israel with my parents and Ilana introduces me to new lenses of locations and of myself. Giving them a thank you gift of transforming into an adult is not easy- for both parties involved. It's only with those guys that I can truly understand the quirks and traits that I have inherited. By studying the reflection, my own self definition crystallizes. And Beer Sheva and the beach in Eilat is the perfect setting to initiate the adventure, testing past versions of Israel against the modern infrastructure. We build the land. We build ourselves.

When bringing my parents home to Aleh Negev, it wasn't like showing off my 8th grade science project or my junior paper. It wasn't the new scarf or even a blog post. I think the words came out wrong. Or the trepidations squeezing through my fingers displayed my uneasiness. The level of comfort in my daily volunteering fell in humility as I attempt to conjoin my two worlds. Searching for that nod of absorbing that vibrant engergy of the land, I can't find it in their eyes. Not just yet. I introduce them to the individuals who have taught me the grand lessons of humanity this year. I share the newly finished mosaic signs for the safari created by the residents partnering with a local artist. The green house, medical ward, horse stable, therapy pool, incredibly thoughtful foliage and the fabulous mission statement that energizes strength through my veins. Showing off my home challenges my disappearing English vocabulary bank to capture the qualities about this location I want them to connect to. And only later as I hear this visit reverberated though my mom's lips am I able to comprehend that it's not at all about them getting my place, it's just them simply getting that it is in fact my place.

The actualization of our points of existence and the necessary changes in our relationship wraps every hug with a sigh of ephemerality. Every moment strains the clock clicking away our fleeting time together. The reality sinks in. I've moved here. In the hilarious   moments of the passover chag, it's the homeyness that's so evanescent in my current stage of life. I thought I had adapted to my two faced friend loneliness. I thought being the youngest threw me into the mud-pile of solitude when my siblings all moved away. I thought of my strut in individualism as a self embarked one man relationship with the world around me. Well, standing with my fingers interlocked with my mommy and daddy walking around in the north of Israel, the jarring cacophony of the siren in my mind welcomes me to the desperation of absorbing this moment.

Laying under the wind-chimes in Aleh Negev, I am whole. I am only the deeply feeling, totally present, ridiculously overwhelmed-with-life Talya. I can feel the sand between my toes and see the fish through my imaginary snorkeling goggles. I smile replaying the views of Mitzpeh Ramon, Banias and Gamla.... and the gentle kisses on my cheek. I am still playing "guess Talya's future" with my role models and walking with them around the location of my initiation into Israeli culture. I turn my head to the right and watch an ant carry a load beyond it's might. I whisper a prayer of encouragement- for both of us. I am fueling the energy of the land, preparing for my second year of National Service; exerting the unique call to existence, to success and to discovering oneself.