Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The way she loves.

Love is something so complicated I don't know if any definition could cover all cases. Love is demanding and intense, and yet youthful and inspiring. Love is what The Beatles sang about, what Emily Dickinson dreamed about, what initiated wars, and hopefully will finish all wars. Love is larger than life and love creates life. 

I didn't realize that I was in love at first. I know I felt excitement and curiosity. I  know I wasn't ready to settle down yet, still playing yo-yo with plenty of suitors. I didn't expect to feel tingling shivers or to walk around trying to cover up my smile. I wasn't planning to find "the one" - let alone believing that it actually exists. But that's exactly how it works. Love causes us to do the things we wouldn't expect.... like packing up from the place I've lived my whole life and leaving the people that mean the most to me. 

Loving Israel is loving the good and the bad. Loving her is believing in her potential and being patient when she lets me down. Loving her means getting to know all of her and even loving the parts that I wouldn't dare to appreciate in someone else. Promising myself to her is investing in our future. Love demands me to love fully; and as my heart opens, I also bleed out tears of missing the people I've left in favor for our relationship. And in return, she gives me the highest quality of life I could have asked for. She gives me awesome views, sidesplitting laughs, a reason to wake up and the inspiration in my dreams. She encourages me with her youthful strides of growth. She fortifies me with historical reassurance. She gives birth to children of audacity and strength. She builds herself up to grow and flourish in unlikely circumstances. She converts her battles into confidence, her worries into accomplishments, and her petiteness into might. 

I have butterflies in my tummy. And I have headaches that won't subside. And I have a few scars from bad fights. And I have tremendous desires to protect. And I have anxieties of her leaving me, or her perishing from this world. And I cannot fully comprehend why others don't love her like I do. And I can travel to other countries and experience their culture, but my heart always stays with her. And I want to scream out my love. And I want to shake the world to listen to her testimonies as well. And I want to tell the judge that she's not perfect but she is innocent. And I want this nightmare trampling on our love story to end. And I want my nation to join me in supporting our partner. And I want the UN to give thought to other tragedies occurring in the world besides my love's transgressions. And I want to catch my breath because love is too exhausting. And I want to give her everything, even what I'm lacking. I want her to flourish and the red carpet to roll out behind her and the camera to capture her unstoppable beauty. And I thought that I wanted a break but know that I can't exist anymore without her in my life. 

The problem with having such intense love is the eery shades of ephemerality. Sometimes on a grey day, I worry that one day there won't be an Israel. And I honestly think that if this would happen, I would lose faith. I would probably stop practicing my people's traditions. I would end up depressed and forsaken, like the widow that just drifts away. 

I have to shake off that thought. I have to do everything in my power to ensure it won't occur. I have to persuade my people to come here as often as possible. I will tell them to move their family tree to their original grove. I will explain the improvement of quality of life in the national community. I will share the excitement of joining in the greatest experiment in our history. I will sing the music that my love sings, the quality lyrics that western music forgets to continue. I will hug with gratitude the citizens of Israel, who consciously choose to support our love. I will do this and do more; and even that won't be close to enough. 

Love is exhausting. Love raises me to new levels of self improvement. Love comforts me with feeling understood and asks me to conquer challenges. Love teaches me a little something every day. My love is unique to me and unique to Israel. And my friends' love of Israel is exclusive just to them as well. My particular journey getting to know Israel is still just beginning; we are still working out some kinks and catching on to each other's rhythms. She might have a tough day and ignore my needs and sometimes I'll be small and revengeful. But the relationship is worth it all. She's worth it. She will give my children a wonderful education. She will prove them to be upstanding people who act on their values. She will give them opportunities to live life to the fullest; to live life truly richly. We are together for the long haul, and this relationship is making our life all that I've wanted. 

Monday, January 12, 2015

There's magic in nightmares.

It's hard for me to put pen to paper when it comes to terrorism. It's hard for me to write about my feelings when it's all beyond understanding. When humans act worse than animals, when the world looses individuals of impact, when the media reports unfairly, when the vast population doesn't register the dangerous trends.... I just sigh in painful hope that some else has a better answer to it all.

When I was younger, I was terrified of Disney villains. I often had nightmares of them haunting me after they moved on from the hero of the movie. This was a fact of life and I expected their visits. I was afraid of the dark... But even more afraid of the shadows that arrived when a nightlight was added. Sometimes the solution forgets to supply comfort.

When I was in high school, I feared tests and projects. I worried about fitting in, but furthermore being true to myself. I was scared of rejection and insecurities.... but never scared of being a Jew.

Transitioning from an 8th grade class of 10 Jewish students to a 9th grade class of more ethnicities and religious identities than I could count, I reviled in the dance of diversity. I pranced around from traditional Indian dance performances, Pilipino hip hop, and Christmas lyrical. And in return, I represented my faith and my nation with thoughtful answers, samples of traditional food and the hereditary sense of humor. Proud to be Jewish in the mixture of my public high school, I had to catch my breath when I look up from my Freshman biology project and a blurred swastika appeared.

It's masking tape on a t­shirt. It's a boy’s joke of a symbol is an attack against me. It's a wake up call that sometimes it's not cool to be Jewish. It's fear. And I tell him immediately to take it off. He asks me if I am a Jew and I reply, “Yes, I am, but that is besides the point, because the Holocaust is no joking matter.”

But, my bold reaction didn't dispel my disgust of this foreign behavior. My sister, returning from a teen trip to Poland, volunteered to help me with a counterattack. I remember that next day suiting up for school wearing my Israeli Defense Force shirt and Star of David necklace; fortified by my secret weapon grasped in my shaking arms­­- my sister’s photographs of concentration camps. I walked up to him and offered this evidence, holding my breath as my legs shuddered. There was something in his expression when looking at the photos. Something so honest and apologetic. And then he respectfully showed the photos to his friends who were joking with him about the swastika the day before. I released my lungs as he returned the pictures to me simply saying, “Thank you.” Relief. Triumph. Hero wins. Villain learns a lesson. I'm a strong Jew. I am a proud Jew.

But then it keeps happening. At the UC schools. In Europe. In New York. In Israel. I just keep watching the nightmares come back. It's all encompassing. It's not cool anymore to be a Jew. It happens when we stand up to our villains and especially when we don't. It happens when we are distracted and even happens when we are focused. So what's the point? When does the happy ending block out my nightmares?

Strolling around Disney World, hand in hand with my family, I am back to my childhood. I am back to believing in heroes overcoming the odds. Skipping around nostalgic landscapes, I learn how to continue being a Jew. It works just like the magic in Mickey's wand. It's the power that feels so obvious in our imagination. So I close my eyes and imagine my future children skipping and jumping around with kippahs and Hebrew wishing around them. Just for a second, the future is so real... I can allow myself to get through the present in order to bring about the magic. I can allow myself to continue believing in our creator even when my people buying kosher food are murdered. I can find determination to amplify my freedom of speech even when others were murdered for theirs. I can continue living even though others weren't given that choice.

I can and I do this because there is pride in survival. Even when my left arm is tied behind me and my right eye is punched out, I can continue fighting back. And when I fight, I'm fighting for everyone else who can't anymore. I am fighting for the magic of the future to unravel. I believe that Jews will continue despite terrorism. I even believe that we might continue because of terrorism. I know for certain that I am a stronger Jew from my 9th grade encounter with a swastika. I testify to the desperate need for Israel because I stood in gas chambers in Poland. I feel the pain brought on by our villains, prepared for their threats to continue unfolding. I have yet to discover solutions to the nightmares. We as a nation are stumbling with a bloody nose, still going at it with our fierce determination, fighting for a magical victory.