It’s June, and the packing and planning for your year in Israel has begun in earnest. Running to Walmart and Target making sure you have enough toothpaste and socks to last you the full ten months- because, you know, it’s not like you can get these items in Israel. Obviously not.
It’s not just the physical preparations that are making you excited and terrified and breathless and have your heart pounding so fast and so loud you’d swear it’s about to come out of your chest.
It’s the mental ones too. The questions that keep you up at night. Am I going to change? Do I want to? Is the learning going to be too hard? Too easy? Am I going to make new friends? Am I going to lose my old ones?
You just got off the plane and are currently attempting to juggle your 3 pieces of luggage, messenger bag and over-the-shoulder carry on. You glance at your watch and take note of the date. September 5th.
Significant because you just left everything you’ve ever known and because you are desperately scanning the sea of unfamiliar girls for just one friendly face and all you want do is sit down on the scaldingly hot pavement and cry. But you don’t, because you’re a big girl now, and you have things to do.
So you take a deep breath, surreptitiously dry your tears and introduce yourself to the girl standing next to you, looking just as lost as you do. In 3 months from now you won’t be able to imagine your life before knowing her. But you don’t know that now. All you know is that she’s got a friendly laugh and it turns out you went to camp with her brother’s best friend’s cousin.
Channukah is everywhere—from the unbelievable sufganiyot being sold all over Jerusalem to the life-size menoras that have sprung up in every corner of the Old City. It is the first time in your life that December 25th passes by unnoticed.
It’s also the first time you managed to actually get through a page of gemara without your teacher holding your hand through it. It’s not much—just half a daf, nothing to be proud of. But you are. You are ridiculously, unapologetically proud of yourself and your chevruta. You feel this insane connection to those unfairly long pages with their tiny black script and slowly-becoming-familiar words—you’re that next link in a chain that was forged thousands of years ago.
It’s a shockingly intoxicating feeling. You don’t ever want to lose it.
March 23 seems way too early to start Pesach vacation, but Israel disagrees. Everyone warned you that ‘time would fly’, but you laughed them off, completely dismissive of their overused clichés. Turns out, they were right.
How is it March already? When did that happen—that moment that time ran away from you, became the enemy? How do we make it stop? You already know the answer- you don’t. You can’t. It doesn’t work like that.
Several of your friends have chosen to cry over the ever-imminent end. While that’s certainly a tempting option, your teachers urge you to choose another. To take advantage of every day, of every remaining hour and minute. Another cliché. This one, however, appeals to you in a way the other did not.
Back to Ben Gurion airport, laden once again with bags and memories. The unforgiving June sun seems to penetrate even the cool recesses of the airport.
You can’t help but experience an unsettling sense of déjà vu—didn’t you do this already? Didn’t you already say goodbye to the things and people you love?
You feel the childish urge to stomp your feet and refuse to move. You don’t want to do this again. You repress the desire, barely. You’ve never been great with goodbyes, and you’re terrified that this one may be more final than most. You don’t want to lose this girl you’ve turned yourself into- the girl who’s driven and persistent and who refuses to let go until she’s found the answer. Or, at least, the next question.
It’s time to board, and you can’t push it off any further. Taking one last look around, you take a deep breath and hand the clerk your passport. Even as the tears are making their way down you can’t bring yourself to feel fully sad.
You may be leaving Israel, but Israel isn’t leaving you.