lizrael update: Am I supposed to be here?

It’s been 15 years since I came out to my family that I’d be moving to Israel after university finished. It was two years before the ‘disengagement’, it was during the second intifada, a couple years after Nefesh b’Nefesh started. I was searching for a lot of things, but I knew this much was true – I was definitely going to live in Israel and I was most likely not going to leave.

You could take any 15-year cross section of modern Israeli history and you’ll get more than a fair share of critical events, national milestones, ups, downs. It’s not that my 15 year cross section is any different or special. But it’s mine. And it leaves me hanging, grasping to pull myself up off the edge of a cliff and the thing is, I’m not really sure what is back up there where I have assumed I belong.

It’s different than being an American, I guess. Firstly, I’m an expat; I can get cross-eyed all I want at the State of Things but at the end of the day, aside from a bare annual tax return, I go to bed in my Israeli village. And America is a Big Problem, a Vast Problem. I’m not here to be part of that solution right now.

But Israel… it’s small. It’s mine. Isn’t that why I committed to here?

According to the acting government, it is – by birthright – and it isn’t – by standards I don’t share.

According to the citizens, well, it’s shred to pieces. King Solomon would be so sorry.

According to the Palestinians, it sure isn’t but it’s not clear what it indeed is, then.

According to everyone else, it’s no one’s really. It never really was ours and it never really was theirs.

I’ve watched promise after promise, government after government, coalition after coalition, liar after liar… polarization gets deeper. If the people who hold the power had their way, would they want me here? Am I supposed to be here?

So what happens next? I work hard and pay taxes and watch it all go in a direction I don’t want to be a part of? I always tell other people the pendulum swings back… but how long will this one take? Fight or flight. What’s the fight for this time? And how do we get started?

I used to feel like moving here allowed me to be a free Jew. I could pray freely, eat freely, practice freely. Except I’ve never felt so unfree ideologically. Whose Israel? Whose Judaism?

I don’t know. 15 years isn’t that long. It’s also really long if your Israeli and [secular/ national religious/ charedi/ reform/ liberal/ conservative/ unsure/ of European origin/ of Russian origin/ of Mizrahi origin/ of Arab origin/ of African origin/ gay/ refugee/ mentally ill/ physically disabled/ war veteran/ grieving mother/ chained wife/ farmer/ venture capitalist/ country folk/ city folk].

For better and worse, we’re all here. Beyond/despite/within 15-year intervals, I don’t think any of us are free.

To Be Israeli is to Be Free

2004. It’s really… just a dream.

Still life with stilts.

It wasn’t just fun because you were a wobbly Bambi child while trying to walk on stilts, grasping me for dear life… clinging to me while we both laughed so hard from our bellies… cracking up as you’re falling forward right into my arms, hugging me tight, maybe longer and tighter than you needed to… it was a moment I won’t forget because every day that passes I expect I am getting closer to the day you won’t want to be seen holding your mom tight in public.

What if we don’t wanna be the toy? A Eurovision post.

It’s can be so hard to be Israeli. It’s can be so hard to get shit all the time, from every direction. To never be able to ‘choose’ a side because the game is always changing and anyway, there is no side to choose; you’re at the center of it by existing where and when you exist.

It’s exhausting to read headlines. To constantly decide what to believe and by how much. To feel like a pawn. To feel out of control.

And… I don’t even like music contests.

But… hearing a woman who has the same name as my sabra daughter make the odds after two months of soft hype from all over Europe…

…carry herself with the confidence of a first world Olympics host country…

…win the goddam thing with message in tact…

…tell Europe to think different, celebrate diversity…

…dare to exclaim that she loves her country…

…and invites everyone to Jerusalem next year…

that just has to take the wind out from your chest, even for a few seconds.

You know what was weird? The feeling of waiting with bated breath for every country to speak their vote and to actually believe, truly feel, to, completely normally, expect, that any one of these countries’ representatives would let Israel float from their lips…

To be Israel, and feel normal.

I watched the second half of my first live Eurovision alone, in bed. When it started to look grim I felt a deep sadness that this fantasy would end but it was, after all, just fantasy. And when the ending became inevitable – when it wasn’t 100% yet but it just might be – I wanted to hold so many hands, nervously sway with so many people… And when second place was announced, I wanted to scream. I’m not a screamer. But from under my covers, in my little dark room, in my little suburban town, in my frighteningly small but mighty country, I wanted to run out into the street and scream and laugh and cry and jump up and down with everyone, with anyone, all the oddballs who call this place home.

After the live broadcast ended, I went straight for the headlines. Even though I usually avoid Israeli headlines. There’s only so much pain you can feel daily. I just wanted to see matching headlines. I just wanted to feel ‘normal’. And hovering above the smoke and gun powder and falling apart cement and police uniforms and rocket trails was… Netta. Was a winning Eurovision country.

Being Israeli is so damn hard. There’s no normal. There never will be. I guess every country has its shit. But I’m not convinced it has to be this hard for every country. But for a second, it felt normal.

…and then I opened Twitter.

The Prime Minister makes a PowerPoint

It’s night three of my daughter’s cough and it’s gotten much better. I’m sitting uncomfortably on the Hello Kitty stool next to the crib, with my forefinger making lines in her palm, my phone on ‘play’ in the other hand, and in my left ear, an earbud is loosely holding on.

The prime minister is making a point.

It’s been there all along. The Americans have been briefed. Iran lied, in large Times New Roman font.

A curtain is removed, revealing mischief, and another curtain is removed, revealing added mischief.

Binders and discs of menace. 110,000 shards of threat.

Slide after slide, graphic after graphic. Warhead drawing. Embedded incriminating video. Shabab in Times New Roman. Project Amad in Times New Roman. I wonder who was responsible for cleaning up the slides before they went on stage. I wonder if they felt like I do before my work goes on stage.

On some level, above or behind or despite the Prime Minister’s choicest phrases, we’re all wondering the same thing: how the hell did the Mossad agents on this project get away with this? And which non-Jew will star in the leading role someday?

The theatrical prime minister is making a point. In the age of social media, all he needs is a 90s-era PowerPoint, tens of thousands of documents stolen and smuggled from Iran in one January night, and Times New Roman.

Times New Roman, the universal language in making a point.

And then it’s morning, and I’m walking my daughter to gan, she’s shying away from the big black dog that hangs around the area. Parents are mumbling half-thoughts to their kids. Gates are squeaking open. Car doors slam. The sky is cloudy, the branches on the trees are ever-so swaying.

And looking around me, I remember last nigh. Huh. Just as simple as Times New Roman. We put ourselves out there in Times New Roman.

Koala update: Nine years

What a year, man.

This time last year I was terrified to break your heart, making the decision to change schools. You are a deep thinker and a deeper feeler… but somehow your intense curiosity got the better of any fear… open minded to trying new things, when they feel right… and here we are. You did it – new friends, while still excited about your old buddies. New interests, while still on the old ones (I’m sorry I will never understand what Ninjago is). I’m so so proud of you. Keep pushing yourself to grow. Keep pushing me to be better at helping you to grow. I love our honesty with each other, and I love that we work on each other.

Happy 9, Koala.

Zooey update: Two years

You’ve been watching us for two years, and now you’re coming out… lessons in dolls, headbands, jewelry… lessons in ‘enough!’ and hitting back… lessons in climbing to the top bunk… lessons in dogs and cats and preemptive barking… lessons in wanting to do it all, by yourself… and teaching us to never underestimate you, and also how to eat with table manners (thanks, nursery?).

Happy 2, Beanie.

At 70, you get your own Snapchat filter.

Independence is affording the time to celebrate your existence.

Independence is getting your own Snapchat filter.

Independence is being proud of someone you never met named Netta.

Independence is the freedom to openly mourn your dead on your terms.

Independence is enjoying making choices on a global scale.

Independence is watching your kids grow up in a place where you chose to be and you are always.

Independence is being able to defend the people you love and the principles you live for.

We should all know and feel true independence, no matter where in the world you currently consider ‘home’.

Thoughts on another Israeli Memorial Day

All around, kids pick up bits and ask their parents…

“What is בן האבוד בלבנון?”
“What is מבצע אנטבה?”
“What does רומנטי mean?”
“Why is that kind of flower everywhere?”
“Did that שיר really happen?”
“Why do they put the flag down?”

On a walk through Har Herzl (Israel’s national cemetery) this morning, hearing about many many dead sons, it occurred to me that it will never matter what age my kids are; I will always wonder where they are, and the comfort of knowing where they are at any one time could maybe help ease the hard parts of being a parent.

And then I thought,

a., it’s not realistic, and

b.,

they may be somewhere that is as painful as not knowing where they are.