9 Cheshvan 5781 / Tuesday, October 27, 2020 | Torah Reading: Lech Lecha
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No Longer Mine    

No Longer Mine

No one can say that there aren't beautiful sites, music and culture outside of Israel; the only problem is that they're no longer mine...


Sno Falls, Washington – beautiful, but no longer mine...
When I moved to Israel, I didn’t speak a word of Hebrew. Yes, I knew ‘shalom’ – who doesn’t? – but that was it. The bank clerks would babble something at me a million miles an hour, and I had no idea what they were saying. I’d smile or nod, or sometimes, depending on my mood, I’d cry and nod, but it always took the broken English version or a friendly bi-lingual passerby to help me understand what was going on.
When my kids came home with their notes from school explaining what the class was doing; what class trips were coming up; what homework needed to be done; what items they needed for the next day – I ignored them completely.
I couldn’t understand a word.
Ditto at the supermarket; ditto at the bus stop; ditto with my neighbours; ditto in just about every circumstance you can imagine.
I went from being a super-highly-educated-articulate person to someone who was illiterate and unable to communicate or understand even the simplest ideas or concepts. It was an incredibly humbling experience.
Around five years’ ago, I finally made it to ulpan, and even more amazingly, I stuck it out for a year and a half. By the time I finished, I at least had a reasonable idea of what was going on, even if I couldn’t really talk back still.
By the end of 2011, after I’d lived in Israel for six years already, I kind of made my peace with being the illiterate, unable-to-communicate outsider. In Israel, I try to avoid unnecessary conversations – and you’d be amazed how many conversations really do fit into that category – and I generally manage to get by.
It also helps that my kids are now old enough to speak both Hebrew and English really well – the oldest usually reads the letters from the council, and explains to me what I need to do.
But there are times when I still feel like such an outsider.
Many of those times are when I go shopping for clothes. In London, I had a pretty set ‘style’ – jeans and t-shirt on the weekend (which clearly weren’t very appropriate) – and long skirts and knitted tops the rest of the time.
But all my English clothes, even the modest ones, are far too heavy and warm for all but the coolest Israeli days. I came with a bunch of stuff that’s basically unwearable 10 months of the year.
I’ve tried to blend in a bit, but I can’t ‘do’ most of the Israeli ‘frum’ fashions – they just aren’t me. I don’t do fifteen zippers, or up-and-down hemlines, or skirts patched together from ten bits of (preferably clashing) material.
Every time I find a skirt or a top to wear, I thank G-d for performing another open miracle.
This wouldn’t matter so much, except that our clothes define us, whether we accept that or not.
And my clothes define me as an outsider who still hasn’t really found her place in the world.
Recently, I went back to the UK for a family wedding. It was the first time I’ve been back in almost five years, and it was such a weird trip. Things were so familiar – it was the streets I was used to, the weather I was used to, the culture I was used to, the food I was used to, the accent I was used to, even the neighbourhood I was used to – but I knew it was no longer ‘mine’.

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  2 Talkbacks for this article    See all talkbacks  
  You sound like you don't quite feel at home in Israel!
Jewgirl1/13/2012 3:31:21 PM
  what is the message?
devorah1/11/2012 2:07:04 PM

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