Holy moley, back to the Holy Land again!

So yes, I have been back and forth a lot this year.  Israel is my home.  There is no where else in this world that I feel at home.  I felt at home there the moment I stepped off the plane on my first visit in 2005.  I returned in 2006 to study in a women’s seminary, and in 2007 I made Aliyah: I moved to Israel.

When I settled there, I knew that at some point I would be obligated to return to America to help my parents, who are now 88 and 86, respectively.  That point came in the terrible winter of 2010-2011, when their remote mountain home was completely surrounded by ice, and my father had begun to fall frequently, and my mother was freaking out.  I had already flown in from Israel three times to “put out fires,” and the fourth time my mother called begging for help I packed up my house and was back in the U.S. in three weeks.

They really did need me then.  My father was in the early stages of dementia, and was struggling to maintain what was left of himself.   He refused to use any assistive devices, not even a cane.  He was constantly falling asleep at the dining table and sometimes falling off his chair.  One time I had to extract him from under the table, where he had slid down and was tangled among the table legs with his arms pinned under him.

Then finally he fell and broke his wrist badly and got a concussion to boot, and was in the hospital for a couple of days.  While he was there, I had his bed brought down from upstairs and made the living room into a bedroom.   When he had recovered enough to understand speech, my mother and I forbade him ever to use the spiral staircase again.  He was incensed and called us his jailers, which he does to this day, but better jailers than to have some disaster on the steel spiral staircase that reminds me of a submarine.

The past two-and-a-half years, since I’ve been here, have been tempestuous and productive all at once.  If you are a regular reader, you will know that I have had issues with PTSD caused by my abusive mother, who has not changed any since I left home at 16.  So staying here has been a challenge, to say the least.

A few weeks ago I couldn’t take it anymore.  I had developed high blood pressure.  I was constantly filled with rage.  Suicidal fantasies filled my days and nights.  Not just THAT I wanted to kill myself: developing more and better and more sophisticated methods, so that I wouldn’t be found.  Oy.

I knew I had to get out of here, get back to the Holy Land for a few weeks, breathe the air in Jerusalem that is filled with holiness, even if it’s also sometimes filled with dust.  So I booked a flight for a three week respite, announced my plans to the P’s, and took off.

Do you know, I have so many friends in the Holy Land that in three weeks I could not even visit two-thirds of them?  My family is there, my family of choice, the loves of my life.  I got to see some of my patients, who have become dear friends.  Two of them have had children while I was gone.  Actually, more than two–no, three–no, four–and three of those have had TWO children while I was gone!  I went around smooching babies.  I had coffee and Israeli breakfast (oh, Israeli breakfast!  I could do a whole post on Israeli breakfast.  Maybe I will.) with a lady so pregnant that she could hardly reach the table.  She has since given birth to a girl, MAZAL TOV, even more mazal tov since she already has four little boys.

I stayed with my adopted brother. We took bus trips to exotic places and had extraordinary meals and adventures.  And we made Shabbos together and drank strong Israeli port wine (20% alcohol!) and solved all the problems of the world.

I spent one Shabbos with my adoptive family, my rabbi and his wonderful wife (my adopted sister) and their adult children and grandchildren.  We sang and learned Torah together and laughed and cried and I felt bathed in love.

And then it was time to leave.

I freaked out.  I ran to the rabbi upstairs.  He is an expert in Jewish Law, and qualified to judge cases.  He is also an expert therapist.  Two hours with him, and I knew what I had to do: I had to save myself by being in the Land with my real family.  So I scuttled about and **voila** found a tiny apartment, just right for my needs, and signed a one-year lease.  That night I flew back to the States.

I had already told my parents that I planned to return to Israel for the High Holidays plus the month preceding them.  My custom is to devote that month, Elul, to intense Torah learning, in preparation for the Days of Awe: the ten days between Rosh Ha’Shanah, the Jewish New Year, and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.  There is much spiritual work to be done, if one is to get the most out of those intense and heavy days.

But as soon as the plane hit the tarmac on my return from this three week trip, my heart sank into my shoes.  I just feel terrible here.  I belong in Israel.  I belong TO Israel, and she belongs to me.  We are lovers.  I am my lover, and my lover is me.  I did not know what I would do, how I would be able to survive the–what, six weeks?–of what remained of the summer, because I knew that after the next trip, I would be back here for the winter, and who knows how much longer?

I tried to put a good face on it, and smile, and I don’t think it worked, because yesterday my parents told me, in a kind way, that they know I am not happy here, and they know I am very happy there, and they want me to be happy, so they want me to return to the Holy Land.

This is bitter-sweet for me.  Part of me is elated that they have released me.  Part of me feels like I am failing them.  Both the rabbi in Jerusalem and my therapist here tell me that this is guilt, and guilt is in no way productive, and it is entirely optional.  I plan to get over that guilt, because this place is killing me.  The rabbi in Jerusalem reminded me that we are not permitted to harm ourselves in any way, and even I have said that very thing on this very blog.

My ticket is at the end of July, with an early October return.  I might extend that through November so that I can spend Chanukah in Jerusalem, that amazing festival of light and enlightenment.  And then we will see, we will see what the light brings in.

My Channukiyah (menorah) in Jerusalem

My Channukiyah (menorah) in Jerusalem

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14 Comments

  1. good luck and good thoughts to you, to maintaining yourself healthily and positively, by doing what you need to do for you.

    Reply
    • Thanks so much! It’s hard for me to “do for” me. I’ve been programmed to think I’m a selfish bitch. Hard to break out of, even at my age!

      Reply
  2. I am so proud of you and so very happy for you!!! My dear friend and fellow blogger, we have both had tumultuous times with our mothers and I am so thankful to God that both your parents have seen your happiness in your true Home and have given their blessing to you going back and staying there!! What a blessing from God!! I told you I would pray for you and look what God has done!!!

    Visit your parents, see to their needs as best you can, kiss them and hug them goodbye, then go Home and live well!!

    With love and joy,
    Kathy

    Reply
    • Amen and amen! Aha! So it was you, eh, banging on the doors of Heaven, rattling the gates, to get this done for me? You are blessed ten times over, dearest Kathy, for your love and prayers. May your dearest wishes and holiest needs be fulfilled, now and forever!

      Reply
  3. I am so happy that you’re going back to Jerusalem – stay in your happy place, for goodness sake!

    And I want to hear about that Israeli breakfast…

    Reply
    • Thank you, dear! I need all the support I can get, to break the chains and cut the umbilical cord. And it’s about that Israeli breakfast….I have to find my pictures, and THEN the world will see how sumptuous breakfast can be, minus the sausage, bacon, and ham (OK, I did love those things at one time 😉 )!

      Reply
  4. D'Alta

     /  June 21, 2013

    I am so glad for these decisions–yours and your parents–and for the wise counsel of your rabbi and therapist. G-d does not wish any harm nor death. G-d wishes us life. Your time with your parents has been productive, even though the product may not be the one you anticipated. I wish you much love, happiness, and the waning of guilt. Shalom.

    Reply
    • Thanks, D.! Actually when I look at it in a rational frame of mind, my being here has been enormously productive on many fronts. I did want them to be in a safe, comfortable place, but that’s not what they want, and they are grownups, fer cryin’ out loud. I can’t make them do what they don’t want to do. So the best I can do is to say I love you, be well, take care, and if you really, REALLY need me I’ll be here.

      Reply
  5. D'Alta

     /  June 21, 2013

    PS I, too, want to hear about your Jewish breakfast!!

    Reply
    • Not JEWISH breakfast. That’s like, lox, eggs, and onions, bagels and cream cheese, you know, the old wonderful Princess Diner in Brighton fare (whose idea was it to close that anyway? They will certainly be spending time in Gehinnom for that). This is Israeli breakfast! A whole different animal. I see that I will have to devote an entire post to it. Probably will have to be after I get back, so that I can take the proper photos, take pictures of the Meltzareet (waitress), the cafe itself, the street (most Israeli cafes spill out onto the street, etc. etc.

      Reply
      • D'Alta

         /  June 21, 2013

        Oops, you’re right! Not Jewish, but Israeli!! Can I hope for feta, good olives, dates, nuts, yogurt and amazing coffee?!?! Never been much on lox, onions… 🙂

        Reply
      • D'Alta

         /  June 21, 2013

        I do miss The Princess… Late night artichoke omelet after dancing, a glass of wine and a piece of cheesecake to reflect on that night’s writing class… Don’t know of any place like that any more. Jay’s diner used to be a spot for late night studying or studying breaks, but the AC chills the coffee and chases even this North Country girl out before a thought is finished. And speaking of coffee…I have not had a decent cup since returning from Italy, nor a satisfying glass of red wine, and only a couple of pieces of cheese worth dirtying my mouth. Finally had a good piece of lamb…in Texas, purchased from a Middle Eastern market and cooked by Kevin O’H… Tom of Park Ave Salon says most of lamb sold here is awful, from animals raised for Australian wool. If Maria happens to cook lamb, Tom won’t let them eat it, if it doesn’t smell right. I’m thinking my aversion to lamb is from having the wool variety… Good for socks; bad for food!

        Reply

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