I went to Israel a year ago in part because I was becoming far too comfortable in New York. My life, at least superficially, was quite easy, yet the plunge into ennui was suffocating. I’m too young, too creative, and too idealistic to be sitting in an overpriced apartment shrouded by the familiar and the convenient.
So I moved to a country to which I had no prior connection. A young country replete with bureaucratic and institutional deficiencies. A paranoid, beautiful, febrile country that hasn’t extricated itself from conflict and trauma.
A unique country where to begin a life is not easy, especially for someone whose identity does not align with that of the state. But I relished the chaos, the painstaking effort it required of me to get things done; things I could have done with my eyes closed in New York.
It started working. I grew stronger, more independent. I stayed there, even through the stark loneliness, the cultural frustration, the incapacitating depression.
By early summer I felt, for the first time in years, that I could make something of myself, not just in Israel but in whatever place I chose to settle next. I had rediscovered my self worth. I made friends. I travelled. I excelled in school. I shed myself of a toxic relationship and (literally) stumbled across a new and beautiful one.
However, rockets and sirens soon suffused my psyche. All the work I had done internally felt trite in the face of external circumstances of war. Sometimes, after early morning rocket fire I sat in my bathroom crying for an hour, only to have to drive to class afterward. I knew my physical safety was almost guaranteed. But daily explosions under the aegis of someone who wanted me dead destroyed any sense of existential and ontological safety I had cultivated over the months.
The war ended. I shook it off. I fell in love. I thought I could purge myself of the the rockets and sirens and red alerts. But now back in the US, I jump at the sound of someone knocking at the door too loudly. I sob during a thunderstorm. An apartment buzzer sends my heart racing. The privilege that I, and most Americans, have by living in a nation that is not under attack by its neighbors is all the more salient. I am trying to learn from it. I know one day I will make sense of it all and the memories will be sacred. But at this very moment, I am spiraling.
Home, while fraught with emotional baggage, has provided stability and comfort. The people I love and the places I love surround me. I can breathe again, knowing it’s all still here. I feel utterly disconnected from my life in Israel now that I am back in the arms of everything I know so intimately.
I love Israel, I will always love Israel. But I am still processing what happened to me in that tiny, confused country.
And that’s why the prospect of returning, although I can intuit I have a great deal of unfinished business there, is so daunting. The comfort and convenience that drove me away from home has coaxed me back in, simply because I feel safe again.
It could be a matter of time, of many more hours of therapy. Once I go back I could feel re-energized by all I accomplished there. By everything I pushed myself through in spite of the isolation, the emotional battles, the cultural confusion, the war.
But there are so many potential triggers upon return that may render me paralyzed. The same paralysis that left me on the bathroom floor for hours of summer, hands buried in my face, wondering if it would ever end.
And now I’m back in the genesis of my comfort zone. I am safe, secure. I am home. I don’t want to be here forever, but I do want to be able to sleep again.