I’ve been back in Israel about two weeks and its nearly time for me to leave again. For the final time this year! I know, time really does fly. I’ll be honest, sometimes I feel so ready for this year to be over, and other times I’m nostalgic about it ending, and not ready at all. I haven’t had time to connect with everyone I wanted to, I haven’t had time to think about what’s next, and each moment just feels big.
My outlook, attitude, and overall sense of being feels like it’s changed, yet I have moments of feeling like I’m 22 again not knowing what’s next in life, feeling young and like I know nothing. I’ve had the same process download conversations about my time in Dubai, many times over, and will continue to. I’ve shared lessons learned, funny stories, quirky moments, and more with friends, strangers, and people who fall somewhere in between. I’m so ready, and I’m so not ready.
This past week, I had the chance to staff an Entwine Insider Trip with The Well from Detroit. What a way to help make my year come full circle. I was able to lead a group of amazing Detroiters and introduce them to JDC’s work here in Israel and more globally. It was unexpectedly special to watch my peers connect, learn, and question the same way I have all year. It was the extra topping on my year to be able to share my experiences specifically with this group (some of whom I've known for years) while in Israel and as the year winds down.
The trip reminded me of some of my overall feelings of the importance of broadening perspectives on global Jewish community. I feel very strongly the need of incorporating the global perspective into our North American viewpoint, of considering the stories outside of America and outside of Israel as well. What’s the exact action for me? I’m not 100% sure yet, it’ll start with the stories I, and now others, will share.
I’ve also come to recognize that I’ve hit my cap. I very much feel like I’ve taken in at least a years' worth of content and continue to each day. My capacity to continue to make travel decisions and to think about logistics is starting to wear on me. While in one way it’s made me very laid back and unworried about having a place to stay or people to connect with, in another way I think it means I’m ready for a touch of home, a touch of familiarity, and hugs from my nieces, nephews, family, and friends.
When thinking about taking a breath, let me talk about Shabbat for a minute. Yes, a total 180 degree turn, but relevant. I think there is extra special magic in Shabbat in Israel, but in general the idea that we take one day a week to disconnect is huge. Whether you take a traditional religious Shabbat, or a creative Shabbat from technology or your daily life, I think there is such value in the tradition. This year has given me a fresh and deeper perspective on Shabbat, the past two weeks delivered in deepening this perspective.
I arrived back in Israel on a Tuesday, by Thursday I had confirmed my Shabbat plans. I spent that Friday night with the family of a friend I’d met in Dubai. I had never met them before, only being introduced as people who should know one another. I walked in with a bit of trepidation as one does when knocking on the door of an apartment where you know no one – not sure of what to expect (and always a bit concerned you are knocking on the wrong door). Every time I’ve done this this year, and it’s been quite a few, I’ve had a nice time. In this case, I spent the evening with the loveliest family, their friends, and people who made me feel at home immediately. Beyond that, as always a touch of Jewish geography made the evening even more special finding out some of the guests had known Ralph Goldman (the namesake of my fellowship), personally.
The next day I “crashed” my friend’s roommates’ lunch because I didn’t want to leave the apartment I was staying in, as I recognized I needed a real rest. I watched how four couples, accompanied by multiple children had a beautiful meal, prepared by their friend. The addition of me as a last-minute surprise was no big deal, and the amount of space, food, introductions was of no consequence.
This past Shabbat, with three other participants of the trip I went to an alum of one of Entwine's programs to be hosted for Shabbat. We had a wonderful evening, where us four and her five friends from all over the world, laughed, connected, and didn't look at our phones, or feel a need to hurry the meal along.
Whether religious or not, we often talk about community and building community, and forget how actually easy it should and can be – each of these is an example of this. It doesn’t have to be Pinterest worthy every time, it doesn’t have to be exact, planned weeks in advance or complicated. We learn life lessons and build community by hosting, we learn life lessons by not freaking out because someone invites a stranger, we physically build community by actually opening our doors, kitchens, hearts, and more.
Over and over, throughout this year I’ve had these experiences, these meals that go on because there is just so much to talk about. Much of my “exhaustion” comes from sharing the same stories time and time again. Answering the same questions, giving my one- and five-minute introduction or summary of the year, the fellowship, or my experiences. Sometimes I really am tired of sharing, yet others and for some reason it usually comes on Shabbat, I find that I’m not tired of it, in fact I’m usually excited to share. The idea that this time is uncharted, free flowing, and meant for this gives me extra momentum. I think it’s because during these moments it’s a conversation, and part of a larger "thing", the meal, Shabbat, the experience.
As I spend my last day in Tel Aviv, soaking up the somewhat winter sun, attempting to prepare for the cold (I like winter, but I don't think I'm ready), I know the year isn’t over yet. I have a busy week in NYC as I prepare to present and share some of the work I’ve done throughout the year, prepare reports, and finalize my work. Additionally, I’m starting to think about what’s next, where I’ll live, and who might hire me (open to suggestions folks).
Two big takeaways from the past few weeks include this sense of knowing when and how to take a breathe and downtime for myself, and being open to sharing your story, or connecting with new people, even when you think you've hit your capacity, because that might just be when you find new friends.
I’ll be stateside soon(!) and will continue to share as I continue through this month!