Vatik

“You’re a Vatik then?”

I smile sardonically, allow the fraught pause to emulsify into calm self possession.

“Sort of.”

The lack of regret and pain in my sigh is a pure sign that I’ve come out the other end with a piece of me intact. And that’s how I know I’ve come very far indeed.

gila landscape part 3

~ Am I a veteran? My story is weird, both typical and atypical.

I came.

I saw.

I did not conquer.

Al Kanfei Nesharim.

Here. I go, on a plane, sure, I thought.

In my mind I was some warrior princess, some humble handed Modern Orthodox chalutz, with giant, imaginary Lord of the Rings eagles at my command. I flew on wings of idealism, of well intentioned religion, of hope. Through the gates I went, rose tinted sunglasses poised for unfiltered, uninterrupted enlightenment.

My life’s road was obvious.

I made Aliyah.

Six years ago.

I lived in Israel for three blurry months. At eighteen, I was not ready to fall in love so hard.

I did not expect to crack so easily. It wasn’t a break up. It was a separation.

I completely shattered. It did not do it to me. IT was not, and is not to blame. That was on me.

On my return to Canada, I wallowed and wallowed well. I was a girl with a well rounded connection, both religious and secular, to a physical place. I had read, learned, breathed everything pertinent to Israel, to malchut yisrael v’ malchut yehudah, to E”Y, to the state that could be two states.

I had mental boxes for each historically rich piece of knowledge.

From the old testament, to the churban, from the Mamluks, to the British, to Bauhaus architecture in Tel aviv, I held it all. The ayans, and the Caliphate that never was. People like Trumpeldor, Ben-Yehudah, Kook, Sennesh. The names of those who came and fought the soil. The legacy of people who loved it and lived it and worshipped, even when no longer living.

Abandoning it felt like a death.

Major. Identity. Crisis.

It’s been a while. Years now.

I don’t dream of owning a ranch in the Galil, where me and my bochur farmer (sackloth u’ gemara) would raise horses, plant a bunch of the shivat haminim in some cheesy rip off of a hallmark card. In that snapshot fantasy of my life i’d write cliched, sentimental novels to my hearts content. We’d be hospitable, salt of the earth, menches. We’d find joy in our little yishuv’s shul, in the closeness of everyone. Our mantra would be food and generosity.

Obviously, I don’t have that dream anymore. I barely dream at all.

Experience has changed me. Three years of university in a big, bright city like Manhattan, has revealed that I like my creature comforts.

Though sitting on a rocking swing, staring at the blue sky above the Judean hills on a quiet moshav right before a shabbos minchah still soothes me, I am…a gashmiut girl. Cities are easily the most likeable inventions of the modern world and I am all for their help in allowing society to evolve (thanks for all the mod cons and dinner theatre…maybe not that).

And yet…

When someone asks me what I’m doing here I get justifiably annoyed.

Israelis have a hard time believing someone would voluntarily live here. Though they proudly say “Ein cmo ha’aretz,” they don’t seem to fully believe it. There is always a hint of sad defeat, of ruination, when they utter that.

Maybe it’s the lachatz. Maybe it’s the factions and the politics, and the very real issues that won’t be ironed out. Maybe it’s the narrative that is pulled so tight, the tautness would make a string instrument whimper in pain.

I’m not a veteran. I never will be. I’m not a soldier. I’m not a survivor.

In fact, lo hitgayasti.

I’m still trying to find where I fit in, in this tiny, intrinsic and wonderfully woven place.

I’ve looked at other narratives six years on, respectfully validate them and still hold onto my own. Maybe that makes me a true vatik.

~

To come back is always to go up.

No matter what happens next, I’ll have flown.

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