A Traveling Soul

traveling soul

Jewish Independent, Vancouvour, CA •  2006

(with thanks to my son…)

It’s almost a rite of passage. Israeli kids, after the army, typically toss a couple of things into their knapsacks and set off for foreign shores. I first worked at manual labor, as a landscaper in Virginia. When the mud and humidity became overwhelming, I switched to hawking remote control toys from carts at Michigan and Missouri malls. Finally, I settled down in New York City, where I worked as a security guard at the Park Avenue Synagogue.

Six months later, with money in my pocket and an appetite for adventure, I headed off for northern India. Like many post-army compatriots, I traveled alone. But since Israelis attract Israelis, I met hundreds along the way. Every one of them was living under a huge question mark. No one knew what they wanted to do with the rest their lives, they were all searching for themselves.

Not me. After my US experience, I only craved rest and relaxation. So when I arrived in Rishikesh, a Hindu pilgrim city on the banks of the holy River Ganges, I began exploring various Indian massage and meditation techniques. Then I began renting a motor bike and exploring the nearby Himalayan foothills. There, surrounded by spectacular scenery, I would sit motionless for hours on end, in solitude and awe, communing with Nature.

When I returned to Israel, I continued taking my bike trips. But now instead of the lofty Himalayas, I cycled out to the familiar yellowish, flat terrain of my youth. Every evening, I saw Beersheva’s low buildings in the distance, surrounded by endless desert. Every evening I watched how the sky streaked pink and orange until finally, the red sun slipped under the horizon. And that was even more amazing than Rishikesh.

I didn’t lose myself in America or India.

But I found myself in my own backyard. Five minutes from Beersheva.

I now study Plant Protection, a curriculum of plant and insect sciences, at Hebrew University. Not surprisingly, it combines my love of nature with my love of Israel.

Yesterday Israel turned 60.

Today a lot of Israelis are disillusioned. Many people have no faith in politics any more and less faith in Zionism. Some even say that the Zionist dream is dead. But I believe it’s alive and well. We Israelis live that dream every day, and we’ve been living it for 60 years. We have a country. It’s not perfect, there’s no doubt that mistakes were made. But we have a country.

So how did I celebrate Israel’s 60th Independence Day? Like I always do, with friends, enjoying the fireworks, visiting the concession stands, then catching the festive street performances. In Beersheva, of course. At home.