My husband walks in this afternoon to find me sitting on the couch, eyes staring straight at the cheerless wall opposite me, burnished with tears.
“What’s wrong?” he asks. Concern, but not alarm (women can get this way for no reason at all.)
“She’s leaving,” I respond.
‘Who is leaving?” he asks, pulling teeth.
“Sarah.” My reply is terse.
“Where is she going?” I could have supplied the information in advance, but my emotional cadence won’t allow for such undiluted conversation.
“Jerusalem. They are moving to Jerusalem.”
My husband looks at me, eyes wide with the “aren’t women perplexing” look.
“Oh. I’m so sorry.” Pause. “You know, Jerusalem is only a half hour a way. (Logic.) It’s still a local phone call. (Dollars and cents).
I think of my friends who live a half an hour a way. That’s one half hour, plus the half hour it takes to get the kids ready to go, plus the half hour it takes to buckle four children into a backseat that only seats three. Not to mention the half hour that I get to listen to them fighting from their cramped quarters, and the three hour delay in bedtime since two of them fell asleep on the way home.
“No, it will never be the same.” (Realism).
I know that in Israel, close knit nation that we are, friendships blossom optimally within a ten building radius. Beyond that, things begin to peter out. (You need a lot of energy for the hills in this country.)
But if you take a magnifying glass to the life of an American immigrant in Israel, you begin to understand what lies beyond the laziness.
Most of us are here without any semblance of family at all, outside of the fresh family nucleus of our own that we have created with G-d’s help. And yet, with all of the beauty inherent in molding our own children, all of us yearn, in some primal way, for the reassuring presence of our own mommies and daddies. It can get downright lonely sometimes, out here in these hallowed hills.
It is not an easy juggling act, balancing our deep yearning to pace the same paths that our ancestors’ soles bore upon, while still hoping to hear the old familiar tread of our father’s slippers, tapping down the hallway.
But we immigrants have figured out just how to tip the scales in our favor. (Resourcefulness being a survival skill in the middle East).
There are some who attempt full-scale submersion inside the jaws of Israeli life. I can only testify on my own behalf, that such a venture would have been akin to cannoning myself back to the good old U.S of A.
Others among us have chosen to form a mini American sub-culture, within the greater Israeli community. And within our community, lies the panacea to our aloneness.
On my particular little stretch of earth, we are family to each other, in the broadest sense of the word. Fifty families, hailing from the corners of the world, united in our quest to live a life saturated with purpose and principle.
We honor each other’s celebrations as if they were our own. A joyous event in the community is the assumed responsibility of all of its members. It is only a pleasure for all, and never a burden, or no more a burden than it would be to be celebrating our own occasion.
Times of difficulty, or transition, are weathered with a collective sigh from the community. Responsibilities for children, meals, and visits, are eagerly assumed by those who are able.
Next week, my husband and I hope to attend a three day learning seminar in Haifa. A bit of physical and spiritual rejuvenation for Daddy and Mommy can only benefit the rest of the crew that we intend to leave behind.
“You must go!” said my neighbor. “Let me take two kids!”
No matter that the neighbors would have loved to attend a similar function themselves. If it is our turn now, then they will revel in our contentment.
Each individual here is famed for their varied strengths and talents. Each ones’ quirks and idiosyncrasies tolerated like an unnoticeable squeak in a well oiled machine.
And each individual, a cog in the wheel that makes our world turn.
Jewish communities around the world certainly don’t suffer from a dearth of humanity and unity. I still believe though, that the thick bonds of brotherhood that bond our people, here; nestled snugly in the embrace of the Judean mountains, are matchless.
And so, Sarah is leaving, and although I may be gaining a friend, I am losing a sister. Sara; with her pure, unadulterated faith, in the face of adversity. Sarah; a soul full of light and optimism. Sarah; A woman bursting with talent and ingenuity, who has helped me to reach new vistas in my own creativity, through the beloved gift of her friendship.
The sisterhood doesn’t extend beyond the set of mailboxes at the end of our street. The family only lives between buildings eleven through thirty-three. Curtailed by margins of space, I am forced to let go.
I know that she will join another beautiful family in Jerusalem. I’m sure that they will embrace their new arrival with the open arms of a mother for her child. And yet, the gaping hole that she will leave behind in our community, can never be filled by another.
“That, is why I cry.”
This article originally appeared in The Jewish Press. Reprinted with the author’s permission. Yael Mermelstein holds an MA in Jewish Education, and teaches at a post high school institution in Israel. She publishes regularly for children and for adults. Yael lives in Beitar Illit with her husband and children.
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.