STANDING ON THE THRESHOLD OFP.S. Wow, am I ever confused about dates. My original title for this post was "Standing on the threshold of 2009." Am I really senile already??
I was just 14 when I first visited Israel and I never suspected that I was about to fall hopelessly and helplessly in love with a country...a nation...a new way of being. Photographs from that life-changing trip show me in tears in the Ben Gurion departure lounge and this became a pattern that continued with every annual visit that followed.
I could never quite understand my depth of emotion for this feisty little country. I was born and bred in South Africa and grew up surrounded by loving family, friends and all the luxuries typically enjoyed by a privileged White child. Why then did I feel so foreign as I drove the familiar streets and interacted with people I'd known for a lifetime and only felt I truly belonged when I stepped back onto Israeli soil?
My love for Israel defined me. I listened only to Israeli music. I lingered over books on Israel in every bookstore I entered and watched movies that were based in the Middle East with an overwhelming longing to transport myself to the world shown on screen. In 1991 I escaped the Gulf War just as the first scuds hit Tel Aviv and went to London where I found myself drawn to the local ELAL offices in the hope of savoring a taste of the country I loved best.
I once explained my attachment to Israel by saying that I went about my daily routine with a constant awareness of missing a piece of my heart and it was only when I arrived back here that I felt that illusive puzzle piece slip seamlessly into place.
Israel soothed my soul in way that nothing else could. It was for this reason that in 2005 I decided that I could no longer spend the rest of my days wishing I was someplace else and put plans in motion to relocate my family to the country of my heart.
We arrived at the Mirkaz Klitah absorption centre in Raanana on the 26th June 2006....and Israel went to war with Lebanon just 2 weeks later. The next 18 months saw me move home 3 times ... tackle the challenges of settling my children into an entirely new school and social environment ... reestablish my cookery school and make new friends ...and face a sudden divorce that saw me unexpectedly navigating my way through single parenting.
It also brought me sheer joy as I realised that this was not merely an infatuation and I truly had found the love of my life. I continue to thrill at the sight of the distinctive blue and white flags that flap in the breeze and I am always the last person on the street to remove my flag from the gate-post after the Yom Hautzmaut Independence Day celebrations are over. My eyes still fill with tears whenever I hear the Hatikva national anthem. And I constantly irritate my children by changing radio stations if the station I am tuned to dares to play anything but Israeli music.
2008 will be a momentous year as Israel celebrates 60 years of independence and I celebrate my 40th and a new found independence of my own. Being here for this momentous birthday is the greatest gift I could ever wish for and I am grateful each and every day to have been granted the opportunity to realise this dream.
Roll on another year of sunshine!
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