Sunday, February 19, 2006

My Zionism

While wandering the internet today, I came across this picture of the Israeli cabinet. I was suddenly overcome by a wave of nostalgia and longing- not for the cabinet, which looks like any other executive meeting ever, but because of the little water blue water bottles with red caps at every seat. Probably, I will admit, the silliest wave of nostalgia with which I have ever been hit, but there you go. And then I wondered- when did this happen?
My first trip to Israel was in 11th grade, but I was Zionistic long before that. My Zionism, however, fell into two main categories: 1) A theological and intellectual conclusion that living in Israel was the halachically best practice; a decision, in other words, that I ought to be a Zionist, based on my philosophy and 2) to be perfectly honest, probably some rebellion since my high sc
hool was vehemently anti-Zionistic (to be fair, they would probably describe it as 'non-Zionistic')
So, in any case, I had high hopes for my first trip to Israel. On some not entirely subconscious level, I was planning to make myself love it, so that my theology and feelings would match. Nothing really came of it. The trip was nice and I enjoyed it, but there was no visceral feeling there.
High school progressed. I decided to go to seminary for a year, although I had originally planned not to, and on the seminary applications, I wrote that one of my goals was to move to Israel. Meanwhile, my older sister transferred from Stern College to a college in Israel and made aliya. I admired her, but could not bring myself to the same commitment.
But...over the course of that year, I came to love Israel. To love it senselessly and instinctively. I can't say that this was entirely natural- to the extent that one can decide to have feelings, I decided that I would love it. And Israel helped me- stunned me with its beauty, charmed me with its Jewishness, awed me with its holiness. And my seminary helped me- not with its clumsy "Make Aliya" shabbatonim (yes, they had those. I do not exaggerate) and its classes on the commandment of living in Israel (of which I was already convinced), but with the excitement of the other girls and with the trips across the country.
And then I went home, worrying that the feelings had been only a fluke, that I would soon lapse into happiness in my settings. And to a large degree, I did. One of my besetting faults is that I find myself happy in any context, given enough time to adjust to it, which makes me prone to inertia. But...there was still a closeness that I had not had before, a bit of the instinctive love.
And then I went back to Israel for winter break. I was not on any structured program, and I spent the days wandering the streets of Israel or sitting in the Beit Medrash of my seminary, learning Gemara. I toured little, went to few of 'the sites', had no Zionism preached at me. It was probably the most wonderful two weeks of my life and it left me with a profound longing, so that the sight of red bottle caps makes me wistful, and the wistfulness gives me hope- hope that I will make it back home someday.


e-kvetcher said...

Do you have any problem with the fact that Israel is politically a very different country than the US? I mean, in the 50's they used to address one another as 'Comrade'.

Chana said...

"Vehemently anti-Zionist" is a lot closer to the truth.

And I have still kept- for no apparent purpose- my own blue waterbottle with the red cap.


Tobie said...

E-Kvetcher- yes, the socialistic aspects of Israel do get on my nerves, tremendously. But nothing is perfect and I do think that BB is edging the country towards more capitalistic ideas.
Chana- My cutest 'Templars' Zionism story? One of our sweetest, most right-wing Navi teachers comes into class on Yom HaAtzma'ut in blue and white, telling us, "If I can't be b'achdus with you in beliefs, at least I can be b'achdus with you in dress." And the complementary half- no one in the class, even the more rabid Zionists like me, was wearing blue and white because we knew it annoyed the school and thought that it was infantile to dress a certain way just to make a statement.

e-kvetcher said...

OK, I am confused. I assumed that Templars is HSBY. Are they vehemently anti-Zionist?

Tobie said...

Gosh, and here we were trying to be all anonymous.
I wouldn't characterize it as vehement. But then again, Chana would, so there's probably some subjectivity going. The school did not acknowledge Yom Ha'atzmaut in any way, except for my senior year, when they had the Head of the Va'ad explain why the school did not celebrate Yom Ha'atzma'ut. On the other hand, we weren't forbidden to acknowledge it privately, and were able to win semi-unofficial support for Yom Ha'atmaut parties at private homes. So...however vehement you would call that.

e-kvetcher said...

Yeah, I didn't mean to out anyone, but realistically, based on Chana's posts she didn't try too hard to hide it. Heck, I could figure it out and I knew nothing about the Orthodox community until about 4-5 years ago. There aren't that many Jewish schools in Chicago so maven yavin and all that. Plus I did acronymize it.

BTW, Chana if you're reading this, your blog seems to have travelled back in time. Your latests posts are gone.