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 school 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.