On the ground under the striking Middle Eastern sun, I was ready to stay.
To buy property in Israel’s north and settle in to picking orange and limes and grapefruits from trees in my yard and wiping the floors with the squeegee that is eponymous in Israel.
To eat creamy yogurt and cheese for breakfast, and say slicha instead of excuse me, please.
We rode the van to the airport and went through layer upon layer of security clearance until finally, we could settle into a table near the duty free shops and sip one last Israeli coffee and eat one last Israeli sandwich and receive our last shekel coins before boarding a plane for home.
Home is such a relative concept.
In so many ways, I feel at home in Israel. It’s a home for my soul, for my longing, for the yearning we all feel to belong somewhere meaningful. Whether to purpose or to place, that belonging soothes our soul and becomes the foundation for our life’s purpose.
And yet, home is the United States, where I own a house and can read the street signs with ease, and know the roads without thinking.
On the plane, I felt my heart surge toward the west, yearning for that place I have always known and returned to.
It’s an odd juxtaposition, to feel at home in two very different places set on opposite sides of the globe. So I’m not jumping to move anywhere anytime soon.
But I don’t feel quite complete in my current home. I know the routines, the order, the obligations, the responsibilities. I am familiar with the bureaucracies here.
So familiar that I am comfortable complaining.
On my last day in Israel, I met a new friend, a writer who moved to Israel decades ago from Ohio. She’s a secular Israeli and voiced her concern for the political trajectory of her home. “I can’t imagine democracy continuing here,” she said. “Maybe a theocracy of some sort.”
And her face told me the direction it’s headed does not please her.
I am not ready to look at Israel with pure honesty. I want to keep wearing my rosy glasses and seeing the place through a lens of romantic, proud poetry.
The flight home was long, too long. I may have watched five movies, seeing the hours tick away to my destination ever so slowly.
On the way there, meals and snacks were plentiful; on the way home, huge gaps of sustenance interspersed with expensive charges for mid-flight nosh.
Finally, an hour or so from the shores of New York, my youngest son complained of not feeling well. We climbed over the tight row and made our way to the bathrooms, all of which were occupied.
He couldn’t help it. Everything came up and fast on the carpet in the back of the cabin. Poor kid. Pouring out everything he’d ingested so intensely over the many hours of our journey home.
Then, he fell fast asleep, and deep, with only minutes to landing.
It’s always easier and more exciting to set out on your adventure than it is to end it. And rightfully so, our story continued with delay after delay for our final flight home until it was cancelled altogether.
Awake and moving through our travels for 24 hours straight, my children were asleep at the fluorescent-lit gate as I struggled to find a hotel where we could stay.
We collapsed into the cold beds and fell into slumber for a respectable number of hours until, in the cold and dark, we awoke and pulled on the same clothes to head back to the airport, where we sit now, waiting to go home.
They say home is not a destination; it’s a state of being.
If that’s the case, then why the tears of frustration late last night as we just could not make the final leg of our journey to the place where the sheets are familiar and we know what the drawers hold.
I believe it won’t be long before we are finally there. In the meantime, it’s my desire to find that place of home and comfort that lives within so that no matter what happens on the outside, where I go or what I do, what news I hear or read or see, I will rest secure in the chambers of my heart which know that all wandering brings us to new realities, and all realities lead toward the same paved path home.