Making Peace

Shortly after we arrived in Israel a few weeks ago, I was talking with my friend Aviva, who said something that struck me: “This time, you’ve come back with your eyes wide open.”

Indeed, this is not my first time living here; it is my third. When I initially came in April 1989, I only intended to stay for four months to learn Hebrew and live closer to my brother. Shortly after my arrival, I met my future husband Philippe and, slowly, my path changed. I deferred graduate school, we married, I got my Masters at Haifa University, and we had a baby. While living in this faraway land, I developed a love-hate relationship to it.

I loved the deep sense of belonging, as if I were part of something bigger. I loved living history real-time. The day we brought Benjamin home from the hospital when he was born was the day former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin and former PLO leader Yaser Arafat shook hands, making the first move toward peace in my adult lifetime. Yet I couldn’t imagine raising Benjamin in a country that often made me cry. I was scared to visit Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, where busses and cafes were randomly attacked by suicide bombers. In Israel, two of my basic needs were not met: feeling safe and being able to communicate with ease. Plus the distance from my parents in California pained me.

When Benjamin was one, we left for an agreed-upon two years, which eventually turned into three, then four, so on and so on. We stayed away from Israel for 13 years because of me, visiting only in the summer. We kept our distance until August 2007, when, looking for a break from our predictable, upwardly mobile, Westchester County, New York life, Philippe and I relocated our family to Raanana, Israel, for one year. It was the city where his company was based and which I had never visited until we arrived. Call it an early mid-life crisis or the year of living differently; the name is less important than the impact that year had on our family. Neither Philippe nor Benjamin, almost 15 by the year’s end, wanted to leave their Promised Land. The girls were still young and flexible, willing to stay or go, but I felt vulnerable, unable to cope with the challenges of living in the Middle East. Once again, we left.

As a peace offering to my deeply unhappy husband, I held out an olive branch, one I will never forget that has forever changed my life and that of our family. I offered to return to Israel—again—for a longer, less defined timeframe when the kids were older. We would come after Benjamin graduated from high school, Daniella finished middle school and Simone had her bat mitzvah. He took my offer and clung to it tightly. From the fall of 2008 until August 23, 2011, the day we boarded El Al flight 08 on a one-way ticket to Tel Aviv, Philippe and I dissected, compromised, negotiated, reasoned and finally settled on a plan to return. Many would say I am here reluctantly; while it is true that I would have preferred to stay in the comfort and safety of my White Plains life, I also welcome change, adventure. It is my own personal paradox with which I have often wrestled throughout the years.

Israel, for me, is neither the Holy nor the Promised Land. I do not believe every Jew should live here or that any God commanded me to do so. This blog is my attempt to make peace with my ambivalence about being here, to find the good in a place where I am not always comfortable, where life is far from easy. Israel is a place where I have to think before I speak, in a language that I read and write on a kindergarten level. It is a place where I try to breathe deeply rather than honk on the horn like everybody else when drivers pull over to buy a newspaper on the side of a narrow road, blocking all the cars behind. A place where I have to force myself to smile at the grocery store cashier even though she is working at a turtle’s pace and pushing weekly discounts at me until I am sputtering. It is a country that still makes me cry, whether from the overly pushy people who do not know how to form lines and wait their turn politely or from the beauty of being surrounded by Jews from all over the world while singing the national anthem before any ceremony. This third time around is my effort to make it different—to be strong, stay open to all the possibilities and to see the bright side. I have returned with my eyes wide open, as well as my heart.

Leave a Comment

38 Responses to “Making Peace”

  1. admin September 20, 2011 at 1:06 pm #

    Nice summary.

  2. Ellen Atzmon September 20, 2011 at 4:10 pm #

    Shalom to you and the Lang gang.
    Love LN

  3. Amy Ritz September 20, 2011 at 4:37 pm #

    I’m rooting for you!

  4. Berthe Bazin September 20, 2011 at 4:55 pm #

    I am impressed by the approach, I think it is great and should help you to find the peace

  5. Cousin Marty September 20, 2011 at 5:30 pm #

    As always, beautifully written and exquisitely expressed. Keep ‘em coming…

  6. Nancy September 20, 2011 at 5:57 pm #

    Hi J, in Barcelona and just read this first entry. I admire you for your honesty and sense of adventure. I thought of you as I walked through the Barcelona airport…you are friend who lives in the World, I thought. Multi-lingual, multi-cultural. I look forward to reading your thoughts about this next chapter in your life. It will add color and depth to those seemingly straight forward labels.
    Best to you! Nancy

    • admin September 25, 2011 at 8:31 am #

      Thanks, Nancy. I can’t wait to hear about Barcelona, my world traveling friend. Any time you want to meet somewhere in Europe and need a friend, please tell me. I will be there!

  7. Marina Feldman September 20, 2011 at 6:02 pm #

    Open is a great name. It captures so much!! Loved reading your first blog. Can’t wait for the next one.

  8. Doreen Stock September 20, 2011 at 6:24 pm #

    Funny, this morning I was just thinking of returning to Jerusalem. Then I opened your blog.Thanks for being there w/eyes wide open, Jennifer, and pen in hand….

    • admin September 25, 2011 at 8:30 am #

      Isn’t that just the way the world works? I love it. Shana tova to you!

  9. Alice Fisher September 20, 2011 at 6:29 pm #

    You have always been an adventurer- cling to it! Even in high school you always took the road less traveled. I hope your sense of adventure and maturity help you to find the peace you are looking for. I, for one, look forward to following your journey. I don’t know anything about blogs (as I am barely computer literate) but I do hope you can post pictures of where you are.

    What an amazing, history rich country. So much of who we are as poeple comes from the struggles and people of Sinai Peninsula, Egypt and Israel.

    Good luck, my friend, and Happy Belated Birthday!!!

    Love,
    Alice

    • admin September 25, 2011 at 8:29 am #

      Thanks, Al! I don’t remember having been so adventurous in high school… what an interesting reflection. PIctures will come with time (and experience).

  10. Cathleen B September 20, 2011 at 6:32 pm #

    I’m excited to read more! You need a “button” so people can sign up to receive an email when you post. Hugs to you and your whole family

    • admin September 25, 2011 at 8:29 am #

      Thanks, Cath! Button was installed on top right and says Stay Up to Date.
      xo

  11. Cindy September 20, 2011 at 6:38 pm #

    I knew it would not take you long to get this going! Looking forward to keeping up with your blog. Look at this way you are a few miles closer to g-d.
    We miss you in Upwardly Mobile Westchester, NY!

  12. Susan Kleinman September 20, 2011 at 6:48 pm #

    Looking forward to the next installment… and the one after that! Miss you!

  13. Ellen Schwartz September 20, 2011 at 7:54 pm #

    Love it! Look forward to keeping up with your journey. Miss you!!

  14. julie rabinowtiz September 20, 2011 at 9:23 pm #

    Hello to all of you – It sounds like you are settling in – How’s the house? How’s the army for Benjamin? How are the girls? I look forward to future posts

    Shana Tova!

  15. Werner Hengst September 20, 2011 at 11:16 pm #

    Jennifer, knowing you and reading your writing all these years has taught me a lot about Jewish culture and Israel. It has, as they say “expanded my mind”. I’m looking forward to continue this expansion as I read your blog. Your impressions as an inside/outsider will be valuable. Masseltov!

  16. Rita D. September 20, 2011 at 11:30 pm #

    When my niece, Tatiana, was 7 years old, I promised to take her on a trip one day. She dreamed of Australia and the Great Barrier Reef! I promised a trip (first class) when she turned 16. Two years ago, she turned 16 and it was time to fulfill my promise. Her parents suggested that I take her to Israel instead. They felt it would have more value. “Don’t, go,” some said, “you will get hurt.”

    We went. We climbed Masada and we floated in the Dead Sea, We stayed at the King David – WOW! I cried at The Wall. Tatiana went under The Wall – I am clausrotophobic – had a fight with our tour guide not to go under. Could not, did not go under The Wall but walked through an Arab neighborhood instead.

    A friend of mine who is Jewish (I am not) told me I would be moved when I stepped off the plane. I was not. I was moved to tears at The Wall. I cannot explain any of it. The Lord said that Abraham would be the father of three great religions. They all live in Israel.

  17. julie September 21, 2011 at 2:30 am #

    beautifully written … you will do great. i look forward to following your journey. i miss yoga.

  18. Lisa September 21, 2011 at 2:56 am #

    So beautifull and so raw that I feel as though I am living through you! I miss you my friend. Will send a lenghy email next week! Big, brave love.. Lisa

  19. Annette Keslinger September 21, 2011 at 3:24 am #

    Loved the piece!!! Looking forward to the next.

  20. Patrice Martin September 21, 2011 at 11:30 am #

    What a great first blog—from the heart and very moving. Quite a story. Looking forward to more. All the best.

  21. Adina September 21, 2011 at 12:10 pm #

    My dear friend Jennifer, I am so happy to keep connected to you via this blog. I loved your year abroad writings. I look forward to and fortunate to being a part of your life! Hugs, Love and Shalom

  22. Doris Fankhauser September 21, 2011 at 2:31 pm #

    Beautifully written Jen. Looking forward to more news and updates about your new life in Israel. Hugs, Doris

  23. Doris Fankhauser September 21, 2011 at 2:32 pm #

    Beautifully written Jen. I am looking forward to more updates about your new
    life in Israel. Hugs from Armonk, Doris

  24. Laura Rotter September 21, 2011 at 4:35 pm #

    This opening blog was worth the wait…brought tears to my eyes.

  25. Amy Ariel September 21, 2011 at 4:41 pm #

    We’re here for you whenever. ;-)

  26. Annette B September 21, 2011 at 7:14 pm #

    Jen, Israel is so lucky to have you.

  27. DorothyGulla September 21, 2011 at 7:26 pm #

    Hey, Jen ~~

    Great story! Looking forward to staying in touch.

    Much Love, Dorothy

  28. Marcia September 21, 2011 at 7:45 pm #

    Thanks for the update……third time is the charm Jen….

    So glad you are so open…….What an adventure you are having….Enjoy it!

    Just another reason for us to come and visit!!

    How are all three kids doing???

    I look forward to the next entry.

  29. joan September 22, 2011 at 12:29 am #

    I love reading your blog and so appreciate you sharing your experiences, struggles
    and perhaps eventually joy. with love.

  30. Mom/Grandma Marianne September 25, 2011 at 7:19 am #

    With love and affection I say, if you can live through this house remodel, you can live through anything! You express yourself so beautifully! love, Mom

  31. jesse September 25, 2011 at 10:40 pm #

    what a story. It is a good thing you are a yoga instructor or the stress would be unbearable.Keep on breathing!

  32. A Soldier's Mother September 26, 2011 at 10:30 pm #

    It is interesting reading about your feelings and your relationship with Israel. I am, I think, like your husband. For me, my love affair with Israel began when I was 13 years old and has never faltered. I do believe every Jew belongs in Israel and more importantly, would be happier for it. I do believe that Israel is both holy and the Promised Land and most of all, I believe it is mine.

    More, I believe that it is a gift that I have given my children. It was my husband who was the reluctant one; the one who sacrificed, as you have, to come here. I started my blog 4 years ago, much for the same reason you have started yours. I needed a place to write on my own about how I felt. For me, it was never about aliyah. My challenge was watching my oldest son (and then my second son) go into and through the army.

    Interestingly enough, I was never afraid to live here. I lived in fear in America – the fear of a woman on a street at night alone. I was doing nothing wrong and yet could never know when or if something would come out of the dark to attack. I came to Israel and left that fear behind. My children are free here in a way they never were in America – free to have independence without my constant fears that they would be hurt, taken, etc.

    I look forward to reading about your journey – because that is what we are all on. I think you’ll find your journey will be, like mine, a roller coaster of ups and downs and moments of calm.

    Shana tova – may your coming year (and all the years) be filled with only ups and flats…your son and I connected on Twitter. I think you are doing a great thing by supporting his love of Israel. He’s very proud of you and your blog!

    • Jennifer Lang September 27, 2011 at 12:03 pm #

      Thank you so, so much for reading and for sharing your view. It’s always good to hear both sides. Shana tova
      Jennifer

  33. Aurélie July 1, 2013 at 9:50 pm #

    Dear,

    I am reading your blog time to time, but I haven’t read this post until today.
    How great this post is… I really enjoyed reading it and really like the perspective.

    Will take it as a great example, you are someone amazing and have a amazing open-minded family, the way you are open to the world is an example.

    I loved living in your family, learn, share. This is one of the best experience I had in my life!

    It brought me to discovering Israel, a place I didn’t expect to visit, which I did not expect to be like I lived it. Was one of my best trip and I will come back there for sure.

    Thanks a lot and take care.
    Bisous

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