Welcome home, me! I came home from my trip to Israel with a new appreciation for how easy it is to live here in the States. Don't get me wrong. Israel is wonderful! Unique among all nations for so many reasons. I'm proud to be Jewish and Israel is the country of my people. So my attachment to it is a part of who I am. This was my eighth trip there, each one for a different reason. This time, I 'lived' in six different places: Tel Aviv (twice), Jerusalem, Haifa, Yaffoj/Jaffa, and the Judean hills, all in 2 weeks time. Getting lost where you don't know the area and don't really speak the language is certainly challenging -- not to mention scary. But I did get to each place, and to be with old friends and some new ones. Living with people allowed me to see what each of their lives were like on a daily basis. All quite different, each with their own set of circumstances and for some, different expressions of creativity... artists and writers.
Tel Aviv looks a lot like parts of New York in places. Crowded and not the best of neighborhoods. But I was told that because just about everyone is Jewish, it's like living among family. If you need help, you'll get it, like you are part of the mishpuchah (family). Good to know. As for getting to and fro in Tel Aviv, electric scooters abound, personally owned ones or ones you rent which just stand on sidewalks where the last rider left it. You slide your credit card over a little screen on the handle bar, get on the scooter and take it to where you're going and then leave it for the next guy. No, I did not ride a scooter but my granddaughter owns one and often showed up on it. Traffic is heavy in the cities, including the scooters also being on the streets as not everyone has a car as in America. Getting around throughout the whole country, was a matter of finding the right buses, trains and sometimes settling for the easiest, a taxi cab, of which there are many in Israel, like the buses. Trying to ask directions or get somewhere or ask "Is this the bus to...." in my very limited Hebrew was a matter of a linguistic challenge as well as a time and energy effort, especially when shlepping a suitcase. But somehow I managed to get wherever I was headed.
There is a hotel owned by believers in Tel Aviv named Gilgal, a block away from the Mediterranean with a great beach, even if it was too cold to sunbathe. Even so, folks were everywhere enjoying the area. I stayed there the first week while working on the project that brought me to Israel. At times, while staying in the hotel, despite the awesome breakfasts they served up on the enclosed roof top, I often had to buy my own dinner on the nights when I was alone. Walking at night (it got dark early) through busy streets that were so not what I am used to, just trying to figure out what was in packages in a grocery story when I couldn't figure out what the Hebrew said, or order from a menu when I opted for a restaurant, was a hit and miss that I would get what I expected. I will say, though, that the food was often delicious, from chopped liver and onions, which my grandmother used to make, in Tel Aviv, to one of the best Thai dinners I've ever had in a place in Jerusalem where the first train station in the city was turned into a chic restaurant and shop area. Eating in Israel is definitely worth the trip there!
Back home now, I didn't realize before how very convenient and easy my life is generally, in every way. I understand the language, how the money works, where to go to get what I want or need, and easily get to where I want to be or be with. I can drive anywhere and probably not get lost or ask directions and understand what they tell me. Then again, there's my GPS. Can you tell I am largely grateful for my car. Think about that the next time you have an 6 bag supermarket purchase to take home. I admit to having experienced a bit of culture shock on this trip, plus twice I was confronted with possible homelessness - something I've never faced before. Fortunately, the crises were short lived. But the stress of it all made me so grateful for the peace I generally live in. The experience gave me insight, and stirred up some meaningful compassion as to what others may go through or have to face even daily. I had taken my comfortable life for granted. My gratefulness level has definitely increased a good measure. At the crux of my stress, I reminded myself that each crises provides a measure of God's grace and an opportunity to use it to learn to be stronger. That's not always easy - in fact, it's probably not, but in the end, making the choice to go through challenges with dignity and poise makes us over-comers, not victims of circumstances. I am reminded here of something a minister once told me that I've held on to many times, including this one: "Act out of your strengths, not your weaknesses." Selah.