The first time I traveled to Israel I was eleven years old. My brother was celebrating his Bar Mitzvah, and my parents decided that we should all go to the Holy Land. Grandparents included. We all went. Nine of us in total.
I remember my excitement and pride. Pride to be a Jew going to the Holy Land. I remember the long journey. We had a layover in Frankfurt. There were beer vending machines. I was an American child traveling for the first time and everything made an impression.
But my overall impression was that of insecurity. I remember my parents keeping a keen eye on me. Actually all the adults watching closely. In the US we were given a long 'leash' to explore. Autonomy to decide how close or far we felt we needed to be. But in Israel the 'leash' was tightened. Reigned in.
I remember tall people with big guns. I saw them all the time and was very intimidated by them.
I came away with an impression of insecurity. Of being off balance. I felt that Israel was not a safe place.
I returned to the US and the news narrative confirmed my feeling. I continued to live my life and in the background the narrative continued. There was always some news story or another slipping into my line of sight.
So years passed and I never had any inclination to return. Time slipped by and I traveled all over. But I never had a reason or motivation to go back to the Holy Land.
People I met would speak with longing, wonder, and joy about Israel. Wishing to return. I never had that feeling. I couldn't understand that in others. "Why? It's not safe there." was the thought in my head. But of course I would listen respectfully, smile, and not allow my feeling to bother others.
More time passed, fifteen and a half years. And my brother fell in love. His bride grew up in Israel. So of course she wanted to have her wedding in the country she was raised in. What the bride wants, she gets. Everyone packed their suitcases and off we went to Eretz Israel.
For the first time in fifteen and a half years I was back. There was a great deal of excitement leading up to this trip. My brother's wedding. Coming back to Israel. All these emotions. Among them a healthy dose of apprehension. "Would it be safe?" I wondered. Because I hadn't had a summer vacation really, I decided to take the week before the wedding to tour the land.
Jerusalem. En Gedi. Dead Sea. Mitzpe Ramon. The Ramon Crater. Tel Aviv. Herzilya.
This time I was in the driver's seat. Both literally and metaphorically. I had control. What to see and what to do whenever I pleased.
And I was enchanted.
The beauty of the land. The diversity of the land. The diversity of the people. My own exploration with spirituality. I was moved. And surprised how comfortable I felt. How easily I would move about. No fear. Sometimes a bit of discomfort in a certain neighborhood. But overall, I was enchanted.
And that is what I believe is exactly the point on which Israel balances and sometimes wobbles. Enchantment and security.
It is the interaction of these two points. We are enchanted by the land. We wish it were secure. I am drawn in and yet cautious and pushed away.
As a young woman I am searching for security. Economic security: a good paying job, savings. Social and emotional security. And of course physical security. A secure place to raise a family. I am not certain Israel ticks all the boxes.
But the emotional and spiritual parts of me looking for fulfillment was enchanted by Israel. It more than ticks the boxes. That yearning I had, that yearning that aches and longs for connection was finally soothed, eased.
I am both drawn and pushed away. Yearning and stepping back.
Israel, balancing on the very pointy head of a pin. Tottering. Spinning. Never falling though.
Enchantment and Security.