Apr 02
sophie.d's picture

Stories from Israel

I wrote this piece about my time in Israel to share a different story of a land I love. Often times, what people know about Israel is filtered through the news which, for the most part, only picks up the negatives. Through the time I have spent there I have discovered a rich and incredible country that embraces diversity, culture, and hope. While there is much that I believe can be improved upon, I am proud of my connection to Israel and wished to share that. This piece can also be viewed as a broader statement emphasizing that conflict does not define a country. It’s important to honor the traditions, people, and culture of all countries and listen to individual stories. Danger lies in generalization.
  
Big plane, big wings
And small seats
Jammed together like packing peanuts in a moving box
Sweaty thighs sticking
Long nights of flight map watching

“We have entered Israeli airspace, please remain seated”
The Americans sit tight
With taut buckles and popping eyes
But the Israelis are already halfway out the door
With muttered slichas accompanying aggressive elbows.

I’m content to stand still
In the wave pushing out the cabin door
Watching my world pop up around me.
Colored bursts of classroom Hebrew,
Sweet, sweet Mediterranean air.
Home.

A golden sun floats,
A shimmering birthday balloon
Dancing on a horizon of olive green hills
And Jerusalem stone buildings.
The wind blows the scent of rosemary bushes and pomegranate trees
Swirling through the cobbled allies
Lined with falafel shops and haggling merchants.

I watch the challahs rising as the moon does
And children running free with laughter
Floating dresses as a land rests for Shabbat.
The candles of my dining room table
Light up a city.

2 years of chopped Israeli salad for dinner
But the cucumbers are never as fresh,
And going to Hebrew school
But no one speaks Hebrew
And then finally I’m back.
Gazing out airport windows
I want to run outside and sink down upon this sweet, sweet earth.

We dance around shesek trees
The wind twirls our voices.
A family feast with longtime friends.
Oh, how I missed the hummus.
I run through the cobbled streets,
Free.

The border with Lebanon.
Tanks crush the soft, rich ground.
Barbed wire blights a clear blue sky.
The ocean crashes below
Unrelentless,
All consuming
My tears for the land I love.

Bright sun
Kind people
Life is as rich as a succulent shawarma.
It’s hard to leave.

5 years of my country cropping up on the evening news.
Of, “murderers”, “oppressors”, “war”
That’s not the country I know.
Does no one want to listen,
Or do I enjoy the silence?
I’m sinking in the dead sea.

Soaring like a bird above the Negev.
Free wind chimes tinkling
Za’atar and rugelach wafting
Sweet, sweet people.
How I missed this piece of my heart.

A map of stars press against a dark night
Sleeping bags on rock-filled dirt
A peaceful desert,
A peaceful mind.
I lose myself in the stars of my ancestors.

Tinkling forks and cinnamon scented rice
A kind lady in front of me,
Sapphire blue silk covering.
Conversation drifting like a beach kite,
I eat dinner with an Israeli Arab family.
What differences can’t be solved over pita
And abundant laughter?

4 days of olive green army uniforms.
Cain hamefakedet (yes commander)
Lessons piled upon our days,
Morality and rules.
Responsibility and truth.
Murderers?

Large concrete wall
Lined with problems.
There is sadness on both sides.
Israelis are as resilient as a gnarled olive tree.
When the plane takes off
A piece of me never leaves the tarmac.

Sun-streaked hair,
Texts half in Hebrew.
The scent of Israel hangs on my clothes.
A sweet, sweet land lives inside me.