As I’m writing this, my hometown of Norfolk, Virginia is being blanketed in the most snow it has seen since 2010. I’m bracing myself against the cold, and it’s hard to believe that in just under a week, I’ll be on the beaches of Shefayim, beginning my semester-long journey in Israel. I’ll trade in my sweaters for shorts, and put away my trusty Bean Boots for my Chacos, which have been collecting dust in my closet since September. This transition from the snows of the Mid-Atlantic to the balmy, 70-degree weather of the desert feels as far away as summer, but it’s just around the corner. I can’t help but worry: am I ready?
Physically, I’m definitely not ready. I’ve gotten as far as picking out my two suitcases and one carry on that I will take (the suitcase took some time, as one of my trusty suitcases that I’ve used for years finally expired following my move-out from Georgetown). However, the suitcases are still empty, packed only in my mind and in the dozens of lists I have in the notes of my iPhone. I’ve done some preliminary triaging (nope, unfortunately, I can’t take my Tempur-Pedic pillow with me to Israel) and purchased some necessities (they don’t give you bags for your food at the shuk, or market, so I’m coming armed with reusable, collapsible bags).
Logistically, I’m pretty well prepared. My fellowship program, The Nachshon Project, sent an email with a schedule for our weekly meetings and trips, including a list of guest speakers. I’ll be meeting some of my favorite Israeli authors, including Matti Friedman, Yossi Klein Halevi, and my personal favorite, Etgar Keret, so I have their books all ready to go in my backpack. I’ve already spoken with one of my roommates at Hebrew University’s Rothberg International School, where we’ll be living in an apartment on campus. Finally, I have a running Google Doc where I’m compiling suggestions from friends and family about places to travel within Israel, must-visit restaurants, and hidden gems off of the well-beaten tourist path within the country.
Emotionally, spiritually, and mentally… that’s a different story that I can’t quite put in checklist form. I’m nervous both about the place I’m leaving and for the place to which I’m arriving. I’m already missing my life at Georgetown, with my cozy Village B living room, walking to M Street after a long day of classes, my favorite study spots, and my outstanding community of friends that I’ve cultivated over the past two and a half years. I know that they’ll all be there waiting for me in August, but it’s hard to separate from the comfortable bubble that is Georgetown. Then, of course, it is no small undertaking to commit to going to Israel as a Jewish woman in 2017. My relationship to this country is as intensely personal as it is political, and it seems that the more I try to understand my Israel politics, the more hazy and confusing they become. But then again, that’s why I’m so excited about living in the land, getting to know its people and its history, and immersing myself in its culture. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll come back with a more nuanced opinion, a stronger connection, and a newfound understanding of this complex country.
So. Physically? I’ll get there. Logistically? I’m overprepared, if I’m being honest. Emotionally, spiritually, and mentally? I think I’m ready.