15 September 2015
Home. It is such a strange word. Much more than a place, it is a feeling. I feel at home here. It refers to the people that surround you, the energy within you, how you feel every night when you lay your head down to drift off into sleep. Home is comfort, home is laughter, home is safety, home is you.
When I first came to Israel and was sent wandering down its streets during the lunch breaks we would get, people, ever interested in the gaggle of ambling Americans, would not hesitate to strike up conversation with us. After the customary,
Question on their end and our affirming nods, without fail, they would immediately say warmly:
At first, it caught me off guard. In most of my Western travel experiences, Americans are met with leering sneers and cloves of garlic to ward off our evil presence (they’ve since stopped using garlic, as Americans would generally end up eating it). It seems like such a denigration to be categorised as an American, I’ve started taking it as a compliment when people exclaim:
Wow, you’re American? But you’re really cool; I thought for sure you’d be a Canadian!
I’ve gotten so used to hiding my identity behind my neutrally coloured wardrobe, mastery of most language’s basics and slowed-down saunter that this new interrogation technique felt like a trap devised to unmask my hidden American self. Each time we got asked,
I would nod and brace myself for the expected snooty Ahh or the openly distasteful sneer. Instead, time and time again, we were met with this simple phrase:
Soon, I grew accustomed to the word. Home. And I started noticing the comfortable vestiges of home starting to root themselves around me. New friends started to morph into familiar ones. New places would become places that I’d been already. New languages started to slowly reveal themselves to me. Before I knew it, when the next person said to me:
I felt like this place was home. I didn’t have an Israeli house or an Israeli passport or an Israeli library card, but somehow Israel felt like a home to me.
I’ve felt at home in three places now: Spokane, London and Israel. Spokane makes sense, as it is where I was raised, where I went to high school and university, where my family lives and loves and laughs. London was a home to me for a semester’s length: it gave me work and schooling and inspiration and joy. This place, too, makes sense.
I have been here for three weeks now. Three. Weeks. This is not a long time. And yet, it does not seem to take such a long time here to be welcomed, to be accepted. Whereas in both of my Western homes making friends, feeling accepted, establishing oneself takes a concentrated time and effort, here, it would not be strange to make friends in a minute, feel accepted in five and be established after a dinner full of laughter. In fact, I’ve done all of those things.
The unquestioned acceptance of people here is quite a new experience for me. To love fully and without reserve has been restorative and fulfilling. The country has given me something that I can never leave behind – perhaps this is why I feel that it is a home. For home is a thing that is carried with you, wherever you go. It is not a place; it is a feeling, and one that you cannot forget. I feel the love and the acceptance and the community that is celebrated here. I can never take it off or put it away.
I feel at home.
I feel Israel.