Home Is Where We Build Together

Rivka just returned from a weeklong Hakhel trip as a Hevria representative. Hakhel aims to teach and inspire  diaspora Jewish intentional communities (such as Hevria) about the incredibly unique ways different Israeli intentional communities, including urban kibbutzim, and coliving and cohousing subgroups within towns, grow, function, and transform their environment. 

Standing overlooking the great, heartbreaking landscape of Mitzpe Ramon, I yearn for the soft squish of my two year old’s body against my own; a child too young to understand where my warmth and closeness have gone, or when she will find it again. 

I miss the laughter and incessant chatter of my five year old, the way her body flails around in the joy of having limbs that can do funny things.

I miss the determination and spirit of my seven year old, the way she desires to conquer, the way her body searches around the room for ways to fix things when frustration and energy mounts. 

I miss the way they yearn for me, reach for me, ask for me, and look to me.

I miss my presence filling their lives with meaning, the way hearing my steps walking down the hallway as they lay in bed at night gives them comfort, focus, and a dependable anchor. 

I miss my husband sitting on the couch, thinking, his words bouncing off of my own, the comfort of our silences, and the feeling of being able to stop from the proving and doing of life, together. I miss his silly jokes, told again and again, never getting old, the way we laugh at ourselves for still finding them funny. 

I stand in the Israeli desert today, surrounded by yellow and brown, rocks and sand, talking with twenty other North Americans and a handful of Israelis about how to build up the Jewish people, and my heart bellows long distance from the grisly, crumbly, broken down Brooklyn steps.

My hand reaches out to my children and husband there, thousands of miles from the vast desert, and I think, with a start, “My Gd, all I want to do is go home.” Yet I feel uncomfortable at what I define as “home”.

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There is nothing like the spirit and unity and air of Israel, but I surprise myself by yearning to return to my complicated, heavy, North American city life, to make our pile of Brooklyn rocks swell and sing with the imprint of our souls. 

Separated by miles of sea and sand and rocks and throngs of people in every which way, I reach out and chose it. 

That life,” I say. “I want that life.

My chest soars, thrilled, pushed upwards a thousand miles from the uprising happening within me, reaching out to seize the life that is already, completely mine; to reclaim the children I birthed and the man I wed. 

I am not used to this. I am not used to being in Israel and missing where I came from. I am not used to being home sick. I am not accustomed to being life-sick. Usually, I crave more and more and MORE space, wondering if it will ever be enough to fill me. Usually, I crave the scent of Israel, the deep sense of belonging and peoplehood and primordial return.

Yet here I am, in the vast Israeli desert, thousands of miles away from my family, with all of the space and none of the resolution. 

The resolution is in the land I fled, the land that disappoints and scares me on a daily basis. The land of separation and schism, confusion and darkness. 

There,” I say, pointing back to America, back to Brooklyn, speaking to no one, only to reassure my aching, desperate heart. “There I want to go home. There is where I build.