Like everyone else in Israel during this harrowing time, I often long to escape. But I don’t want the guilt of getting on a plane and losing close contact with beloved family and friends who would stay behind.
There’s not much sense in going if you leave your heart behind.
There is at least one advantage to growing older: it lets you escape via your memories. You can actually relive times of your life that were stress-free; times when you didn’t feel threatened or endangered, afraid to listen to the news or read the newspaper.
But I’m afraid we have become so addicted to the adrenalin that runs through our bodies at word of each latest terrorist attack that it’s hard to imagine back to when our lives were … well, boring.
In addition to the comforts of memory that come with age, a person benefits from being a writer. I can take pen and paper and place myself in any setting from the past half-century.
At this moment, I’m a child hiking through the Australian bush. The branches of the gum trees entwine overhead, and there is the fragrance of eucalyptus. I am with the Girl Guides, and believe it or not we are singing “Waltzing Matilda” as we march along; my biggest worry is whether I can do well enough to earn my Camping Badge.
Fast-forward a few years: I am 19 and in London. It’s my first taste of independent living, studying and working in one of the world’s greatest cities. Reciting Wordsworth on Westminster Bridge. Having tea at the Bread and Cheese Club in Fleet Street, hoping to glimpse some famous journalists. Playing darts in an English pub. Experiencing my first romances. The whole world then was golden and every dream seemed capable of being fulfilled.
Then there was the experience of youth hostelling around Europe on less than $5 a day. “Sur le pont d’Avignon” became a reality, not just a song. Paris in the spring. Watching a glassblower at work and riding in a Venetian gondola. Breathing the rarefied air of a Swiss mountain village. Putting on clogs and a costume for the photographer at the Dutch village of Volendaam.
To where else should I escape? Time, not place. Putting on a wedding dress, adjusting the veil. Holding my firstborn son. Getting my first check from a magazine. Shaping a poem.
Did all these wonderful things stop with my aliyah? Certainly the worries began: the financial struggle; a new culture and a new language; the uncertainty of whether my children would find friends and cope at school. Would they all survive the army? Would miluim be too hard, and where would they be sent? How could we make their lives easier?
There have been moments of joy here too. Seeing my four children marry under the chuppah in Israel. The births of their Sabra children. Finally acquiring, after many years, my own home in Jerusalem. A wonderful mosaic of tiny pieces that compose a life: family and friendships and caring and devotion.
And when I think, really think, about where I want to escape to, I suddenly understand that there is no place as beloved and cherished and beautiful as the place I’m in right now, here in Jerusalem.