You get spoiled living as a Jew in Israel. Almost always, a Jew is no more than a house away, often a room away or standing beside you. There are unspoken words that happen every day in Israel. The news comes on of another stabbing, and your eyes meet someone else’s in a shared look of pain and dismay. They announce that Obama, or Kerry, or John Earnest or Jennifer Psaki has come up with yet another idiotic idea and you smile, partially in amusement and partially in disgust, only to realize the person sitting across from you has the same expression.

And then you hold up your hands, a gesture meaning “what can we do? It’s the life of a Jew” – only to realize the other person has done something similar.


It’s so lonely being outside Israel. They don’t think like us – these non-Jews. I know that sounds terrible, but it’s true. I think they have more fun than we do – they want to know why I didn’t come to the dancing last night and will I join them for drinks and a DJ tonight. Another world so far from mine. I don’t dance with men…well, other than my husband, a son, or now a grandson. I don’t drink…I don’t like alcohol and I don’t find it relaxing to sit surrounded by people listening to music blaring.

I know. I’m boring.

And there is that part of me, the Jew inside, that is checking the news every few minutes today and yesterday and the day before. I know that firebombs were thrown at Israelis today…and yesterday. I know that the European Union has decided to label products from Israel as once the Nazis labeled the Jews. And I laugh because the single largest group likely to be hurt by that labeling will be Palestinians who work in the factories where they produce those things.

I have one more presentation and they I fly home. I walked into the room and the woman spoke to me in German. It happens a lot. I smile and answer in English. They see the Jewish star and assume I am from Israel. It makes me wonder – do Jews who visit here from other countries not wear a Jewish star? Always the first assumption is that I am from Israel, and, of course, I am.

This one lived and worked in Israel for a short time – a few minutes from my home.,.just at the entrance to Jerusalem. She left and a short time later, my presentation began. It went well. One of the discussions was about cultural differences when working with a global team.

At the end, people thanked me, a few came up to speak to me and I answered and talked but ached to be alone. I’m feeling lonely here. And then I got a gift…in Hebrew a matanah. One man had stayed to the side as the others asked questions or made comments after the session ended. As the last one left the room, he came over to me…and spoke…and spoke in Hebrew. “I thought I was the only Israeli here,” he said.

There it was – that instant connection. A piece of home. A commonality missing for days. We spoke in Hebrew and my soul soared. Silly things – the weather, the trip, where we live in Israel. It didn’t matter. We walked down the hall together until he went one way and I went another but the city feels different. I have no idea where he is staying, in what hotel or whatever. The chances of me ever meeting him in Israel are tiny. He said he might come to my presentation tomorrow – but it doesn’t really matter. His name is Matan – a gift…and that’s what it was.

Without sounding overly spiritual or whatever, I feel I have been reminded – we really are never alone. Each morning, I have stood facing Jerusalem and whispered the morning prayers I’m sometimes too rushed to say in Israel. I recite them aloud, just to hear the Hebrew words. For five whole minutes today, Hebrew, like light, shone into my world. A piece of home in a distant land.


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Paula R. Stern is CEO of WritePoint Ltd., a leading technical writing company in Israel. Her personal blog, A Soldier's Mother, has been running since 2007. She lives in Maale Adumim with her husband and children, a dog, too many birds, and a desire to write.