When you remember your home in Jerusalem, you think about how your soul was alive and so, so happy
all you think about the entire Yom Tov. It consumes you.
Chol Hamoed is the worst. On Chol Hamoed you think about the pulsating streets of Jerusalem, the warmth and sunshine of summer’s last hurrah, the noise, oh, the beautiful noise. But you are in England now, not Jerusalem, so you take your car in search of something, anything, that might clue you in to the fact that it’s Succos.
Finally you find it, five blocks away, but it’s 11:30 p.m., and all you get to hear are the dying strains of a shul Simchas Beis Hashoeivah, so you drive home through the dark, downcast roads of Manchester, where you’re spending the chag, and you think, forget it, Manchester will never be Jerusalem.
You get home and curl into your covers, and allow your tears to leak into your pillow. You miss it so, so much.
In Jerusalem, your entire apartment had three sets of windows, and none at all in your kitchen, but the sunlight that flooded through them lit up your days and filled your soul. In London, your apartment is an okay size, and it has windows in every single room including the bathrooms, but somehow your home is devoid of light.
Your new apartment in London is a work of very decent interior design, and usually you enjoy tasteful design, but this one just doesn’t grow on you. In the beginning you attribute it to having not yet fully unpacked, so you tell yourself that when your lift arrives and you hang up your pictures, and lay out your vases, it will become home.
Then your shipment dutifully arrives, and you hang up your pictures and lay out your vases, but… it doesn’t become home. You wait a couple more weeks, but you remain a stranger in your own house.
How much you loved your Jerusalem home.
You miss it so much, it haunts you.
Every now and then, you try looking around at your apartment, you find a sunny day and look out the window at the houses lining your block, and when you gaze long enough and the sun stays out for all that time, you sometimes find the block quite charming. But the flat land and lack of expanse does little for a heart that craves connection and a soul that thirsts for the spiritual beauty like that of the hills of Jerusalem, its blinding sun by day, and twinkling city lights at night.
When you remember your home in Jerusalem, you think about how your soul was alive and so, so happy.
You miss the relationships you’ve left behind, the people you loved and relied on, who filled your heart with joy and a sense of purpose. You also miss the littler things, like taking walks with your husband under a canopy of Jerusalem stars on warm, balmy summer nights, or mild winter ones, where you always felt safe, because people and traffic never ceased to pepper the streets and make you feel part of something.
You miss going on buses filled with Jews. You miss being able to hop off to the Kosel on a whim, and sitting and staring at the stones for hours, until your eyes were misty and you remembered what you really came for.
You miss being able to drop off your toddler at any neighbor, anytime. You miss the doctors and nurses and midwives whose paths you crossed, who rejoiced with you in happy times (baruch Hashem, mazel tov) and felt with you in sadder times. You miss all these things so much.
You refuse to close your Bituach Leumi and health insurance accounts, knowing you will be paying every month despite lack of use. Your bank account isn’t even a question; it will remain for when you go back.
Over Succos in Manchester, you get to have a few less chilly days and a bit of sun too, but it’s really just a tease of a summer that never really was. You compulsively check the Jerusalem weather forecast and drool at the perfectly aligned sun symbols, wishing you were not only seeing symbols but experiencing the warmth too.
In England, you’re a withering plant that was once vibrant, alive. You think of all the dreams that Eretz Yisrael held for you, and refuse to believe that those dreams are no longer. You wonder briefly if this is what the Jews felt like when they lost Jerusalem and then you’re ashamed of yourself, because you really have so much going for you and in no way are you bereft, like the Jews who were dragged to Rome in chains.
So, you hang on to shreds of your past life and try to feel grateful that at least if you have it no longer, you did have it once. You obsessively browse through photos of your days in Eretz Yisrael, and you indulge and reminisce until you cave from longing and forcibly shut the folder, because you can’t bear it any longer.
You think you will miss Eretz Yisrael forever.
Or maybe just for a very long time.
Maybe until your apartment grows on you, or you find another one that does.
You don’t know how you will feel better, or even, weirdly, if you want to feel better. Does feeling better mean you will forget? Does not feeling better mean you will forever be miserable?
You don’t know which of the two feels more palatable — or if, perhaps, there is another way. In the meantime, when you are able, you do your best to occupy your mind with the blessings in your life, and you keep a prayer on your lips for G-d to help you, somehow, find consolation.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 802)
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