My bags are very nearly packed (still unclear how all of the stuff will fit into the available space). Our flight leaves in the middle of the night tonight. And I have come to my local coffee shop for one more קפה הפוך/cafe hafuch/(literally "upside-down coffee") cappuccino and two little cheese bourekas. This favorite little breakfast of mine reminds me of Israel's crossroads status: a European coffee with a Middle Eastern/Mediterranean pastry.
Even (or perhaps especially) with all its challenges, I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to spend 10 months here. I leave very ready to be back in the States and also deeply hoping to be able to spend more time here in Israel in the future. I am better able to express what I value both about Jewish life and culture here and Jewish life and culture in the Diaspora. My two sentence versions of these views:
- I value Israel primarily as a vital center of Jewish/Hebrew cultural production. Creating (and continuing to create) a Jewish state has allowed for, inspired, and goaded people into expressions of art, literature, poetry, music, and scholarship which are huge gifts not only to the Jewish people, but to the world.
- Diaspora and exile are not 100% overlapping categories; in Jewish history, having a "center" has never meant that "periphery" has nothing to offer. Perhaps because of how I grew up, perhaps because of some deeper constitutional attributes, perhaps for reasons that need not be explainable, I personally have always felt more interested in Jewish life on a variety of "margins" and find myself looking forward to building my rabbinate back in the U.S. of A.
But I will miss this place, the country itself (with all its contradictions) and its people, my neighborhood, and this little place that has supplied warm coffee and tasty baked goods:
And now to finish packing and clean, clean, clean.