We have been living here for almost six years. What started out as a "year abroad" has turned into a life changing shift in focus from life in the diaspora (גלות), and life in (הארץ), but not of (מקורי), Israel. We are strangers in our own land.
It is hard to describe what is like to come to a new country at our stage in life. We had lives, mature, accomplished lives in the U.S. We gave up status and comfort and predicability and a degree of separation from life's more disturbing - and very real events. Yet we came, and here we remain.
A friend on Facebook posted a comment about how her memory was not as good as it used to be and she wasn't sure if she had done something or was trying to do something or wanted to do something. This struck home. I remember saying upteen times when I was tired or bored and had forgotten something, that I was "braindead". Actually, not funny for all sorts of reasons.
Well, in fact as we get older things slow down. And if you stay in familiar surroundings it does not smack you in the face in the way it does in unfamiliar surroundings. Lots of things go on automatic. One has done them so many times, there is no processing necessary. But here everything must be processed. The language is different. The culture is different. The weather is "large" - heat is hotter, rain comes down harder, the wind blow with great force and there is sand in everything. Living here is exhausting.
Walking down the street and having a small interaction with someone becomes frightening. What if I don't understand? What if I say something incorrectly? What if I break a rule I don't understand? Lots of anxiety. Ego taking a bashing. And the comments from native born Israelis and transplants who came years ago - "You've been here six years and you still don't speak good Hebrew? Why? Have you tried Ulpan? Do you study? You should get a job. That will teach you how to speak" etc. etc. etc. (וכו׳).
But the truth of the matter is that our Hebrew is not good enough to get a job that would improve our Hebrew. We are not in our 20s, starting out and moving up a ladder. We went up that ladder and worked hard and then....decided to chuck it.
Today, I enrolled in level Gimmel ++ for the third time. Kind of silly since I have already taken Dalet, the class above. I was a bit embarrassed. I was sure they we going to kick me out and say that enough is enough. But they let me enroll and I know it is still the right level.
I've started to think about this differently. I now consider myself a dancer, learning to dance in a new rhythm. And like older dancers who no longer perform on stage - and those who do - I will continue to take class to maintain my skills. I may never improve - or at least not at a pace anyone else can detect - but I'll be damned if I don't try. I will take class and keep the aches and pains away. I will learn the words again and practice and practice and practice. I will keep moving.
I am very stubborn. I hope that serves me well.