By Rachel Starr-Glass
“Lech lecha me’artzecha mi’moladetech u’mebeit avicha el ha’aretz asher arecha.”
Just as Avraham, our first patriarch was told; I too heard this startling commandment. “Go to you from your land, from your birth place, and from the home of your father, to the place that I will show to you.” An omnipresent force commanded me to leave; it resonated through the walls of my mother’s mouth. As the metal wings began cutting through sky, and the wheels lost contact with solid ground, the wind was knocked out of my lungs as I realized that my world had rolled onto its back and never would anything return to the way it was. At eleven years old I traveled from Israel to the United States. The black of night swallowed the plane whole: Let there be darkness.
The pieces fell into place under the florescent rays, leather sandals sinking into the scorching desert sand under the weight of my fears. Floor-to-ceiling shelves of cereal bury me in their shadow, Goliath towering over David.
The realization was delayed, standing tall before me only after defeating the shock. It was my second week in America. The journey itself was hasty, a paradoxical tapestry of scenes being played out for my eyes to see in fast forward, along with me experiencing the scenes themselves in slow motion. All sound was muted, only the hum of particles vibrating through my veins held the promise of my survival. Eleven is an odd age. The mind is still so malleable and fragile, yet its membranes are engraved with so many beliefs and things known without doubt.
The wall of cereal baffled me; its vastness and the variety it contained seemed nonsensical. Why would humans need so many choices of a single commodity? What was the true difference between all these magical, sugary concoctions? Never had I felt so small in a grocery store, in a city, in a country.
I came from a small settlement close to Jerusalem where it was unheard of not to recognize the name of any member in the population. It was a place where everything was within walking distance, even reaching the fringes of the nation only took a few hours by car. The whole country of Israel could fit into the state of California seventeen times. Back in the strip of land wedged between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, I remember my body holding weight, my presence holding meaning. I was part of a people, a nation, a tribe; my beliefs echoed through the places I walked, an active part in a stable unit, where all fears were quelled and uncertainties wiped clean, nothing was in doubt.
From certainty I traveled into a plastic world, one where nothing held total significance and all could be replicated to the thousandth. A world where so many questioned what they perceived and where battles raged endlessly within. Where building were made of metal, finely cut stone and where monetary success was the fire in the torch. These buildings were new and fit together like puzzle pieces as they rose into the Crayola blue sky.
All these differences were blatantly obvious as I stood in the shadows of my new homeland, but as I grew taller against the measuring tree, and as my palms became more calloused with age, these differences became less and less concrete. Was there truly a sense of comfort back in Israel? Was the soil really sprinkled with specks of gold and the air full of light? That’s what I remember, I was a soul with a purpose, a chosen spirit that took its first breath in the most holy of lands. Was this all a sugarcoated childhood fantasy, or did I really once know the Truth? There was anger in me towards this new country; I struggled to comprehend how people could feel whole in an empty land. Now I see through more adjusted eyes and can see all the marvels of the United States, the freedom and opportunity, the honesty in work. I can see the successes of its power and the strength of its hand. But I constantly struggle.
My journey did not end as the wheels of the plane screeched to a halt; the journey remains in the soles of my feet and the pounding of my heart. This is the meaning of a true journey; one that you embark on by chance or choice or circumstance, and one you remain on for the rest of days. It is a tangible transformation of the spirit, constantly in progress. So, I can look at the place of my birth and the experiences within that ancient land, and know that although they are all woven into the fabric of my being, the experiences were not a part of my journey- they were a part of my stagnancy. Our journey is not what others put upon us, nor the sum of our stumbles, rather, it is the awakening of our awareness and our choices of how to react.
Published on page 27 of the Spring 2011 issue of Leviathan.