I am writing from Toronto, where I am visiting my parents for the month. After the whirlwind of emotions and activity that came with graduation - packing up, saying goodbye, seeing family, going on vacation, etc. everything has finally settled into some semblance of routine, if only temporary routine. This is comforting, but while I am absolutely loving this opportunity to spend time with my parents, I am also longing to unpack my bags for one last time and finally be in Jerusalem.
It's easy for me to forget how much of an adventure a year in Jerusalem might be. I've spent so much time thinking about which clothing I will bring, getting excited about cooking for myself again, and wondering about banal things like whether I'll be able to purchase my vitamins in Jerusalem or if I should bring a year's supply, that I seem to have missed the big point. Which is that I'm not just moving far away, I'm moving to Jerusalem.
Last time I was in Israel, it was on a Taglit/Birthright Israel trip. It was the summer after my first year at UVA, and I traveled with students I didn't know well. I was shy, I was nervous, and I anticipated of being awed and inspired. I kept a painfully detailed diary (in lieu of talking to people and making new friends) in which I catalogued a series of emotions that I either felt or wanted to feel about each site we visited. Before I left for Israel, I gathered all of my expectations for myself and my trip into a bundle and packed them in my backpack so that I could take them out and force them upon myself each place I went. "I'm at Masada, so I should be experiencing the enormity of the place, wondering about what it means for me to be a Jew with religious freedom, considering the bravery of the Zealots..." I mapped these hopes onto the experience and in some ways I wonder if I ever allowed myself to recognize the emotions or thoughts I really was having, or if I covered everything over in these enormous hopes for my own emotional capacity and feelings of connectedness.
This time, I don't want to go into all of this already predicting and proscribing how I will feel about each experience or the level of awe with which I will approach my life in Jerusalem. Perhaps it will be an awe-inspiring trip to a place that makes me feel connected to the infinite, or to the majesty of history, or any number of things, or perhaps it will mostly be an every day life in a city where real people live, work, learn, and love. Instead of building up expectations that I later feel pressured to live up to, to the extent that it is possible, I want to experience the year as it unfolds and record, here, for you and for myself, an honest account of all of it, not clouded by how I want it to be or think it should be. I want it to be exactly what it will be, and nothing else.
Which is why writing this first post, here, from Toronto, is so hard. I wanted to say hello and welcome you to this blog where Daniel and I will try not only to keep you updated and allow you to experience some of our adventures with us, but also to record and reckon with our own experiences in order to deepen them through the practice of writing. But I also wanted to give you a hint of what to expect from me, that is to say, what I expect from myself. And yet, I am resistant to such expectations.
(an aside: please note, my casual writing style is one of enormous contradiction and ridiculous run on sentences. sorry.)
Underneath all of the expectations that I obviously do have, whether I want them or not, and beyond all of the details of where I'll be living, who I'll be meeting, and what I'll be doing, let me just say that I am excited. I know that I have so much to learn - about Israel, about Jerusalem, about Judaism... and I can't wait to get started. I've been reading a lot this summer to try to get a handle on what Jerusalem itself means and how I should think about it. I've read Philip Roth's The Counterlife and Operation Shylock, I've read Saul Bellow's To Jerusalem and Back and Michal Govrin's Snapshots. I imagine that some of the ideas these works introduced to me will find themselves back in this blog later in the year, as I experience some of the questions, contradictions, and hopes each of these works expresses. Despite this enriching reading list that's given me an opportunity to think about Jerusalem in new ways, I know that nothing will be quite as educational in so many different ways as actually being there. Living in Jerusalem.
I look forward to sharing my experiences with you. I hope that you will enjoy reading my wordy, confusing, roundabout prose (for which I, again, apologise). I also hope that you will post responses as you think of them. It will not only encourage me to write more, as I will know that someone is reading, but it would be great to hear from you in general and to read your responses when (if) I write anything that makes you think. I arrive on August 4. Until then, you shouldn't expect many posts on here from me because I won't be in Jerusalem, so "Journaling in Jerusalem" won't really be an option for me yet. But I will, of course, be reading Daniel's posts and I hope you'll comment on them - I look forward to your comments!