We have a Google Earth™ Program that lets us see where we used to live in the States. I can, when I feel nostalgic, look at the buildings where I went to school as a boy and young man, look for “Z” Cozy Corner on Avenue Z and Coney Island Avenue in Brooklyn, or the two-story house we lived in, in St. Paul. My wife can look at her childhood home near the railroad tracks in St. Paul or the schools she attended, carrying book bags and a tennis racket. She can show the kids where the Ben Franklin was that she would shop at as a teenager, or where she would go to buy her mother packs of cigarettes when she was a little girl. The boys can look at the alleyway they used to walk up coming home from school, the school they went to, and the highway they used to cross going to the day care lady after their first day care lady died from cancer.
Sometimes, I get positively homesick for the many places I called home in the United States. When I count the few shekels I have in my pocket or the fact that we have to vacate the apartment we are living in less than two weeks after Passover ends, when I look at the piled up bills and the little money we have, it can really get to me. In St. Paul, we never worried about money, eating out, or anything. We didn’t live lavishly, but we were able to live comfortably. I budgeted money well enough that we never worried about it or how to pay for any bills we ran up. We had a car, an A1 credit rating, and got at least four credit card offers a week. Except for the interest we paid on the mortgage, we never paid a dime in interest payments.
That’s all gone now – the money, the car, and the credit rating. We sold the house and live here on a few thousand shekels a month and a lot of faith. Looking back should make me want to run back to the States to live. But in doing that, we’d lose all that we’ve gained here.
I would worry about our sons and the drinking parties they have in high schools in Minnesota. I’d be worried about the drugs and the pretty Christian girls they’d want to sleep with and get pregnant. These are things I don’t think twice about here. Any Jewish holidays that we wanted to take off would be an argument with the employer. Getting home early Friday to prepare for the Sabbath? Forget it! The circle of friends we built up here would be gone; the sense of adventure of living in the Middle East instead of some backwater in the Middle West? Gone in a puff of smoke. The friends my sons have would be gone and it is a lot easier to make friends here than in the States. In this country, we are all a family however much we may argue and fight. America is a lot of things, but it is no family.
Finally, and most importantly, my wife and I both feel a sense of purpose living here that neither of us felt in America. We both sense that we are on a mission, though neither of us is always sure of what that mission is. Both of us once called America home. But here, we are home. In our hearts we both know that. The boys know that, too.
So, I’ll budget the shekels as we do the Passover shopping and cleaning. We’ll try not to eat too many matzot as we say our goodbyes to this corner of Jerusalem and try to find a different place to live, hopefully not too far away. Yeah, we look back, but in just a few minutes, all the bad things we fled come washing over us and we remember why we are here; to be free in our own land, the Land of Zion and Jerusalem.
Happy Passover from the City of David, the Eternal Capital of the Jewish People.