Well, it’s been . . .um . . . a long time since I’ve last written. Fortunately I know that none of my readers are sitting on the edge of their respective seats waiting for my next installment.
That said, and by way of explanation, not excuse, a lot of stuff has been happening in my world. Some of it I’ll mention — I finished writing my first novel and am looking for representation; more poems are being published; a few family things that have joyfully resolved — and some of it I’m not yet ready to talk about. I will soon enough, from a venue perhaps unexpected.
But I feel compelled to write because I am, once again, in the only place that makes me happier than New York. As readers do not have to guess, I am in Israel.
I might have written earlier — I arrived late Sunday — but for some reason I had a case of the kind of jet lag I haven’t had in years. (Note to self– never arrogantly believe that you have defeated jet lag — it doesn’t happen.) And I had to teach on Monday. And Tuesday. And tomorrow. And tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow . . .
My reason for being here is very different than last summer when I was a Hebrew student. This time I am the teacher, teaching a course at IDC Herzliya on The Pathologies of American Corporate Capitalism, based largely on my work. There are many differences this time, but one constant: This remains the place I belong. Project Aliyah has not ended.
And . . . this is the really exciting thing. I have spoken English only to teach (and in a few more complicated situations). I have otherwise negotiated everything — cabs, restaurants, shops, hotels, conversations with new people, etc — almost entirely in Hebrew. Bravo to the teachers at Hebrew U Ulpan and to Haggai at JTS. Even though it’s been some months since I engaged with the language, whatever they did managed to sink in. And it is wonderful. It’s to the point where my eyes first go to the Hebrew, not the English, on all of the signs, and I always use the Hebrew menu (and haven’t yet been shocked at the result).
But this trip is particularly special because it has put me in a very different context. Last summer I was a student, with other foreign students. Our teachers were Israeli, we encountered Israelis in Jerusalem, but it was relatively limited. This time, I am engaging with 65 Israeli students, not to mention the 25 or so who attended my “Master Class on Legal Theory” on Monday. I am talking with Israeli professors (including, delightfully, a couple of old friends) and staff — insisting on Hebrew until I think I’m going to get into real trouble — and of course the students. In fact I spent the first five minutes or so of my introduction to the course speaking to them in Hebrew. And nobody laughed.
So I don’t quite understand why everybody starts speaking English to me BEFORE I open my mouth. Whereupon I insist on Hebrew and they are happy to oblige.
To engage with Israeli students is a revelation. They are older. All have served, or are serving, in the army. They exude a confidence I generally don’t see in American students, which leads them actually to talk in class as if we were having a conversation. Yes, by this I mean they interrupt, they don’t raise their hands, they are highly opinionated,yada yada yada. I’m going to insist that part of this is ethno-cultural — it is quite familiar to this New York Jew — and part of it is as a result of the aforementioned.
They have shown themselves to be friendly and warm — no matter how rude I perceive their sidebar conversations in class to be (see above). They have shown themselves to be engaged with important world issues. And they have been very sweet to me. Obviously not all of them — there hasn’t been time. But enough to make me so proud that they are the future of my people, and so humble to know that they already have done more for the Jews than I will in my life.
Herzliya is not Jerusalem. I am staying in the Industrial District of Herzliya Pituach, a collection of old factories and spanking new high-tech companies (the Apple building across the way from my hotel is an engineering marvel). The temple here is dedicated to technology, innovation, and commerce. The restaurants are almost as trendy — seriously –as any you’re likely to find in New York, although far cheaper and with beautiful food (I’ve eaten more vegetables in three days than I have eaten in three years). And the beach is just a mile down the road, where resort Herzliya presents itself. This is a town of the Israeli one percent, of beautiful houses behind protective walls and gates, of luxury beach hotels (I was fortunate to stay at the Dan Accadia the last time I was here), a town of trendy shops and fashionable bars. In these dimensions, of course, it is vital to the future of Start-Up Nation, vital to the normalcy of an almost-developed country, and vitally preserves the beauty of neighborhood hummus joints fast against restaurants that require reservations long in advance.
So, in a word, I’m home. Having finally slept for more than an hour or two, I’m up for some significant exploration and, as is my nature, reflection. I understand that this entry is a bit disjointed, perhaps not as elegant or thematic as I’d like. But I will continue to report as I observe. Reveling in the joy of a land of milk and honey.