Sorry, my computer turned itself off last night just as I finished part 1. Tonight I give my talk so I really have to get down to writing and processing.....
I came back to the States at the end of the summer and went back to Pittsburgh. I was so depressed. I had no desire whatsoever to be there. I just wanted to be in Israel. I remember the family I lived with made a great BBQ birthday party for me and I remember sitting now, not wanting to be there. Just wanting to be back in Israel. It was so hard. But I knew that I would return. I planned on going back for seminary after 12th grade so I had the year to work on making that happen. I was financially independent at that point and receiving a little social security. I returned to my job at the local Judaica store doing some computer stuff. So I carried on. Just trying to survive day to day. School meant nothing to me anymore. I was so confused. I was so lost. Not only that but we received another blow. Our dear friend/mentor passed away that September from cystic fibrosis. It shook us up so badly. How do you watch that happen to someone in his early twenties? I was still reeling from the death of my dad - Rafi was helping me deal with it. And then he is taken from us? It was a horrible year. But somehow I made it through. Again, pulled together a lot of scholarships and somehow managed to make it to Israel for the school year 98/99.
Living in Israel as a seminary student is not really living in Israel. At least not where I was. I was in a bubble. I was at school with English speakers, being taught in English, going to "town" to meet up with all my other English speaking friends. I met a few Israelis, but they spoke English. I lived in Jerusalem so that meant I did not have to learn any Hebrew either. It was still a hard year, I was still so lost in life. But I loved being back in Israel. I was happy in Israel. The highs are that much higher and the lows are that much lower. Everything is more meaningful and more real here. I had no plan in life but I knew that I still wanted to be in Israel.
My year came to a close and I wanted to come back. But not for another year of seminary. I wanted to work, I wanted to learn the language. I managed to find a program in the Old City to come back to. Half day of learning and tiyulim, plus the opportunity to work. The scholarships only lasted so long, I needed to start paying my own way. So I spent the summer at home, living with my Grandma, and got my first job at Kohl's. End of the summer, I said goodbye to my Kohl's crew and got back on the plane. If I thought I was lost before this, I think I was even more lost this year. I had no borders/no boundries/no one watching out for me or setting limits. I just did my own thing. Maybe I needed it. I needed the freedom to figure myself out. Maybe. It is what it is.
Two weeks before I came to Israel, the program called me up and told me they didn't have enough people signed up and they were canceling it. I told them I was still coming and they said I could come and do some of their classes while I look for something else. So I did. I had an apartment in the Old City, I took some of their classes, got a short-lived job in the Arab shuk and then moved on to babysitting. The school I went to turned out to be somewhat cultish and almost turned me completly off Judaism. Luckily, there was one level-headed Rabbi there who kept me on the path. I made a lot of Israeli friends that year and learned a LOT of Hebrew. I did a lot of stupid things too and thatnk G-d, I didn't get killed. Yes, that was the year I went to Bethlehem with my Arab friend. My Arab friend who a year later was put in jail for murder. Oh goodness.
While I loved hanging out in the Rova and town and just chillin, it wasn't getting me anywhere in life. The school was doing more harm then good and in January, I made a "Grown-up" decision. I decided I had to go back to the States. I had to get out of that environment. One day I will post some of the stories of things that happened while in Machon Roni. Such as the "Malka Hamishicha Zahava" AKA the crazy homeless woman who turned up in my apartment and screamed bloody murder when I came home one Friday night. Woah. The police knew her well. She roamed the streets of the Old City asking them to take her back to her rightful home on the Temple Mount. She is, after all, The Queen Moshiach, Zahava......
Back to the States I went. Everytime I had to leave Israel, it was agonizing, heart wrenching. I felt almost complete in Israel. Just missing my better half. But in America I was missing my better half and my homeland. So back to my job at Kohl's to figure out my grand plan. After about 6 months there, I decided to move to New York. I had a lot of friends there and it seemed a happening place. Lots of my friends were heading there, doing the smart thing and going to college. But I went there to get a job. Found an apartment in Brooklyn, and got a job at a company in the Empire State Building. I was just a secretary but oh how I loved working on the 75th floor!! I'd take the subway to Manhattan every morning, work, and sometimes spend a few hours wandering NYC afterwards. It's fascinating there!
I had a good year - I suppose. Made some friends for life. Had my ups and downs. A few broken hearts. Ya know, doin my thing. But I just couldn't stay away. I needed to come back to Israel.
Since I couldn't just come back to hang out, I needed something good to do. A good reason to come back. I started looking into different programs and decided to go to Ben Gurion University's Overseas Student Program in Beer Sheva. I wanted to get out of Jerusalem and this way, I could get some college credits. Somehow managed to scrape the money together (including a loan from my boss). And said cest la vie to NYC.
(That actually does not make sense in translation but I like the sound of it.....)
To be continued.........