The last day of the past year is made both easier and harder by the same factor – it was so darn good. As I look back, here are some of the images that will stay with me. Things that I so appreciated. Things that I’ll so miss.
Trees and plants. Particularly if they hang next to Jerusalem stone. Particularly when they grow amazing fruit that you could just pick off and eat. We’ve seen almonds, olives, prickly pears, pomegranates, figs, oranges, lemons, dates and grapes. Maybe their owners are watering them, but there’s something about the land that gives and gives.
This country does roundabouts really well. Here’s one with an olive tree centrepiece.
Shuli and David. I have no idea who you are, but I’ve passed this monument to your relationship every day. I’ll miss you.
The religion here. OK there’s plenty of manifestations of religion that I won’t miss. But I love how Judaism – and Islam and Christianity and others too – runs through the veins of country. Streets are named after prophets. Religious garb (of all stripes) is unremarkable. The mural on the exit of a carpark is – humorously – Moses leading the people out of slavery through the split Red Sea.
There’s this man by the minimarket on the way to nursery. Most mornings he’s rushing back and forward in the same few meters square, shouting innocuous things at passers by. He usually says something to me that sounds like “hello Ima (mum)”. I might have been alarmed by this, but for the fact that the shop keepers on that stretch are fantastic to him, and this sets a tone. They clap him around the shoulders, and give him high-fives, and sometimes give him light work in their shops. I’ll miss this quiet but beautiful display of community care.
The seasonality. It was frustrating going to the supermarket in the winter and finding nothing in the fruit aisle but apples, but come summertime, the joy of every week’s new fruit is worth the wait. It feels right to eat locally grown things in their season. When there are cherries there really are cherries, but blink and they’re gone. At the moment it’s peaches and nectarines. Here are mangoes from last year:
My family and friends here. You need no commentary, and will be missed more than anything else.
Last, Pardes. A place where even the hinges in the Beit Midrash look like Torah scrolls. A place filled with wise, open minded and hearted teachers, always ready for a conversation about things that really matter. An institution that is ready to learn from its students as much as it teaches them. An emotionally and intellectually honest place, where Judaism is real and in the world. A place whose students illustrate a Talmud lesson with cartoons, and who pray together on the beach.
There’s plenty that I’m looking forward to about England too. Mostly being close to friends and family back home. Also the temperate, reliable nature of both the weather and the people (funny how these two go hand in hand). Lots of material things – Tesco online (never thought I’d miss that), a nice soothing bit of M&S Simply Food branding, reassuringly ordered aesthetics in homes and shops, blueberries all year round. Orli’s challah (for goodness sake, why can’t a Jewish State make half-decent Jewish bread?!) Most importantly, I’m looking forward to new challenges ahead and finding opportunities to grow, both of which are in the UK as much as an adventure abroad. And in this sense, maybe normal life in Borehamwood is not so different after all to a Gap Year in Jerusalem.