Beyond Euphoria:The Complexity of the Israel Connection
By Samantha Vinokor
Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement…get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted. Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible – Abraham Joshua Heschel
When Heschel described radical amazement, he could have easily been speaking about that initial euphoria people experience when they first come to Israel.
Everything. Is. Amazing.
The sun is always out, the fruit in the shuk is ripe and always fresh, the ocean water is warm, and the people are this incredible mixture of kind and brash - the ultimate Israeli combination.
It’s easy to fall in love with Israel with the vastness of the desert, the lushness of the Galil, the cacophony of Tel Aviv and the ancient city of Jerusalem.
But after that initial wave of euphoria comes a very different reality, one that I’ve been living in for almost two years now.
I stopped noticing the vibrant energy of the markets and instead focused on the pushing and shoving that happens every time I try to move between stalls.
Instead of gazing out the window at the natural beauty that abounds in this country, I got my Israeli license and found myself gripping the wheel in terror as my fellow drivers casually made an additional lane when they deemed necessary without so much as a signal.
I was in a complete and utter slump.
This stagnation is probably the ultimate challenge for a lifelong Zionist like myself - I fulfilled the dream of moving to Israel yet decidedly missing was that ideal coexistence of vision or principles and reality.
After doing a bit of soul searching on my own, I came to the conclusion that what I needed was a community.
Just as it’s better for Jews to pray together, I’ve found that it’s better for us to explore together, to feed off of each other’s energy and to see the world through one another’s eyes.
Finding Pardes provided me with the missing link. This community of people who are so excited to be in Israel and so eager to develop their own relationships with this country, put my own connection back into perspective.
While wandering through the alleys of the Old City, I once again was able to marvel at the softness of the light reflecting off the aged stones, smooth after generations of feet walking through this eternal place.
I was able to return to the Kotel with new eyes cognizant of the fact that superficial beauty is fleeting.
This attitude and revised perspective are derived from my inclusion in a community less concerned with the personal experience and more with the awe of being in a land where so many others have longed to be.
Immersed amidst the murmurings of countless prayers and supplications I knew I had overcome my slump and reached the real meaning of what it means to be part of something greater than myself.
This new year has barely begun and already I have been brought back to place of peace in my relationship with Israel, one of the most important relationships in my life.
It is a relationship like any other - it involves give and take, and over time has matured from one of infatuation to one firmly grounded in reality and an understanding of the other's strengths and weaknesses. Ultimately, the dynamism of this relationship is what keeps it authentic, and keeps me continually engaged in the complexity of this land.
Samantha Vinokor is a native New Yorker who recently returned to the US after three years in Israel. She is currently living in Washington, DC, and working as a Jewish Educator. More about Samantha's freelance work, experiential education initiatives, and blogging can be found here.