By: Meira Weber
Before I made Aliyah, I used to hear lots of American Jews repeat the same Hebrew saying: libi b’mizrach v’anochi basof hama’arav. Translated, it means, “My heart is in the east, but I am in the west.”
I always wondered about that saying. It felt right to me – as though it gave me permission to take the time I needed in order to get myself to Israel – and I know many people who were sustained by it in the Diaspora as well until they had the opportunity to make Aliyah. Now, however, it holds a different meaning, a meaning that I’ve been thinking of a lot recently.
As a write this letter, I am preparing to fly from my beloved home in Israel to London, England. I was up late last night, absorbed in my packing and planning and last-minute preparations. It’s for a happy occasion – a wedding, in fact – but, like every time I have to leave Israel, the excitement of a trip abroad is dampened somewhat by a reluctance to leave. I mulled over various anxieties in my head: delayed flights, lost luggage, turbulence, not having WiFi and having to resort to buying a SIM card. Clothes, some folded and some still on hangers, were flung about the room waiting to be packed, but I had found myself frozen in a kind of quiet paralysis. One thought hung huge over the others: how could I possibly be away from Israel for a whole week?
A week is a short time, I know that. But sometimes the very minutes can drag at you, whispering about home. I’ve never been one to get homesick, but what do you call it when you’re missing not your home, but your whole country? The culture, the language, the sights and smells… I haven’t even boarded the plane and I already know I’ll miss it.
As I sat on my bed last night, suitcase open and half-packed before me, that old saying came to me. My heart is in the east, but I am in the west. I hadn’t thought about that little quote in probably years, and yet, there it was, bubbling to the top of my thoughts. And, immediately, all those little worries about traveling melted away.
I felt a smile come over my face, and a gentle wave of comfort washed over me. Sure, I would be in London for a short while, but that didn’t mean that I was necessarily leaving Israel behind. It’s like the quote says, my body might be in the west – in London, France, Holland, Germany, New York, anywhere – but my heart will always be in the east. My heart will always be in Israel.
And Israel is something that we can all take with us, as a feeling and a concept. When I imagine my heart in Israel, I can feel the dry wind of a Judean summer on my face. I can feel Biblical stone under my feet and taste the sweet smell of ancient vineyards in the air. My blood thrums with the beat of prayer, and my soul sings for the touch of the Western Wall. Israel is so much more than a land; Israel is belief, and history, and Biblical significance. And Israel will be with me no matter how far I travel – just as she can be with you, too, if you wish her to be.
We can be anywhere in the world, but our hearts will always be in Israel.