I'm finally home. Crazy, huh?
I cried the whole way. No joke. From the week before I left, I started crying. I'd left Israel once before, and I knew what it was like. It was the end of a world. When the plane lifted off, I opened up my Siddur and said Tehillim. I prayed and cried, that's all I could do. I looked out the window at the lights of Israel fading behind me and then stopped looking back because I was afraid I would be sick. I was glad to be on my way to see my family, but I knew that I would be miserable.
Fifteen hours later: I walked out of the arrivals section of the Ft. Lauderdale Airport and my mom called my name. And then I was hugging her and crying again – crying with joy at seeing her. My dad shouldered my bags, and we walked out into the muggy Florida air.
So I was home – my other home, the one in which I'd spent 16 of 19 years living. Good old America.
Things were like they'd always been. Everyone speaking in English; the grass a more vivid green than the weak thin strands they have in the Middle East; American flags flying over buildings. Home was the same in ways I thought I'd forgotten – oh yes, my shoes go here. You pull out the trick drawer like this, not like that. And I felt fine. I felt like I'd always felt. Happier, I was certainly happier than I was in high school, but it could have just been the lack of stress. I texted my Israeli friends every day and had a Shabbos where I made every Israeli recipe I could get my hands on, from couscous to hummus. Israel was in me, and I missed it, but I wasn't as upset as I thought I'd be.
I guess what I'm trying to say is, I am an American. A sixteenth-generation American on my grandmother's side, actually. I think my ancestors were on the Mayflower.
I have been away for a long time. Everyone else here on the Odyssey is writing about the political unrest, shootings of innocents. Orlando, a three-hour drive from my house. I blink my eyes to clear the daily terrorist attacks in Israel from my mind and look around. What? This isn't a safe place? America! Land of the Free and Home of the Boring! But of course not. America is as real a place as anywhere else. There are real people here, crazy people and dull people and everything in between. It's a complicated place.
America isn't just the worn, old country of cynicism and political unreality that outsiders see, that I saw as an outsider. Sure, it's going to be Hillary or Trump for president, but America is more than that. It's a real place, the place where I walk outside in my backyard and enjoy the sunlight. It's where I was born, where my parents and grandparents have lived out their days, home to birth and death, tears and joy. I am at home here.