17 – Hitch-hiking the West Bank and finding old friends

There are moments when the 19 year old I was bubbles to the surface from within, amazed… thrilled to be living here.  And in a flash-back I relive the yearning I felt to do this VERY thing during that first visit so very, very long ago.  After that summer, I don’t recall having a goal of living here, any more than I hoped to be Miss America.  The life I lived had plenty of “attainable” dreams and goals towards which I was working.  Many achieved, many not.  Was I guarding my heart by not allowing this dream?  Was that younger me not courageous enough to allow it?  Or was it simply not time?

But then, sometimes I feel more like the 19 year old I never really was.  Or seemed free enough, brave enough, to be.

What were your dreams? Which were attained, and how have you reconciled yourself with the disappointments?  For me, monumental goals centered around marriage and children were not realized, while many professional and other personal dreams were.  I meet new and long term immigrants with other versions of this story: A Dream Realized.  While we may share little else, the camaraderie of our shared dream is a profound moment.

Not unlike rediscovering a dream long “lost”, have you known someone in their youth, and then become reacquainted many years later?  While making new friends and missing those far away, I’ve been thinking about several “re-connects” in my life – one a college beau, another a coworker during the first “real job” after college, and another I’ve known from early childhood but only in the past 2 years have built a genuine, precious friendship.  Each have become acutely important to me.  Comparison of the youths I knew with the current versions has been a remarkable study.  Traits have grown from pebbles – those days of our beauty and dreams – into large boulders.  Most all good, and some, well, genuinely human.

How did we reconnect?  One (the college beau) tells me he searched for me for years online before finally finding me.  How cool is that!  The former coworker responded enthusiastically to my letter asking to reconnect.  The third was a childhood acquaintance I pursued, gently of course, over several years.  Tender vulnerability, speech patterns, stridency, astounding intelligence, wisdom, irritating idiosyncrasies intensified over the course of a lifetime.  Like a time-adjusted photo spanning baby to geriatric, the traits push through each phase with new-same manifestations.

If these 3 are in many ways unchanged, you might ask, why bother seeking to grow?

Each actively-but-differently pursued growth of their character and faith through hard times and good.  Some rough edges smoothed, and strengths strengthened. Their younger selves don’t come close in comparison to the depth and reality of their middle-aged selves (ooops.  Are we middle aged?)  I’m not saying all friendships are forever, but if someone from long ago has been on your heart, take a chance and reach out to let them know what they mean (or meant) to you.  That is, unless you’re married and you’re thinking of reaching out to an old flame.  Forget that.

There’s a fable: God tells a man to push on a large boulder.  Each day he pushes and pushes until he can push no more.  Day after day.  Weeks. Months. Frustration! Finally he cries out to God his failure to move the boulder.  God’s reply, “I never said to move it, only to push on it.  Look at how strong you’ve become through the process.” I see my old-new friends as strengthened, refined versions of the youths I knew. Some days, living here, or trying to, is my boulder.  What’s yours?


What does this have to do with Israel? Or my journey here?

  1. Dreams…life takes form in surprising ways. What was the fruit of my day? Perhaps the smile I left behind to someone I’ll never see again.
  2. The value of genuinely connected friendships. Recently, a friend asked me who “nurtures” me now, here.  I was hard-pressed to answer that by drawing exclusively from Israel friends.  It takes time to build.
  3. Do I have a dream now that I’m here? At this point, it’s to give away what I’ve received.  Love, encouragement, wisdom, faith.  Sometimes I fail because my judgement is flawed, or I get in my own way, tripping and stumbling, saying too much, or allowing my hope to put color on reality designed in black and white.  My prayer is that the good I give be part of God’s refining process in the lives of my friends, and strangers on the street.  The depth of that comes in time, through knowing and being known.  On the surface, I’m the woman who says “goodmorning” to neighbors, workers, shopkeepers, etc.  I learn names when I can, and like giving balloons, try to leave something that will bring a smile later.  Some receive, while others are unable, or chose not to.



Notes to myself from over a month ago: Sitting on the bus returning to Jerusalem after a lovely visit with my cousins in Tel Aviv.  Warmed with a good meal and conversation – gently navigated “getting to know you” topics, but like a new friendship, I’m careful about what to ask, or try to explain.  I know I’m too much for people, often, and have finally(?!) learned to not try to tell anyone all of it, much less at first.  Are other people this careful?

This week I visited with the cousins in Tel Aviv again… more getting-to-know-you over a meal and seeing friendship build.  It means so much to me.


keyboard תשימ לב!!    = Pay Attention!!

I have begun producing tiny email notes in Hebrew, referring to the cardboard template I drew for the location of the less often used/not yet memorized Hebrew letter keys.  After an apparently overzealous cleaning of my 11 year old keyboard, it died so I replaced it.

5 days later I discovered my new keyboard has English in upper left corner and Hebrew in lower right corner of each key.  Arghhhhhh

I tossed the handmade template!  Another moment of “looking” but not really “seeing”.  Arghhhhhhhhh



WP_20150327_004 One morning I stashed overnight essentials into a backpack, and went home after language class with a classmate from Holland.  Not to Holland, but to her new home in a settlement on the West Bank, called Sussya. Two years ago, she and her husband of 20+ years brought their 4 children, ages 14 – 6 to immigrate into this 110 family community surrounded by hostile Arab villages.  Sussya is 63km (39 miles) south of Jerusalem.  We all know living in someone’s home, even for 24 hours, tells you much about them, and this visit from its inception was a relaxed, typical family time of grocery shopping, dinner prep chaos, bedtime antics, braiding hair and making lunches for school, housecleaning, etc.  One remarkable family characteristic was the ease of switching from their native tongue, Dutch, to Hebrew, to English.  It’s obvious to me the kids are adjusting brilliantly and that the family is well established.

Most children I encounter are puzzled at my inability to understand what they say, and I suspect they think something is wrong with me.  Well, there are certainly many things wrong with me, but those aren’t the reason I can’t understand their Hebrew, or that I produce confusing Hebrew vocabulary and grammar.  My friend’s 8 year old adapted best – speaking slowly, pantomiming, shorter sentences.  Perhaps a career in Speech Pathology is in her future, or working with the mentally challenged.  She and I had a grand time in the backseat playing with her stuffed animals, with whom I was able to practice using verbs I’ve learned in language school.  Life is humbling.

Our journey to Sussya involved a bus from the center of Jerusalem where we were charmed by a gaggle of 12-year-old boys with our brilliant Hebrew and their equally brilliant classroom English.  We exited to wait for the next bus toward our destination, and at the end of that route positioned ourselves for a “tramp,” my friend’s term from Dutch for hitch-hike.  The hitchhiking was a first for me, but never did I dream having this “first” in Israel’s much discussed West Bank.


We stood with a collection of young and old, soldiers, student, mother and grandmother types, and men in suits at a bus stop hosting a small booth for the armed Israeli soldiers on duty.  In this region, where hitch-hiking is the only way to reach some areas, drivers routinely stop, lean out the window and name their destination.  There is sometimes a moment of negotiation if more riders want that ride than are seats available, but otherwise it’s a smooth process of riders climbing aboard.  Some drivers rearrange child seats, groceries, or other items to make room, but it’s all accomplished in good order and attitude.

My friend and I climbed into the back seat of a smallish 4-door sedan, and then another rider slid in beside me, putting me in the middle of the back seat, hips pressed against hips.  I waited and watched as the male driver and his ??? (brother, friend, coworker, boss? Both wore kippah/yarmulke) talked and answered their phones while the car wound the 2 lane highway past Arab villages with huge red signs forbidding Jews from entering.  Other sections were mapped by barbed wire or fence.  I was bursting with desire to start a conversation with the driver and copilot, but my friend and the young woman who’d joined us at the last minute said nothing, so I followed suit.  At around the ½ way point of the 20 minute (?) ride, my friend inaudibly whispered that protocol is to not speak unless spoken to.  Whooo.  Glad I kept my mouth SHUT!

We were safely deposited at the gated entrance to Sussya, and happened upon my friend’s husband driving their just purchased, 25 year old Volvo station wagon – their first vehicle in these many months living here.  Their excitement and pride about having the car was palpable as we rode the several blocks to their house, explaining to me how difficult it had been to rely on others for rides to get groceries and such from Arad, the closest substantial city, 30 minutes further south.

Prior to going for a walk on my own, I was warned to not venture onto the highway or past the village boundary – a dusty road that is patrolled by foot and tiny jeep/golf cart vehicles by soldiers, paid security, and residents with license to “carry”.  My walks found soldiers patrolling (always with guns – what would be the point otherwise?!) and children walking home from school – even little ones unescorted, shuffling along through their daily route. I thought of you while standing on the security road – you’ll hear the background music of wind, see Sussya boys at play, the vineyards just outside the village, new Sussya homes under construction; beyond are the hills separating residents from their Arab “neighbors.”   Use your imagination for the dusty, hot air.  There are also pictures of 2 Sussya homes – one the add-on-to-add-on version (I’d love to hear the stories of the generations for such homes) and another more typical small 2-3 bedroom home build sometime in the past 50 years.


WP_20150329_002Other videos attached in this post are from my day on the King David boat on the Kinneret, AKA Sea of Galilee, with a group of women who annually celebrate Miriam, the sister of Moses, with singing and dancing and such.  I’m told this is the 4th or 5th year they’ve gathered.  The event was worth the 2 ½ hour bus rides there and back, and I met interesting women I hope to see again here in Jerusalem for Hebrew practice or walks or music.


I’ve recently attended several events with expectations that my Hebrew would now enable me to track conversations. Where does confidence collide with unrealistic expectations?  I write the following on the chance that seeing my inner drama will help you see yours more clearly.  In language class my normally performing-self abandons me too often, leaving me to feel as though everything of the class is an audition or test, rather than part of the learning.  Without confidence, verbal effort in the classroom leaves me feeling, well, depleted and in a lonely place, rather than empowered, which is how I feel when I’m “on my game”… What causes it?  Impossibly high expectations of myself, the fast pace of new concepts to master, and fatigue from so often feeling a fish out of water still doing my best to swim.  I get overwhelmed from within and without, and it snowballs.

So, what do I do? I re-anchor where my confidence is—not in my self, but in God.  Will I succeed in this or any other venture? Somewhat.  Or not.  Like the psalmist, I’ll trust God’s ability to accomplish His plan around me, through me, and in me.

WP_20150327_007Jerusalem’s Spring is unfolding, and already the warmth of many days threatens the serious heat to come.  Threats everywhere.  Iran.  Serious problems around the world.












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