Israel is not suicide bombers, missiles and warfare as we are led to believe it is. Tel Aviv in particular is beaches, cafes, fatalism, and fun. But despite the beach town, chic, and edgy city, it still comes with a certain amount of stress for me. Not only have I packed up and moved myself across the world, leaving my friends and family behind, but I've plopped myself down and made a cozy little impermanent home for myself right in the middle of the Middle East.
On a daily basis, my mind is often reeling. I struggle with missing my friends and family, I grapple with constantly feeling like an outsider as one of the few non-jews here, I try to adjust to the bomb sirens, practice drills, and gas masks that act as a constant reminder that war is always a threat. I stifle the horror and absolute sadness I feel when working at the clinic and am presented with terrible cases of torture, rape, and sickness from the asylum seeking community here. I feel physical pain in my body when I hear devastating personal Palestinian and Israeli narratives about losing sons, daughters, brothers and sisters. Then I sit in class several hours a week listening to lectures about torture, trauma, abuse, PTSD, traumatic grief and disaster. Sometimes bike rides, or runs along the Tayalet with the Mediterranean at my side is not enough to combat the pressure that builds between my rib cage from witnessing such devastating stories.
Sometimes I feel like I just need to get away. Fortunately, Israel, despite the aforementioned, is also filled with places to escape and retreat to. Israelis, probably facing similar feelings that I have, are notorious for going out on day, or weekend excursions to the northern forests or south to the Negev. These excursions are known as "teuls" in Hebrew.
The other weekend I was able to get out with a few friends and away from the pressure building up inside. We drove out of the city leaving Tel Aviv behind. We drove for hours through rolling, rocky hills, and deep green valleys. We drove through the land of Moses and Jesus and Abraham and Sarah. The second I left the city, I could feel the fresh air washing over me, calming and cleansing; brushing away all of the dirt, dust, and grime of the city, relieving the pressure and making me feel light and whole again.
We drove south of Jerusalem and hiked for a bit. We climbed the rocky hills, and explored ancient caves that were dug deep into the earth. It's easy to imagine biblical and present day history being made in the scenic areas of Israel. Occasionally we stopped and did some impromptu yoga. My friend was nice enough to capture me in a headstand moment. I think all the pressure and blood rushing to my head was really effective in making all those thoughts in my brain slow down. Before the day was over, I had even found a souvenir! My friend didn't want me to put it in his car....but I insisted.
We watched the day end as the sunset over the hills, and then headed to the Moshav to see some friends' of friends. A Moshav is a really close community of families, similar to a kibbutz. Since it was Saturday night, we were able to celebrate the end of Shabbat with the community. There was candle lighting, prayers, songs, and more songs. It was a really beautiful experience and a perfect way to end the day and our Teul. I was sleepy, but felt rejuvenated from our Teul, ready to continue my work at the Clinic the following day.