March 4th, 2014

reflect

Home

When I was soliciting subjects to post on, miriammoules asked:
Where does "home" mean for you?
In this context, I can't help quoting [personal profile] rysmiel's line "Wherever I lay my hat, that's my head"; but since we don't (yet) have the technology to transfer minds between physical housings, though, I shall ignore this in the rest of my answer. :o)

They say home is where the heart is. That's not quite true for me. Some of my heart is in Newcastle (and the Northumbrian countryside), but though my parents' place is there, it's not really home any longer: I haven't lived there for nearly two decades.

I also have a soft spot for Edinburgh (and the Scottish countryside), but at this remove of time, the best I can say there is that it was my home during the last four years of the last century.

So, really, that just lives my place in the big bad megalopolis. I have rather ambivalent feelings about London: I moved there to be where the young Jews are, and stayed there because of the interlinked (Jewish) communities I (eventually) found my place in, but I'm a small city person by inclination: London's way too big, and <insert standard rant about the downsides of London>. But it's the (frankly rather lousy) one-bedroom flat I got for myself that I always want to come home to when I've been away, so I suppose that's home for me, even if I don't feel strongly attached to it or to some aspects of the surrounding city. Though there are places in London I feel greatly attached to, Golders Hill Park and the adjacent part of Hampstead Heath in particular.

What about Berlin? Well, I spent two months living there, long enough to build up the kind of routine that doesn't come with a shorter visit. But it never really felt like home: I was living in aviva_m's place; it couldn't properly feel like a shared place when it was her paying the rent, and my stay one of limited duration. But I could see that changing if we moved into a separate place together there.

Lastly, what about Israel? Well, between the First and Second Revolts against the Romans, nineteen and a half and eighteen and a half centuries ago, my ancestors' homeland was invaded and its inhabitants kicked out, enslaved and forbidden to even set foot in the capital; the country was renamed after their hated ancient enemy, and the capital after a pagan god and the man responsible for its conquest. Jews have been yearning for it in their prayers ever since. As the survivor of an earlier conquest wrote:
If I forget thee, Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I do not raise Jerusalem above my chief joy.אִם־אֶשְׁכָּחֵךְ יְרוּשָׁלִָם תִּשְׁכַּח יְמִינִי׃ תִּדְבַּק־לְשׁוֹנִי לְחִכִּי אִם־לֹא אֶזְכְּרֵכִי אִם־לֹא אַעֲלֶה אֶת־יְרוּשָׁלִַם עַל רֹאשׁ שִׂמְחָתִי׃
And that is how one is supposed to feel about the lost homeland. We pray for the ingathering of the exiles and the rebuilding of Jerusalem and of the Temple and the restoration of the Davidic monarchy three times a day; pious Jews leave a patch of wall in their home unpainted because how can our joy be complete when Moshiach has not yet come and led us back to the Land of Israel; at weddings the groom breaks a glass for the same reason.

The story is told of how Napoleon once entered a town in eastern Europe and found it empty. The people he sent to find out what had happened came back reporting that the inhabitants were all in the synagogue mourning and praying, as this was the anniversary of the day on which the Jewish Temple had been destroyed. Napoleon was incensed, and demanded to know what enemy had committed such an offence in his empire—only to be told the act had taken place seventeen hundred years earlier, but the people were still mourning.

So, that's how you're supposed to feel about Israel. But do I? Well, no, not really: I grew up in the Diaspora, to a family that has been securely settled for the last century in a country friendly towards Jews. I don't want to go and live in Israel; even were Moshiach to come tomorrow, I would venture that it is important there continues to be a Jewish presence in the Diaspora. (Also, I don't like Israelis' attitudes: not all of them, by any means; but if I were to go and live there, it would make it harder to instil the values I live by in such children as I might go on to have. Whoever it was that said "You can take the Jews out of the Diaspora, but you can't take the Diaspora out of the Jews" had evidently never met a second-generation Israeli.)

That said, I do have a deep connection to Israel. I spent my gap year there, on a scheme doing social and voluntary work, mixed in with tours and seminars, Gadna and Sar-El. The idea was to strengthen young Jews' connection to the country, with the hope that after they had finished (and, in most cases, completed the university degree they had already signed up for) they would return and make aliyah. For me, that first aim was an unqualified success, the second one an abject failure. All my year off did in that regard was to ground in me firmly the conviction that this is my country, not Israel.

So, by that criterion, Israel is somewhere I know I will always be welcome; it's like the mansion of the rich uncle whose political views you do not agree with, but who is nevertheless part of the family. But it's not home. Not unless things go belly-up in Europe in a way I hope will never happen in my lifetime or that of my (still hypothetical) children. In which case, though I will go and live there, I will always have at the back of my mind "If I forget thee, O Blighty"...

Anybody got any other post requests for me?

—Originally posted on Dreamwidth, where there are comment count unavailable comments. Please comment there using OpenID or a DreamWidth account (which you no longer need an invite code to create). Though I am leaving comments enabled on LiveJournal for a bit, please don't comment here if you can do so there instead.