Roni Sokol is a fellow woman, Jew, blogger, and comedienne. Her blog, Mommy in Law, is hilarious, and usually kosher. And here’s her tale:
The year was 1985. Yup, I know, some of you weren’t even born yet. Well, I was born and I was actually 19 years old. It was May. My girlfriends said “Hey, let’s go backpacking around Europe!” and I said “Yeah, cool!” In true teenage form, I never even considered the cost.
So, I asked my parents for the cash and my request was met with a resounding “NO!” They would NOT pay for me to go “bum it” around Europe all summer. No way! That would not teach a work ethic or the value of money or … whatever other lessons they felt they needed to teach me.
But, my mother (a native Israeli) said (in her deep, thick, accented voice) “The only place I will pay for you to go is ISRAEL (pronounced by her as YIS RAH EL!) For this, I will pay!!” Now, I was not raised religious in any sense of the word. Being sent to Israel was always used as a threat in our household. For example: “Keep complaining about the dinner and I’ll send you to Israel so you can see what famine looks like!” or “You better stop ditching classes or we’ll send you to Israel where you’ll have to live in a tent on a sand dune and you’ll learn to appreciate what you have!” or “All you do is lay on the beach! I have a right mind to send you to Israel where you’ll have to fight in the army and learn about RESPONSIBILITY!”
So naturally, when my mother made this offer to me, it was made without any intention of the offer being accepted. In fact, I answered “NO!!!” and proceeded to slam my bedroom door. But then my father took me aside and advised me to go. I asked in a whimper: “But what about the sand dunes?” He said “Go, you’ll have the time of your life.” And slowly, he talked me into it.
So I approached my mother and said “OK, I’ll go.” She said “go where?” I said “to Israel (pronounced by me as “IS REAL”). She was dumbstruck. She had never expected this. She was kind of stuck now. She reluctantly agreed.
So I went for two weeks in summer of 1985 (with a cousin whom I promptly ditched). I got off that plane and saw things I’d never seen before–people actually kissing the pavement as they exited the plane, boys and girls my age combing the streets in military garb with actual UZIs strapped to their waists, a wild and fun night life in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and some incredible sites. And best of all, I didn’t have to sleep on a sand dune! (Actually, I never even saw a sand dune!)
It’s really impossible to explain the effect that Israel has on a person (especially a Jewish person) until you get there. It’s kind of like trying to explain childbirth to someone who’s never had a baby. It’s something one needs to experience on his or her own.
I don’t know what it was about Israel that sucked me in. I’m pretty sure it was not the rotary phones that they still used when I was there, or the fact that the TV had only one station, or the fact that you couldn’t find a piece of ice anywhere in that country to save your life and you had to drink your Coke warm, or the fact that the toilet paper was purple and felt like sandpaper. In addition, my experience was not necessarily “religious.”
I think it was the people. The attitude. And the way it felt to be around my own kind, to be in the majority for the first time ever, to be in a place where “Jewish” describes everyone and not just a teeny portion of the population. There is something very welcoming and comforting about being with people who share your history. I felt like I was at home.
The two weeks went by very quickly. I became acquainted and reacquainted with lots of family and spent hours touring the country. And then it was time to go back. My flight was scheduled to leave the next morning. I picked up that rotary phone and dialed the 25 digits I needed to dial to reach my parents in Los Angeles. I told them “Send clothes, I’m not coming back.” And I cancelled my return flight.
To Be Continued…