As long as I can recall in my memories, I have longed to go home. A home that over the years has changed many times, but it always remained to be truly, one and only, Israel. I grew up hearing that my family would one day go to Israel and that that is where I’m from. In my young mind, I thought the timeline of such future move would be sooner than it now seems. My parents loved each other and were very affectionate towards me always, but I knew they did not love the house they had built. As a child I had felt it strongly in their struggle to make it more homey like that of my friends parents. It was obvious my parents wanted to move. America didn’t seem to want us and to remain back there was no longer a healthy option. I had beseeched my mom to go to Israel as I ran after the woman from the Israeli Consulate, who had come all the way to our home’s gate urging my mom to move to Israel instead of America because it would be easier for us to adjust to changes in Israel. I didn’t want America. I wanted to go home to Israel. I knew and felt that going to America will be the biggest challenge of our lives, and it was proved to be so.
Sometime later, my mom found a telephone number of the immigration services in Washington DC and called them. My siblings and I watched her in awe as she spoke to the people on the other line in DC. That was the moment when our mom had revealed that our father too wants to go to America. I never disobeyed my parents. Their words and ways, to me, were the rule of law, and I followed without rebelling. Soon after, we moved to the United States and the reality of America began to sink in. In the first month or so, I was driving with my parents to a school that I were to attend in order to finish middle school. My parents and I were completely silent. I was thinking of how the first weeks of American life was nothing short of a bizarre nightmare. The translator broke the silence by uttering a famous phrase that has been engraved in my heart so deeply that a thousand years would not be able to uproot it. He said, “You see those green trees, they are not dollars. Money does not grow on trees.” When we came home that day, my parents had an utter blank face. I had never seen them like that before, but I was happy that our family had a small corner in German Drive, a ghetto area, where we could kickstart our new lives. Little did I knew that the years that would follow and before I would graduate college, we would call home more streets than the fingers on my right hand.
I had skipped the entire seventh grade and most of eighth grade before going to high school.
I began to speak English suddenly after one year of us moving to America.
I was on seventh heaven when I had slowly began to regain my courage.
In that first year in an American school, I was able to show the entire class of students how to solve algebra problems without uttering a word in English and to capture attention of teachers who admired my absolute respect for them.
I remember my PE teacher who had approached me and asked me if I was Jewish. My eyes were filled with tears. I felt so alone away from home that I didn’t even know how it should have felt in the first place. I remained silent many days and endured bullying at the hands of all kinds of American students.
I recall my graduation from middle school very well because it was a scorching hot day and the school put the entire graduating class with friends and family through that heat outside. “Ridiculous.” I thought of American ways.
I went to high school literally next door, took my education into my own hands in the middle of my freshman year and kept true to myself but always earned for a home. My family moved for the first time right before I went to my sophomore year in a newly built high school. I swear, our graduating class and those who were freshmen turned those freshly painted classrooms into trash within days. And just when I thought they were bad, I saw what real teenage vultures do during my junior year when the freshmen appeared to be completely out of control. I wanted to escape all of the craziness. I found solace in other immigrants after I kindly rejected to be a Jewish Club’s leader and after its members moved away from the school, while the few remaining were silenced into abyss due to anti-semitism.
I never mentioned a word to my parents. Home did not really feel like home. My parents struggled with the language, with the culture, with the fairness and with money. We didn’t live pay-check to pay-check, we lived using credit cards. I’m grateful for the credit cards for if weren’t for them, I would be a homeless teen in America. We realized that the only way we can come about is by taking a lead and americanizing ourselves as much as we could. My parents worked very hard to get out of the poverty. My mom managed to pay off all of the credit cards that my father was not even aware of.
Through all of this, I never felt home. Soon, I began to spend remaining of my school lunches in the library reading Tehilim. My senior year during the lunch times, I scribbled in a notebook as I recited verses in the Bible. I graduated at the top 15 of my high school.
Before I turned eighteen, my parents had managed to buy a house and sell it on short-sale. I realized that the only chance I had for going to college was to stay home and go to a community college first. I quickly learned that academia did not matter when you are different, when you are an immigrant, and when your parents have zero connections. I honestly had no hope for myself, and I only cared for keeping our family together.
At that point, I began to notice that my siblings felt the same way, like they were not home too. I wanted to leave California and to never look back. I went to Israel. It was the best part of my life, but it also broke my heart as I realized that should I be an immigrant for the second time in my life, I would not be able to go through with it. Although, I felt at home in Israel, I also had realized that I am more American than any other label I was given in Israel. So I returned back with a lot of pain in my heart and with no vision where I was headed after Israel. The first couple of years were like battling with demonic forces. I was very sad, so sad I wanted to go home to a place in my heart soon I found to be my G-d. Circumstances caused me to move and to move again until I finally arrived in Los Angeles, a place that I had pinpointed on the map back when my family were in our first house looking at the map of California. I always said that I would not stay in Sacramento if we were to go there. Two years in Santa Monica flew by, and my heart aches for a home.
Right now as I write this, my tears are flowing on my cheeks, and I am longing for a home. The only words of prayer I can utter through my tears and shaking body are “Baba, Baba! I’m all alone again.” Then, as if a guard got lifted up and I continued my prayer, “I don’t know if you can hear me through all of the chaos. I don’t know if my prayer can take precedence of that what is going on in the world right now. I don’t know if my prayer even weighs anything at all, but I long for you Baba. I want my home to be where you are, Baba. I don’t want to live my life alone; I want your blessing for a marriage with a man whom you see fit for me. Please send him my way and comfort me with a family I can call my home.”
May every heart that is breaking right be comforted by loving kindness of my G-d. May mercy of G-d always be over America, and may we treat everyone with dignity and humanity. May every child know a loving home and affection of parents. May every woman be comforted by her partner. May every man draw bravery and courage from his partner. And may family values uphold a higher standard than that of selfishness and convenience.
It is not enough that we turn our other cheek to justify a terrible behavior. We must speak up and stand up to our adversaries. What seems good today, may turn out to be the biggest mistake ever recorded.