Rina Haller –

For each inch gained, it feels as if a centimeter is lost. As I store away seforim from a year and a half of learning in Yerushalayim, I am preparing myself to leave. Seeing friends drive off, as shana bet students leave to their families, creates gaps in those standing behind. We keep learning how to move forward together even when apart; for the unexpected plummets us forward and we have to stick the landing. The memories created in the final moments are always the sweetest, as I’ve learned. The people we are as we board the plane should be proud of what we have accomplished. There are days to be sick, there are days to reach out, there are days to pray like never before–and only this combination of moments, this beauty we uncover slowly, this is who we become and who we truly are.
From the muddled teenagers dreaming of soaring high to the polished adults we now aim to be, one can only point and wonder. The battle scars and tears are wounds we carry with pride. To describe a process I used to scorn, its a way to reveal the gold under the wrapping. Our lists of “I will nevers” are burnt and no one can turn back now. Somehow, the chinuch system has developed a way to save us from ourselves. Yes, the crossroads drag deep lines and to feel isolated is to congregate with those bidding a past lifetime farewell. We are easily unrecognizable but happier individuals.
Yet while life to us seems like a return to normalcy, the world is sinking into deeper chaos. One of the focal points in growth for students in yeshiva or seminary is frequent visits to the Kotel. In the recent months, there has been much noise clouding a peaceful Rosh Chodesh morning. One of the few positive outcomes of the court decision last spring ruling police to not arrest The women of the wall is out of protest, the charedi women come in hordes.
And like these Jews trying to make a difference, our teachers have acted valiantly as well. Even when it appears not much is being internalized, I can see the change on the smiles I have come to know well. Living in a dorm, one goes to sleep with their friend snoring two feet away and wakes up to the ring of the roommates’ alarms. The struggle you confine to your innermost heart, it’s etched on your face. As much as this is a way to get westernized Jewish souls that will lead the next generation to bear the torch of Yiddshekeit properly, these schools form the most impactful friendships. The person who cares for you when you can’t move, the love you feel when your friend schleps you food from the makloet and buys you ice cream when you just want to dissolve–these chains will stay unbroken.
Its shocking to think how a former stranger now matters so much. And this is the reality many shake off in these upcoming days.
We grab whatever we can, this is it. Graduation in shana aleph is a tease for those who come back. And then we do it again, shana bet mesbiat siyum.
As I stood among a smaller group of friends, it seemed sadder, it seemed more tangible. This has been my life from high school; I have mentally been in Darchei Binah for months before my departure. America feels foreign and cold. There’s no sun in January that questions if I should wear a coat, like Eretz Yisroel has. Our feet have tread on mountains and gas chambers and the pain has varied. If everyone is their environment and I cannot pretend to be an independent thinker, I am glad I let this world fill me.
No one walks into Ben Gurion not wanting to turn back to their life just left. We are ready to move on, but the fear is to lose the clarity we see. We have been gently pushed into writing a letter to our future selves and then in six months, in a year, when all could be lost, there it awaits. The confusion in a first year slightly mirrors the questions as you look around and the stone, the palm trees, and the Crembos are missing. Our carry-ons literally contain the survival–siddurim, notes, and the same seforim I put away.
Who were we all those months ago… look at a picture even from seven months ago, are we those people? Thank G-d we have not been stagnant and we are not those faces that are now only haunting distance memories of lives thought to be lived. Growth is not exclusively attained in these walls and the tools are recorded and available.
You unpack your bags and unburden your soul and then you pack again, to bring it all home. Where ever we are soon to be found, the “Israel” streak will be shine through. With phone calls and Skype, there are promises to never be far.
To permanently build, one initially demolishes any former foundations. Each outstretched hand has made me, has made all those flying off into solid bricks to build homes with Hshem’s help. The hurt of this time will be healed and you sleep through take off. The remaining days busy and strong we stay afloat awaiting visitors. Surprises are yet to come and the shadows follow us home.


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