|My home will always be the desert|
|My Hamsa with the poem excerpt in Arabic and Hebrew|
|Peace and Love|
Since Judaism is my identity, Arabic the love of my life, and the Middle East where my heart feels the most at home, it should come as no surprise that I have themed my body art in such ways. It is just another way I can give myself completely to this fascination of mine. As I am sitting in my gorgeous, new Tel Aviv apartment, I can't help but feel how much I miss places like East Jerusalem, Jordan, and the West Bank. Living in Israel feeds my deep seeded connection to my faith, but it leaves a void in terms of my true loves of Arabic and the "eastern" Middle East. If only I had time to go to Jaffa every time I felt this pull to venture back into "Arab" lands, but unfortunately, as a busy graduate student and intern, it's harder than it may seem to make the 30+ minute commute often.
On a different, albeit still related note, in the past few weeks I have really been struggling with trying to get a firm grasp on my own identity, and that isn't as easy as I would have thought seeing as I have so many conflicting (at least conflicting in my mind) characteristics. I am Jewish yet I place Arabic in a higher importance than the language of my religion and people. I don't place this greater importance because it is more practical to learn Arabic for job purposes, but I place it in higher importance because I have this unexplainable connection to it. I don't speak it so well yet, but what I do speak I speak infinitely more convincingly than I ever have Hebrew, I am as comfortable with this language as if it were the language of my family, and when I hear Arabic something inside me lights up. It sounds so silly to speak this way about a language, but when you truly love something, you love it completely, and I have loved it deeply for a long time.
Aside from the language aspect there is the cultural aspect of my current identity crisis, if you will. It is so hard for me to truly find my niche when I feel completely comfortable, albeit very different, in two opposite cultural settings. When I am in a Jewish community I feel like I am in a community of "my" people; the rituals are familiar, the customs are familiar, and it is very comforting to feel surrounded by my own people. However, I would be lying to say that I don't seek to find this same kind of comfort in Arab communities. I am not Muslim, but my deep connection to the language, and fascination with the culture, leaves me feeling equally connected to their community. I agree that it will never be "my" community, but I still have a great desire to connect to it in a way that enables the Arab community to, at least, be partly "mine". I no longer want to be an outsider looking in on this amazing group of people, but I want to find a way to fit myself into their niche while still maintaining my deep roots in my own community. I guess this is me wanting it all! I wish I could explain this feeling more adequately but there are so many things that are beyond explanation. There is no reason I should have this connection to the Arab world, aside from the fact that I'm pretty positive, along with most people who know me, that I was an Arab Jew in a past life, but for whatever reason, I do, and I have a duty to myself to do whatever I can to satisfy my desires in terms of my future life in both of these vastly different communities. It also really doesn't hurt that I look Lebanese/Syrian, so that might make this whole process a bit easier :-)
Me on two different sides of the coin
Next week my studies continue and I hope to be able to report on more interesting research. I am also hoping to get back to the West Bank next weekend so stay tuned!
Lilah Tov Chaverim <3,