Israel

I remember that trip
as if it were
only 6 years ago
when I went
with my fellow
jews to the
land of Israel

To learn about
our people’s land
and visit the temple mount
and the dead sea
to trek through
great heights
and deep valleys
according to the
customary
routine.

I remember getting
drunk on fake absynthe
in the hotel room
waiting for it to kick in
before going to the
western wall.

I remember Tsfat
the holy city
offering us
the baptismal waters
of the Ari himself
right next
to the candleshop.

I remember visiting
the official embassy
and learning
that as far as the US
is concerned
Jerusalem
is still a contested
city.

I remember being
afraid of the bombs
which might go off
at any moment
in the buses
when in reality
it was the Israeli
drivers who were
the biggest concern.

I remember going
to Tel Aviv
to buy knock off
gucci shirts
and let the American
dollars
flow into the
holy land’s purse.

I remember
the endless lectures
and tours
and how I needed
to go off on my
own that one
time in order
to find what
I was looking
for.

I remember
the Shabbats
where the liquor
flowed like wine
as Rabbis passed
me a beer
and it became clear
that being a mensch
meant holding it
in until dusk.

I remember
the forced attempt
to connect with
the Israeli army
as if they were
fighting for me
and me for them
yet it was never
explained
exactly what they
were fighting for.

I remember
developing a friendship
with a fellow traveler
looking for enlightenment
soon found
within the
yeshiva’s door.

I remember smoking
hookah
and thinking it was
cool
and offering a prayer
for the sake
of possibility.

I remember all sorts
of things
before my trip
really began
when I was still
being chauffeured
around the
holy land.

The time I met that girl
whose name I can’t
remember
and when taken to the
harbor to go to clubs
which were only
for people
older than me.

And floating in
the dead sea
and knowing that
by purchasing
those Ahava crystals
and teva sandals
I was participating
in a cultural
unity
jewish and american
consumerist heaven

And I remember when
finally the time
came for my real
story to emerge
when I was set
free from the group
to explore
this world of ancient
culture and modern
furniture.

I remember
how me and my
3 friends went
to Eilat knowing
it would be hot
and we could
splash in the waters
and remember
other things
yet discovered.

And I remember
blacking out
from drinking
too much vodka
because we
were young
and stupid.

And that apparently
I danced well
though I wasn’t
there and so
can’t tell
but woke up
the next morning
in my bed
with a pile of
vomit and the
regrettable
invitation to extend
the situation on
a 6 hour bus ride
heading north
for Jerusalem.

And I remember
happily missing
that bus ride
and so being
truly on my own
friends gone
back to the Mecca
so I could
do whatever I wanted
but that which
hadn’t yet occurred
to me.

And so I loafed
around that city
on the sea
inter-mingling with
strangers who
were curious
of this American
passer-by.

And I danced
at night to the
best of my
abilities and for
the first time
felt what it was
to be truly
free.

And I made my way
the next day not
6 but 9 hours
up to Haifa
where I strolled
through the bahai
gardens because
that’s what
you do when
you are in Haifa
for the weekend.

And in that moment
I felt lonely
because I didn’t
know what to do
or where to go
and I had no one
to talk to
but it was good
because that’s
how you learn
to never be
lonely again.

I remember
going to Netanya
but maybe
that never happened
and I remember
going back to
Jerusalem
but this time
on my own terms
so I could have
one more falafel
or shwarma.

I remember leaving
thinking I’m glad
I asked for an extension
so my real trip
could happen
and I feel bad
for the rest
who went home
empty handed
with suitcases
filled with souvenirs.