"But, but, but ... that's a souvenir... from my trip to Japan!"
"Are we going to hang this in our home in Israel?"
"No, I guess not."
I tossed the fabric wall hanging of a Japanese geisha onto the pile of things heading for Goodwill. My husband, Mike, was a little sad, but knew he had made the right decision. Next we sifted through old cassettes, posters, tchachkes, and a bizarre statue of a gorilla that used to grace the mantle back in Mike's bachelor days. They all ended up in the Goodwill pile. You may be wondering why this event was worthy of documentation, and I'd love to tell you.
We don't have any immediate plans to move to Israel.
We dream of moving someday, but we're definitely not at the point where we would even think of starting to pack our things. I look at the photos on the Nefesh b'Nefesh website with tears in my eyes. We talk to friends who have made the move. Mike even met with a builder who is developing a new town next to Ramat Beit Shemesh. But, we're just not ready to take the plunge. Four generations of my family live near us here in Seattle. I love that my kids have their grandparents and great-grandparents in their lives. I've tried to convince them all to move with us, but no one is budging. And thus our dream remains a dream.
Why do we keep dreaming? Because we would like to live in a country where our holidays are the national holidays. In Israel we wouldn't get strange looks from passers-by while walking around the mall ("What's that beanie thing on your head called?"). Mike wouldn't have to explain to his boss about taking time off of work for a holiday, or not answering emails on Shabbat. He occasionally says he feels like he needs a passport when going back and forth between work and home, and it isn't because of the time it takes for him to commute! At business dinners he'll find himself sipping a coke with empty table space in front of him, while his colleagues enjoy their meat and wine ("They have a dish that's vegetarian. You can eat that, right?"). And don't even get me started about the fact that I have to drive 20-30 minutes to get to the nearest kosher butcher! We also like the idea of living our daily life around sites and landmarks that have historical, religious and cultural significance to us. History seems almost palpable in Israel.
Eretz Yisrael is a special place. Most people I know have a story about how a taxi driver/bus driver/stranger on the street did something kind for them, simply because they are a fellow Jew. The US has been wonderful and for the most part hospitable towards the Jews. We've prospered here, but at the end of the day this is not our country.
If something is not meeting the standard for our home in the Holy Land, why have it in our current home?
So, why are we knee deep in junk in our basement, deciding what we'll pack, if we won't be leaving for years? This is my new litmus test. This is how we clean house. This is how we keep the dream fresh and alive. There are a few facets of this test: First, how many of our material possessions are important enough that we would be willing to schlep them to another continent? (This was my argument against the gorilla.)
Second, how many things do we have in our home now that we would not want in our home in the Holy Land? (The Geisha.)
Third, if something doesn't pass through these two move-to-Israel filters, why keep it in Seattle? Why not get rid of it now? Why not make our home in Seattle a place where careful thought is put into what is seen, heard and sat upon? If something is not meeting the standard for our home in the Holy Land, why is it okay to have it in our current home? Away go the piles of old paperbacks, clothes, mismatched wine glasses, junky old stereo equipment, love letters from college boyfriends or girlfriends, and on and on.
This project has also begun to affect what I purchase. For example, we've been married for four years now, and I'm still using a folding TV tray as my nightstand. I had been watching for sales, trying to coordinate with my antique dresser, deciding on color, style, etc. But just this month, it occurred to me; why buy a nightstand, and then have to pay to have it shipped to Israel someday? I'll make-do with my TV tray, and buy myself a nice nightstand when I get to Israel. A little reminder that we are living in the Diaspora is good to have around.
This has been more than a cleaning project for us. By having the bottom line be "Is this coming with us to Israel?" we're reshaping our current priorities and needs. While scrounging around in our Seattle basement, we're redefining what we will surround ourselves with spiritually, culturally and physically when we unpack our boxes in Israel, someday...