Stranger in a Strange Kibbutz

So, this is the post that might get me in trouble.

You know, as opposed to writing about my irabbit (and the rabbi,) my cross dressing son, and my boobies (again).

I’ve been in Israel for ten months, 23 days, and 15 hours.   Long enough to put down a few fragile roots.  Long enough to start feeling like maybe I can kind of sort of grow here.

But not really.

Because every day, I am reminded that I am different – in subtle ways that eat at me, I understand through words and gestures that the people here still see me as strange.

(Now, maybe some of that is my fault.  Maybe I am strange.  Maybe I’m too open, too chaotic.  Too eager to make friends.   Too Other. Maybe it’s the stripper stilettos. )

I’ve heard many things about myself through others:

“She’s too friendly.”

“She’s a snob.”

“She’s different.”

(Most days, I feel like the new girl in the cafeteria with no one to sit with.  I have braces and bad skin and a “KICK ME” sign stapled to my back. Only in Hebrew.)

People smile with their lips, but their eyes don’t budge.  Snake eyes made from stone.  Sure, not everyone is this way – yeah, I’ve made a few good friends who have been honest and open and welcoming.  But for the most part?  Not so much.  Because even some of the people who I thought were my friends have proven otherwise.

It’s discombobulating.

And because I am not from here – because I am an Other– people treat me in ways they would never treat one of their own.  Born from a false sense of intimacy, like telling a taxi driver your life story because you know you’ll never see him again, people show sides of themselves that they would never show.

Like the man who followed me home from the pub and groped me:

“I just want to taste you,” he whispered before I kicked him in the balls (with my stripper stilettos) and ran away.

Or the woman who told me not to talk to her husband anymore:

“If you see my husband on the train, don’t sit with him,” she said to me when I was playing with my son at the swimming pool.

Or the person who shares their deepest fears and desires with me over Facebook chat and then twists the truth about my life when gossiping with others.

At this point, I feel like the kibbutz is an aquarium where three fish have died, and the rest have shit all over the tank.

Myself included.

(“Wow, Sarah, why don’t you tell us how you really feel.”)

I’ve learned the hard way that I shouldn’t trust anybody. And you know what?  When you’re trying to create a new community for yourself, it sucks to have to put up really tall fences.

I don’t belong here.  But the thing is, I don’t belong back there either.

When I was in Los Angeles, even the vanilla lattes tasted strange. Yes, it was wonderful seeing friends and family, and being engulfed in an intimacy inculcated over years of knowing people in a thousand tiny ways.  And yet, I found myself yearning to speak Hebrew.  I craved falafel.   I missed Israeli abrasiveness, and the cut-to-the-chase attitude.

So I’ll cut to the chase:

I’m living a half-life.  I speak Hebrew.  I eat falafel.  I ride my purple bicycle through the fields, and take the train to Tel Aviv where I write… for an American audience.  When the kibbutz sleeps, I’m awake on Facebook, celebrating moments and milestones in real time ten time zones away.

That’s what it is – a half-life:  I’m neither here, nor there.  An optimist might say I have two homes, but that’s really just a load of sunshine and rainbow unicorn crap.  Still, I’m taking steps to make this place feel more like home, because I’m here, and only I can be responsible for my own happiness.   And, yes,  there are moments – ok, more than moments – when things click, and I feel like I am in the right place at the right time…

The coffee here is good – way better than in LA.  The sun is warm.  And… two of my friends have just joined me outside here at the Kibbutz coffee place.

And no, the irony isn’t lost on me:  If I keep writing this article, steeped in self-pity andsturm und drang (and angst not felt since 9th grade), then I am my own worst enemy.  And that’s just sad.  I have a chance, right now, this very minute, to sit with two other people and to feel a sense of belonging, even if only for the space and time that it takes to drink a latte.

But after all, what is friendship if not built on a series of moments, large and small?

And so, I’m shutting the laptop.

(For now.)

This post originally appeared on Sarah’s blog, The Crazy Baby Mama.

Sarah Tuttle-Singer

Sarah Tuttle-Singer is an LA Expat (reluctantly) growing roots in Israel. She's learning to love being an outsider: After all, the view from the edge is exquisite. Fueled by a double-shot latte, she (over)shares her (mis)adventures across the Internet, including on Kveller.comTimes of IsraelJezebel, and Offbeat Families. She is dangerous when bored.

The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. Comments are moderated, so use your inside voices, keep your hands to yourself, and no, we're not interested in herbal supplements.

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