“So do Jews hate Jesus?” a coworker asked me the other week. The question itself wasn’t particularly disturbing; I knew it was asked out of genuine curiosity and naivety. But the truly unsettling part was the remembrance that I was in exile. A stranger in a strange land.
I had gone from living in Israel – the Holy Land – the Promised Land – to living in מצרים, Egypt, the land of slavery. Yet, rather like the initial purpose of the descent of Joseph’s family to Egypt in search of food and bounty, I had come here willingly seeking much of the same. In my case, it was also for the sake of family.
It is a self-imposed exile. And with it comes the necessary evils that accompany all migrations, though my case is a strange one, for I find myself in my old “homeland,” the land that I was born and raised in.
I am reminded of a book I read some years ago called Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut. The protagonist describes feeling torn between two nations and somehow, simultaneously, nation-less. I, too, feel torn between the two countries of my heart – America and Israel. It’s hard to say whether I will ever truly feel comfortable in one place over the other. In Israel, I lack family. In America, I lack home. All these reflections have me recalling some thoughts I had while living in Israel: How could any Jew voluntarily live in exile, when Israel, the land of our ancestors, exists in the present?
It seems that, once again, God has given me the opportunity to answer my own – and perhaps others’ – question. It is self-imposed exile, yes – a seemingly ludicrous and nonsensical choice. But like Joseph’s family discovered, there is a reality that must be grasped, a truth which lies in a sometimes fickle reason: we have no other choice but to pursue greener pastures.