August 23, 2013 by Katia

I’m back! And I give you a double dose of me. If you’d like to hear me talk about boobs, please join me in a blogging dream come true. I am guest posting on Le Clown’s The Oulier Collective today.

If you would like to hear about my trip stay here.


When I left my home country I never imagined a scenario where I would not return there at least once a year. And here I am now, 12 + months of fertility treatments, three pregnancies, two kids and two Canadian jobs later and I land in Israel for the first time in 3.5 years. I’m accompanied by 4 Year Old. I’ve imagined this so often and in so many different versions that the realness of this makes it feel unreal, as though THIS and not the countless dreams and daydreams I’ve been having is a figment of my imagination. At the same time there are no angels singing, no Oprah going “AHA!” or “TADA!” or whatever it is you’re supposed to say when life gets bigger than life. I’m walking down a beautiful airport hall laid with white stone tiles we call “Jerusalem stone” and expect to be flooded with emotion any minute now except I’m not. So I open my eyes and ears a little wider to absorb every bit of sensory information confirming my belonging, waiting to feel that familiar lump forming in my throat, yet I am still perfectly composed, so I retreat into my head after a while, start analyzing and the experience turns really meta.

IMG_1301 - Ben Gurion Airport

IMG_1301 – Ben Gurion Airport (Photo credit: otzberg)

When on the way from the airport we drive down the familiar highway and on to streets that I know like the back of my hand I am still numb. How come I’m feeling so little when I was getting so increasingly nostalgic lately, that whenever my brain went idle the screen saver that would pop would always be a Tel-Aviv street I would catch myself pacing, turning a familiar corner and being flooded with that warmness quickly followed by a sharp pang, and now that I’m here ON one of these streets – nothing? An emotional desert in the middle of a historical one?

My childhood street

My childhood street

I am here mainly to see her because she used to look like this:



And now she looks like this.

Auntie Ninulya

Auntie Ninulya

She is my auntie. Grandma’s sister. I expected to cry when I meet her. Was so scared that I would, but nothing. Instead I’m punched in the throat by the newness of such a familiar face. A face that is part of my own identity. The sunken cheeks, the skeletal fingers, the whiteness of the hair, the new teeth and the changed jaw line – all of them more shocking than the wheelchair holding back this tornado of a person and the relentless shaking of the hand.

I am not feeling like myself. There was once a me who belonged here. That me relocated and evolved into a new one who was beginning to belong in Toronto and now that new me is here in Tel-Aviv again and it seems like all it should take to feel like Tel-Aviv me is to peel off the top layer, lose the Toronto winter coat, but I can’t.

The difference between my two realities is striking. The contour of the city and the content filling it could not be more contrasting. Palm trees and apartment buildings instead of houses and oaks, peeling paint, bright sky, clothes lines, street cats, history, green parrot like birds I’ve never seen before. Tel-Aviv speaks in a different voice. The sounds of the city are louder, more raw, more id less super ego, different birds chirp here, cars are honking, buses running underneath my bedroom window, loud voices rocking me to sleep, the clanking of the heels of the neighbour upstairs waking me up the next morning. No isolation, everything intermingled. Everything so familiar but interlaced with new or forgotten. What does that make me? Who am I when I come here?

Daniel 1 + Israel 173

My head tells me that I don’t feel because nostalgia is not toward this street or that one, it’s toward that warm sense of familiarity and the lack of effort that is its byproduct, the sense of belonging.  My head is right. I step out of a taxi and hold back tears I did not see coming. I asked the mature taxi driver driving me down my childhood street if the Jachnun* stand was still there and he started reassuringly telling me it was there indeed, sharing his own Iraqui parents’ disapproval of that dish and his eyes were sparkling with laughter and kindness and we were talking in the same codes and I knew exactly what he meant so I had to get out of there as quickly as I could.

I’m walking a childhood friend I’ve lost touch with to the bus station. I’ve walked up and down this street for years when I would take the bus to the university. My friend travelled from another city to meet me on my last day. We stop in front of the pharmacy my mom would take me to as a child and we’re saying goodbye. “You know,” she tells me “it seems like that geographical disconnect is a great opportunity for connecting with yourself.” Pang followed by that painful warmness when she asks me what I like to eat because she’s already contemplating the practicalities of inviting me and my family for a meal on our next visit which is not even in discussion. And now there’s another layer added to the archaeology of that street.

Daniel 1 + Israel 177

I meet childhood friends who in my mind are twelve except they bring their kids. I meet other ten-year-olds who are forty. They are them but also not and I am me but not really.

Back in the late nineties when there was just one me, I was browsing CD’s at the record store in my favourite mall looking for a specific single. When I couldn’t find it I asked the sales associate for help. Towering above me was Israel’s number one basketball player, because it’s a small place like that. When he heard my request he handed me the CD and mumbled “there you go”.  That budding “relationship” became a constant joke between my future husband and I. I heard that song the other day during my visit to Israel. It is now playing in my head as I walk up the street to buy Jachnun. I stare at the writing on the wall proclaiming “We are all strangers here”. The song is playing in my head “You’re a little late, I’m already torn”. The song is Natalie Imbruglia’s Torn.

Daniel 1 + Israel 324

  • Jachnun – Yemenite Jewish pastry served on Shabat (Saturday) morning.


This has been a Finish The Sentence Friday Post on the topic “I didn’t feel like myself when…”. Please visit our wonderful hosts:


Stephanie at Mommy, For Real

Kristi, woohoo! at Finding Ninee

Janine at Janine’s Confessions of a Mommyaholic

Kate at Can I Get Another Bottle of Whine?

26 thoughts on “Israel

  1. This was a most excellent read.

  2. Roshni says:

    I can well understand your emotions because it is the same when I visited my city in India after a long time. There was definitely a disconnect, especially for me, since the city had changed a lot and familiar landmarks had been erased. My own neighbourhood hadn’t changed much though, for which I’m thankful, and I also saw my folks with new eyes and realized that they were, after all, mortal!
    Beautiful description, Katia!

    • Katia says:

      Thank you so much, my dear. I know that people who went through immigration or a move can probably better relate to this. I just hope it didn’t sound bitter.

  3. I totally could relate. I recently had written about going back to where I grew up as a kid for a funeral of a very good family friend. We moved when I was 14 years old and I am now 36. Seems like a lifetime ago, but I was completely transported back in time on that day and so many of the feelings you describe here I felt, too. Thank you for sharing and for linking htis up with us. And welcome back!! 🙂

  4. […] I’m back! And I give you a double dose of me. If you’d like to hear me talk about boobs, please join me in a blogging dream come true. I am guest posting on Le Clown’s The Oulier Collective today. If you would like to hear about my trip stay here.  […]

  5. nataliedeyoung says:

    Wow, powerful. What a disconnect, between who you were and who you are. I loved this beyond description.

  6. Stephanie Sprenger says:

    Oh, how did I survive without your brilliant voice this past week? That was surreal, engaging, and you totally captured the “meta” thing you had going on. I can’t imagine what that must have felt like- except I can, because your words were so vivid I felt like I was right there. Your ability to capture such complex emotions is one of my favorite things about your writing. I have no idea which of the two pieces you shared today I like more. Did you seriously write both of them- so different? Can you really be that versatile? xo

    • Katia says:

      I’m so glad you could relate or understand, my friend. Writing this I didn’t know if it would turn to be a really obscure very personal post, so glad to hear it resonated with one of my favourites.

  7. The Waiting says:

    Ahhh! I just love the way you write! It’s kind of like a bowl of ice cream and I get to treat myself to your luscious words. This especially, “Back in the late nineties when there was just one me.” LOVED.

  8. Katia, I really felt like a took a journey with you, while reading this post — literally and with you in your “meta” head. Beautifully crafted. I liked how you described yourself as having been “one” person, back in the day. I can relate to this post. My mom and stepdad moved from my hometown, when I graduated from high school. I don’t go back very often. When I am back, I feel so disoriented, one minute numb, the next minute emotional. It’s hard to figure out where the old me starts and the new one begins, sometimes!

  9. Dana says:

    You know when you’re reading a novel and the author writes these sentences that you just read and say “Aaaahhh,” like you just had a great massage or a hug? That’s how I felt when I read this – how I often feel when I read your writing. I know this was a heady post for you to write, but your gift is that you communicated what you were thinking and feeling so well that I totally got it. Welcome back, Katia – we’ve missed the Now You when you were gone! (and that was not a typo, I meant to say Now, not New)

    • Katia says:

      What an amazing comment, thank you so much, my friend. You are so totally right about how it felt writing it and I am thrilled that I’ve managed to convey how I felt. And I knew you meant the Now Me 🙂

  10. God, Katia, there’s something about this that is extremely magical and sad and happy and I don’t know. I feel like I need to read it again but commend you on amazing writing skills and the ability to make me tear up right now without even being completely sure why. I suppose this ability to transport me to your mind is what makes me adore you and your writing so very much.
    There are so many sentences in here that I love, and love a lot. I’m happy that you’re back.

  11. Katia, your writing is magical. I was truly transported while I read this. I can kind of relate. I grew up in a very small town where everybody knew everyone else it seemed. I only live a few hours away now – an have for many years – but my parents still love there and, when I go back, it feels so strange. It feel like I am an outsider in a place that was once so familiar. It certainly does not compare to the distance you have traveled, but I understand the way it can feel so surreal.

  12. Wow – excellent Katia. I was drawn in like I was deep in a book. Though the two places I call home are either 4 or 9 hours from here, I am familiar with that feeling. I always long what’s familiar and being around people who I know and grew up. But then when I visit, that’s just it. I’ve enjoyed myself, I’ve inhaled everything I’ve been missing but in the end home is where my family is – my son and my husband. Loved this post.

  13. If I had extra time, I would definitely read your blog from start to finish!! You are such an amazing writer and intriguing person. 🙂 Loved this so much.

  14. Sarah says:

    Katia, this is lovely. I loved reading all the FTSF posts this week as we pondered such big questions about identity and self…. Sounds like a powerful trip ~ glad you are back!

  15. I am so glad to have found your blog. This post in particular gets me. And now, along with your lyrical words, I have “Torn” running through my head. Thank you for taking us back to Tel Aviv with you as you realized the complexities of returning. My very fave lines are these: “I meet childhood friends who in my mind are twelve except they bring their kids. I meet other ten-year-olds who are forty. They are them but also not and I am me but not really.

    Back in the late nineties when there was just one me,…”

    Just stellar & beautiful & real. Toda & merci!

    • Katia says:

      Oh my goodness, I’m so grateful for this genuinely heartfelt comment and so pleased to meet you as well. I gather from the name of your blog that you may not be living in your home country (Israel?) either and I look forward to visiting you. And thank you for “reviving” one of my favourite posts 🙂

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