Today I am writing the blog from very unfamiliar surroundings; the living room of my parents' new home, where I have been comfortably staying, for the last two weeks. After flying to London two Sundays ago, I have now spent half of the time that I will eventually be here for.
Re-uniting with my friends and family has been amazing, and falling back into my old life of comfortable civilisation has been a refreshing change from what I've been doing in the past eight months. Seeing my parents' new home and living with them again has been the best part of my trip back home; after all my maturing and growing up in the last year, it has been nice to be treated like a little boy again and have my mum clean up after me! After a year of army and kibbutz life, there is nothing like waking up in the afternoon and spending the whole day on the couch watching television. Although nearly every day has been filled up with something to do, this visit is also a nice relaxing rest after eight exhausting months. I have spent my time up until now doing all the things that I love; seeing friends, eating pizza and playing football (as well as watching my team Spurs qualify for the Champions League), while I've also had some more moving moments, like, when I was asked to hold the Sefer Torah in Shul for the reading of the prayer 'for the safety of the state of Israel and its defence forces', or seeing two people who greatly contributed to my aliyah journey who are now moving back to Israel.
Being back with friends has been great, but also has left me with some interesting thoughts about my current life in Israel, the life I left behind in London and life I could have led if I went to university like the rest of my mates. My friends' reaction to see me, after a full year of not seeing each other, was somewhat disappointing. They were of course excited to see me but, as per usual, my expectations were of something more and I seemed to forget that life obviously carried on without me and people moved on. I know that seems like I'm very full of myself, but I just expected something that wasn't realistic. Also, since my friends are at a number of different universities around the country, some of them hadn't seen each other for a number of months and because it is summer and everyone is back home, it was a reunion for a lot of them and not just for me. Don't get me wrong, my friends were very excited to see me and were simply in awe by the stories I had for them; stories of jumping out of an aeroplane, stories of carrying half my body weight for four days and stories of throwing grenades, flying in helicopters and running behind tanks! The boys had many typical boyish questions about what it's like having a gun and some of my friends pressed me to tell them about secrets I've learnt since being in the army, but my mouth stayed shut!!!
People had told me what it was going to be like when going home for the first time; I was warned that I would be disappointed by my expectations and how I will feel very different to the rest of my friends. Well, after being here a fortnight, I can see that things have both changed and stayed the same. After around five minutes of being with either friends or family, everything feels back to normal and like I haven't even been away, and living in North London again is pretty much exactly the same. With friends, after the initial stories and catching up, things sort of carried on like normal and the banter is exactly how it used to be (except now, any comment towards me is now related to the army!). In that sense, nothing really changes, but I can definitely notice some aspects where something is not quite how it used to be. In some ways, I have matured more than them, especially in terms of things I have to deal with on a day-to-day basis, such as, the responsibility of having a gun, trying to cope with a new language or just simply living in a foreign country without parents. As much as I try to explain the hardships of my life in Israel to my friends, whether that be the physical difficulties of the 'shetach' or the psychological difficulties of not being home (i.e. my kibbutz, Ortal) for three weeks in a row, they simply do not experience this in their relatively luxurious student lifestlyes, in comparison to mine. This is not me complaining about how hard my life is (because I love what I do and don't regret aliyah and the army for a second) or even a way to evoke sympathy, instead I am just trying to explain how my friends back here can never understand what I have been going through this year and this causes an unavoidable separation between us, which I sense is noticeable just to me. (This also makes me think that however well I describe my life to you guys, you will never truly understand how hard, or how amazingly rewarding, my journey has been. Only once you've experienced it yourself...)
This brings me to my next point about how my friends from the garin (the people who I live with on the kibbutz and who are also lone soldiers in the army) do share with me that understanding of what I'm going through because they are doing the exact same thing. Since being here in England, I've learnt to appreciate my life in Israel and the people who I am close to a lot more. This may sound obvious, but my trip back here to London has made me realise that my life is now definitely in Israel and I now feel even stronger about living in Israel permamently after the army. Although I definitely don't miss the realities of the army, I do miss my friends from the army and, in some way, I miss being a soldier and, at points, feel naked without my gun and uniform. Coming back to London is definitely just a holiday as opposed to a visit back home but this doesn't change the fact that making it just an annual visit is extrememly hard and I don't remember ever looking forward to something as much as I did for this visit, I would obviously love to be able to come back more often, but that is the cost of being in the army.
(This is a video I made for my friends in the army who are in my class. In a couple of weeks we finish our first year in the army, resulting in the partial breaking up of our company, meaning some of them may leave to other directions. So, I made this video for them; a reminder of our first year in the army together, which was most definitely a memorable, hilarious and action-packed year).
I still have another two long weeks here, which I will definitely take advantage as I have done up until now. I think being here for a full month is perfect as it gives me enough time to do all the things that I want to and I see all the people I want to see, but at the same time, by the end of the month I will be ready to go back home and restart my normal life. I will probably write another blog before I fly back to Israel. Enjoy the rest of the summer.