The Conspiracy

Becoming a tourist [MASA]

The legendary falafel of Israel. | Photo by Flickr user Eliya (CC BY-NC 2.0)

I have become a tourist. I don’t really know when this transformation happened. There I was, going about my business being a typical seminary girl, mentally deriding the people who wandered around the city wearing baseball hats and dragged along overtired, over-stimulated children who would honestly rather hear a bedtime story than yet another tour guide drone on about the kotel. Then I turned around and I was one of them. We even have matching baseball hats. What happened?!

Let me explain- 2 days ago my family arrived. And it’s amazing, really and truly amazing to see them after not being home for 8 months, but along with the home baked cookies and new clothes came the dreaded tourist-ism. And yes, that is a word.

I can’t figure out what`s different. I loved touring with my family back in ’07. And I still love just chilling with my family and family friends, but something has changed. I no longer zone out when the tour guide talks about the bombs that are currently being rained in the South. Instead, I think of my friends who spent their Shabbos in Be’er Sheva in bomb shelters with strangers. When I hear someone in the group make a derogatory comment about the government or the peace talks or even the bus system, I bristle with indignation. The same way that you can complain about your family all you want, but the second an outsider makes even an innocent comment you leap to it’s defense. You leap to it’s defense because it’s yours.

And Israel? It’s mine.

It became mine the first time I managed to find my way to the kotel without stopping for directions once. It became mine when the falafel stand guys started answering me back in Hebrew. It became mine when hearing about casualties stopped being about names and started being about faces. It became mine when hearing someone say something-anything-negative about it personally insulted me.

It became mine, and no matter where I go or who I become, it is not an ownership I can-or am willing to- relinquish.

So call me an ‘resident alien’ or a ‘temporary citizen’. Call me a wanna-be Zionist or call me the real deal. Call me whatever you want. Just don’t call me a tourist.

Arielle Wasserman is currently studying at Midreshet Lindenbaum, one of Masa Israel’s 200 programs.

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