A few days of visiting my parents in Ra’anana reminded me how easy, pleasant and nice it is to live in the big city; how everything is only a couple of minutes away by car; how everything you need is nearby and accessible; you have cell phone reception everywhere; and most of all, how safe and quiet the space all around is, and how good and sweet life is west of the Green Line.
How did a city girl like me, who grew up in the best, most pampering city, chose to live on a far-away hilltop, cut off, with only hills and silence all around? It’s hard to understand. How did a city girl like me fall in love with this hill (apart from a few months in the winter, when I swear every year, year after year, that this is it, I’m moving to Eilat)?
The truth is that I am so in love with the quiet, the landscape, the welcome respite from the rat race of life. Life without traffic jams and too few parking spaces, and mainly without the temptations of the big city. Life on the hilltop gives me plenty of inner space and serenity. I love it that my children are growing up surrounded by nature, and since there is no TV in our house, they spend most of their time outside with friends, developing their whole world with imagination and creativity.
On this hill, I feel closest to myself.
The only thing is that this closeness lasts at most a week. After a week the wide open spaces stifle me. The silence drives me crazy and the pure clean air of the mountaintops makes me choke. That is the moment when I really need the city – and fast.
I have to smell some air pollution, need to visit a mall, stores; be surrounded by the colors, sounds, noise, coffee shops and throngs of people. Like an addict in withdrawal I feel the suffocation and I get into my car and drive.
My neighbors on the hill laugh at me, that my car knows only one road – the road to Ra’anana. When I get to the Ra’anana junction something inside me starts to relax, my heart expands and the temptations of the urban hustle and bustle that I fled become the most wonderful things in the world.
A coffee shop or good restaurant, a little shopping, a visit with Mom and Dad; a few minutes of being a child and forgetting that I am actually a mother; buying fresh fruits and vegetables in the open market, meat from a gourmet delicatessen, breads from the artisan bakery; in short, the good life!
After a few hours of dizzying sensory celebration, I have to go back. I write have to, because I always feel like staying a little longer. What can I say, it’s so much fun. On the way home from Ra’anana to Eli the cars flow with the changing of the close-set traffic lights, and with them my thoughts start flowing, too, and I feel how part of me always continues to live in Ra’anana. It’s not only the city with its pleasures; it’s also my extended family, which is, was and always will be an important part of my life. This is my childhood and my adolescence, my friends and part of the lifestyle I chose to leave, on the one hand, and which remains a part of me, on the other.
The best and most wonderful pediatrician in the world, who looked after me from as far back as I can remember, now takes care of my children, and always makes sure to hug me and declare that he really doesn’t care that I became religious and all that nonsense, he is always allowed to hug me just like before. My dentist is the same, and I go only to him, even though it’s an hour’s drive each way. These are only two small examples of how much my life continues to be there, to the extent that when I turn left at Ra’anana junction, towards Ahuza St., I feel that I have arrived home.
And there is also a part of me that is rooted firmly in the rocky soil of the Binyamin hills. When the urban landscape of the coastal cities starts to give way to the hills, somewhere near the Oranit checkpoint, and the air starts to feel drier and the oppressive humidity disappears, I breathe a sigh of relief. I’m back. I’m on my home turf. I know every bend in the road and the crest of every hill, the quiet colors, the immensity and the natural tension of this region, which always requires me to work harder, filling me more than the bulging shopping bags on the back seat. The home that we built, our children, the work I love so much, our friends, our beloved hill, for which we have been struggling almost from the day it was established, that has caused all of us to try harder, love more, overcome, learn, and most of all to become more dedicated people than we were before. All these are such an important part of me, a part that I would not give up, a part without which I feel I would be lacking.
Life here in the Binyamin hills gives me meaning every minute of the day. In the difficult moments that life sets in our path, and which sometimes make me imagine we are living somewhere else, I always return to this clarity, of what is really important in life. What quality of life do I want for myself, and more importantly, for my family? Meaning! I know that it exists everywhere, for every person wherever he is, but for me it is here in these ancient hills, steeped in history and struggles, that are still waiting for their sons to return, not only physically, but also with their hearts. Here I feel the most at home in the world.
To me, having one foot here and one foot there, is wonderful; it is me in every way, with each part of me having its own place. Perhaps outwardly I seem split, but for me this is the greatest wholeness in the world, as the song goes, “I have in me both from here and from there, I have them both in me.”