Burned on the Way Out


I was so close to making it home without a sunburn.

All semester, I’ve been pretty careful– slathering sunscreen when at the beach, getting to the shade fairly often, and, of course, making sure to hydrate. I’d gotten a tiny bit pink a couple of times, but I was pretty proud of my non-sacrificial tan.

That is…until today.

Today is my last day in Tel Aviv, and today I rented a bike, and today I pedaled up and down the beach, and today I said goodbye to this city and this country, and today, my upper arms turned red.

And, y’know what? That’s ok. IMG_2376.jpg

A lot of the time, when I travel, there’s something of a disconnect between where I’ve left and where I’ve gotten to. It’s a feeling that makes me think of every Yom Kippur, following the Break Fast, when I catch myself wondering if I have fasted at all. I’m used to eating. For Yom Kippur, I fast. When I’m done with my fast, the first few moments of comfort in returning to food quickly fade in favor of a more normative (privileged) thought process of “what do I feel like eating/not eating now?”

I remember when I returned home from my time in rural China feeling an astonishment at America. Years later, when my youngest sister got home after a semester studying in Ghana, I remember watching her face as we walked the aisles of Trader Joe’s in Berkeley. There’s an awe in home, in the good sort of “default,” when you have been away from it. And there’s a sense, accompanying that awe, of disbelief.


I am sitting on my couch in my apartment in Jaffa. I am listening to the meuzzin at the neighborhood mosque chant the prayers that signal the end of the daily fast of Ramadan. In just a moment, those prayers will end and he will chant the adhan. I’ll hear the adhan once more this evening before I order a cab and go to the airport to begin my very long Friday. Tomorrow at this time, I’ll be boarding a plane in Iceland, I hope. This couch, this apartment, this meuzzin, this neighborhood, this time of my existence will feel disconnected from my present, in the same way that in this moment, the idea of taking my suitcase downstairs and getting into a cab and flying away and not coming back feels disconnected from everything I think of as normal here.


Like these Ramadan lights

Tomorrow at this time, I will still have a sunburn. It will have faded by then. It probably won’t hurt anymore. But it will be there. It will connect what feels disconnected, connect the “me” of today with the “me” of tomorrow. I am heading into a strange shabbat. It won’t be long before I too walk the aisles of Trader Joe’s and drink my fancy coffee and surround myself with loved ones and feel awe. I am so grateful, and I want to make every effort to link that awe with this reality. I want to be home and know that I have been here.

You’ll hear more from me before I get home. Shabbos Blessing 39 will come from Ben Gurion or from Paris or from Reykjavik. It’ll probably be short, but maybe not, since I’ll have a cumulative 11 hours of layover. In the meantime, I am signing off from this apartment.


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