Israel -- It's Complicated

One thing I've noticed about turning 40 is the constant refrain of "it's complicated." The friend who got divorced and is now living with her new girlfriend -- It's complicated. The friend who is on her second marriage and lives on a different continent than her spouse -- it's complicated. Relationships with aging parents -- it's complicated. Relationships with children who make you homicidal and purposeful at the same time -- it's complicated. Staying married -- it's complicated.

We just returned from a 2-week trip to Israel to see my family and friends who live there. My feelings for that country are complicated. The country itself is a total paradox. It's a country that is both ancient and high tech within one city block. You walk on ancient cobblestone streets to a mega mall the size of Saturn.

The country oozes chutzpa and impatience. We were in line at passport control at the airport and a woman joined our family at the counter because waiting her turn behind us was too hard. Driving in the major cities make driving in Midtown Manhattan look leisurely. The traffic lights actually go from red to yellow before turning green which I suspect is to let the driver approaching the light know that there's no need to touch the brakes at all because the light will turn green in a few nanoseconds.

I ordered a small smoothie and the guy at the counter said to me, "You're gonna need a large." (And he was right). You want an honest opinion of how you parent, look, drive, dress? You will get it there. We parked our car at the hotel parking lot and got blocked for an hour by a taxi driver who left his car directly behind ours while he leisurely used the hotel lobby bathroom. Tactless chutzpah.

But it's complicated because with this chutzpah comes this deep sense of family with everyone. It felt like everyone was my sibling in a way. Only my sisters would say to me -- "you're gonnna need a large." And the smoothie guy in Jerusalem. My sisters wouldn't wait in line either. They would hover next to me too. When the taxi driver on the toilet blocked us in, three different people went inside to get him off the can.

I went to buy a sweatshirt because it was unseasonably cold in April. I asked the saleslady if they carried sweatshirts and she shook her head no. The woman next to me turns to me and said -- "You need a sweatshirt. Its going to be so cold today" (Thanks mom). I agreed. She then said "How long will you be here for?" So I answered that we were leaving back to the States in a week. She shook her head no and said "No, I mean -- how long will you be here in the store; I will run home and get you a sweatshirt." She then proceeded to tell me about the five pairs of underwear she was purchasing in a total TMI moment. It felt like a group chat with my sisters.

When we asked for directions from the random gas station guy, he basically climbed into our car to explain and made sure we knew how to go before leaving.

Years ago, when I was single and visiting a friend in Israel I took a cab and spent the whole ride explaining to the driver that yes, I am dating. Yes, I know I'm 26 and not getting any younger. No, I don't have a problem with intimacy. It was like my grandmother morphed into a Yemenite taxi driver.

It's complicated because it's a family. And family is never simple. With the tactless, unsolicited advice you also get a deep love and sense of responsibility. You get a country of people who drive like lunatics and who kneel and kiss the earth in a thousand different ways all pull to a screeching halt on the highways or on their surfboards when the siren goes off to commemorate Holocaust Remembrance Day. Because we lost so much family.

It's complicated because this is a country that is defensive all the time. With so much to prove. And so much at stake. Because it's a place that tries to protect the ancient and be a leader in high tech simultaneously. Because they love their children fiercely and most are willing to send every one of these children at the age of 18 to the army to defend this tiny piece of earth.

Because it's a country that is fueled by familial bonds; you get all that comes with that bond. You get yelled at, advised and defended. You get dedication and loads of bullshit. You get complicated.