Jim and I arrived in Israel last Thursday afternoon around 2pm, and we had the good fortune to be picked up at the airport by our dear friend Shlomi (who will get a separate blog post dedicated only to him in a few days—keep an eye out!). Of course, since many Israelis drive cars that are smaller than American ones, Jim had a concern that our luggage might not fit in Shlomi’s car. In the end, I confess, there actually were five pieces: 1 big packpack and one garment bag for Jim, 1 big suitcase, 1 small duffel carry-on (whose straps broke from the weight of my Arabic language-learning books and which I had to replace with a rolling carry-on in the BWI airport!), and one backpack full of electronic devices for me. But it all fit.
How does one pack for six months of living in one of the most famous and fought about regions of the world? This is the question that I’ve been thinking about for the past few days, as I waded through jeans, shoes, books, dresses, and other sundry items trying to figure out what was important enough to warrant space in my one suitcase. It’s not until you have to put your wordly belongings in a suitcase that you begin to realize just how many of them there are, how many you’ve come to take for granted, and how many you so easily can (and probably will) live without, perhaps temporarily, perhaps more enjoyably. As I sat on the phone with Human Resources switching health plans, AT&T suspending U.S. cell phone service, and assorted credit card companies and banks putting many of life’s mundane details in order, I started to focus on the daily hum-drum slowly shifting out of its realm and into the liminal space that travel thrusts upon us—the space of wonder, delight, and amazement of that which otherwise we’d fail to take notice of, the simple yet infinite details that make up lived experience in this oh-so-human life.