WAJ Intro: Mirit Hadar is our friend in Ithaca. She is Israeli, and is traveling to Greece over winter break as a volunteer with IsraAID. Mirit will post about her journey, at Legal Insurrection and her own website, periodically over the next two weeks.

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When I am asked why I am about to fly to the other side of the world, leaving my loving son at his grandparents house in Israel for two weeks, leaving lovely Ithaca, my relaxed home and my sleeping cat, I have to refresh their memory, I have to remind them who I am, a Jewish girl third generation of Jewish refugees. I have to remind them that we were different; we were shamed, we were not accepted because others feared strangers too much. I have to remind them that we were strangers once.

Here are a few lines from an Israeli song I have been chanting to myself lately … “A man needs to have integrity, a small space in the world [land], unforgettable love and true voice when praying [feeling understood/feeling heard). And a perfect moment to give and take and not… to be afraid of the fear.

Mirit Hadar Israeli Song Lyrics in Hebrew

My journey began as my son and myself left from Florida for Israel. How symbolic that my Humanitarian Aid quest takes this path? My son senses we are on the way home, his place of birth and my place of birth, our homeland, as he switches to speaking only Hebrew with me.

Going to Israel is very meaningful for my son and I. Nothing to do with Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people, or as the Holy Land, nothing to do with our Jewish identity or any other aspect of our identity. It’s something much more simple than that; my childhood, my mom’s kitchen, my elementary besties, the smells, the neighborhood, my brother, my nieces, the hibiscus in the garden, and the lemon tree.

Mirit Hadar garden Israel

We use big words like Homeland and Holy Land. Do we even know what that means for the common Israeli who was born and raised for many generations and knows nothing else but being that? My connection with this sliver of land is all I know, I was born, raised and rooted here.

The journey I embark on is a journey that not only crosses the Atlantic ocean, it goes further than that, it goes to the deep acknowledgment of what it means to feel misplaced. What does it mean to be where you are not from?

I left Israel in 2008 for love, for academic development and to discover what is out there that is different than me, only to reflect and reconnect to where I am from. Along the way I met people from all over the world, I met people I could never have met had I stayed put. And I learned something about the feeling of being misplaced, being an immigrant.

Strange how life works,; I was the one who helped acclimate new Russian immigrants as Hebrew teacher back in Israel, and now I’ve become the one who is being acclimated and naturalized into the American culture as an immigrant myself.

Mirit Hadar at sea wall Israel

Immigration changes countries, takes its toll with its pains and gains. You go out of your bubble, you learn about the other, you try to assimilate, and to bridge cultural understanding and meet new people. It also brings into question all that you know and think and believe. It often means you carry the responsibility to become an ambassador of your own faith and background.

In my case, being a College Hebrew language teacher has made me a cultural agent, held me accountable for my thoughts on politics, my personal perspective and my views on my country, my culture and my people. Sometimes the pressure on those who immigrate is to assimilate completely, become local and leave their cultural identify behind.

In a few days I am about to meet many who are about to become new citizens of an as yet to be determined country, sacrificing all they have to find freedom, and look for a better, safer life. I wonder what immigration would mean to them? And how will my personal journey benefit them as they seek new shelters?