Ever realize that the path to getting somewhere is much more enlightening than the destination itself? That was yesterday.
I suppose I could give an overview of what happened last night at the Nefesh B’Nefesh International Jewish Bloggers Conference in Jerusalem, but that's been done by numerous Jbloggers more famous and reputable than I here, here and here. Instead, I can't seem to stop thinking about what happened along the way.
I took a bus. That in itself is a stretch for me, since I have a car, and I've been driving for years. The combination of a terrible sense of direction and really bad night vision made me decide not to make the drive to Jerusalem this time. I haven't taken a bus anywhere for ages, and it's not that I mind, or that I'm a public transportation snob - on the contrary, it actually felt good to get out of my comfort zone a little bit. A little bit, though, that would've been enough.
Actually I took a train and a bus. And while waiting at the train station, I looked around me, and saw the Israel that I had somehow "left" many years ago, all the while still living here in the middle of it, traded for my suburban oblivion. There was a young ultra-orthodox family sitting across from me, children running, father mumbling, mother knitting...there was a teenager talking to her friends by cellphone about what kinds of snacks they should bring to the Scout meeting that evening...there were soldiers flirting with the woman behind the sandwich counter...and many others. All representing the different faces of Israel that I had originally fallen in love with, and that brought me to this country 15 years ago. But sitting there now, they all felt so distant, so different, as if they were part of another dimension of Israel that I no longer come into contact with. And that made me sad.
In our struggle for better "quality of life" here, we moved to a small town in the center of Israel - which is both very close to everything, but also very detached from everything (aka suburbia). And that's exactly what my husband and I wanted when we moved here. But over the years, and as the family has grown, I find that my whole world is basically either at home or at work, or in the car on the way to either one. And that being the case, I have almost zero exposure to what's going on in the big cities, in the malls and coffee shops, on the streets, and in the world at large that's so close - and at the same time so far from my day-to-day life.
So, arriving at the central bus station in Jerusalem yesterday was kind of a treat. I haven't been there in years, so it was quite a surprise to get off the bus and head into a sleek, modern shopping mall, filled with the vendors, bakeries, and music stores that used to be what gave the bus station its unique flavor. But bringing them inside this fluorescent-lit, air conditioned, 3-story mall has changed that too - comfortable yes, authentic no. Only seeing a prayer-book vending machine there (like those snack machines at the hospital!) made me laugh out loud and think, only in Jerusalem.
But I digress. After taking a third bus together with the help of A Mother in Israel, I arrived at the conference. It was pretty packed, with lots of mingling going on, and with a great sandwich spread. (Did I mention that I suck at shmoozing?) Silly me, I had assumed that Jbloggers would be a mix of Jews of all ages and backgrounds from different perspectives, different religious outlooks, and maybe even some "native" Israelis. Boy was I wrong. I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised to see so many orthodox Jews at a Jewish blogger conference (mostly Anglos who had moved to Israel, in this case) - they were most definitely the majority.
So, deep thoughts here. Does identifying yourself as a Jewish blogger mean only that the focus of your blog is on Jewish topics? On religion? or on religious life? Or, are Jewish bloggers people who are Jewish and who blog (about anything, not necessarily related to Judaism)? I am sure that an "Israeli bloggers conference" would have had a completely different turnout - more secular, more business-related, wider span of topics and concerns and people. I suppose I consider myself both a Jewish and an Israeli blogger - but not because those are specific topics I blog about. Rather, they are 2 aspects of my daily life, and therefore show up occasionally in my blog.
Tremendous credit goes to Nefesh B'Nefesh for putting on this event - I believe that it will be one of the first of many similar events that will hopefully widen the focus and reach of Jbloggers everywhere.
Although there were some good speakers on the panels (btw check out WhatWarZone, it's hilarious!), even some non-religious, and one very long-winded former Prime Minister... I realized I would have been wiser to watch the conference online than to travel all this way (and I still haven't mentioned the 1 1/2 half-hour bus ride home).
The other realization is that as comfortable as it is, I should get out of my bubble more often to renew my love of and exposure to the 'real' Israel. But next time, I'm driving.