By Otzma Volunteer Jessica Goldstein
Nisan 5760 - April 2000
Has it really been over two and a half months?
This morning Shiri and I sat out on the street corner, waiting for the truck to pick up our blankets and pillows and kitchenware, laughing at the fact that Shmuel was at our doorstep at 8:45 am with his digital camera, and wondering which offer to accept for a place to sleep tonight. This afternoon, I went to the mall and saw many residents that I know, from all different aspects of my life in Arad. For tonight, I'm looking forward to a nice dinner with friends as a way of saying goodbye. I have grown quite accustomed to my life here, to the people here, to the community and the spirit in this desert oasis of a city.
Goodbyes are hard so I try to make them fast. But then there are people giving us presents on our last days of work! They are thoughtful, beautiful, hand made, hand chosen gifts. I hardly understand how they could give me any more than they already have. The people of this city, the climate of desert (cold in the winter!), the sense of community in this entire country, have all taught and given so much to me. In just a few short months, I have been fortunate enough to experience the love of a family dinner, the controlled chaos of a high school classroom, the feel of a home cooked lunch, the phenomenon of being overcome by sand and snow from the same desert in a 10 day period, a day trip to the lowest point on Earth, a good ol' Israeli teachers' strike, and countless other moments of everyday life in Arad.
For a tiny city, it has so much to offer. Just this week I learned more about the Science Center that is practically in my backyard. That was while I was doing my best to show off the city to many people from New Jersey. It was then, as I was talking about my city, that I realized how attached I've grown to life in Arad. I will miss the long walk across the street to volunteer placements and the two blocks to the community center. I will miss the sounds of high school in the morning (though maybe not the occasional 7am start!). I will miss the 101 uses for bomb shelters that this city has discovered. I will miss the smell of the spices at the shuk on Mondays. But most of all, I will miss the people. I will miss the men playing chess on the sidewalk on Sunday afternoons. I will miss the babies at the daycare center and the teenagers at the pub. I will miss the Ethiopian teenagers that I have spent so many evenings with. I will miss being able to walk down the street to the Partnership 2000 office just to say hi...and maybe check my email. I will miss these people that are my every day smiles.
This is frustrating. What can I say? What is there to say? This is my life, and I live in Arad as though I have always lived here, not as a mere passer-by. Saying goodbye has not been easy for this reason. For this reason, it has not been easy to accept gifts of goodbye. Maybe this is why, in Hebrew, it is said, "See you soon," instead of, "Goodbye." When we moved here, I felt very independent. I had a roommate Shiri and a contact person Shmuel and there was his boss, Monika, etcetera. Today, in place of staunch independence and non-attachment, I have close connections of friends and family throughout the city, where a piece of my heart will forever remain. It could unquestionably be said of OTZMA's time in Arad that, "There's chemistry here!" So instead of goodbye, I wish, with love, to my family and friends and the city itself-l'hitraot!