I’m back “home” in LA – My body kind of started to break down around the final night with the wider-bridge group in Jerusalem (both due to my underestimation of Jerusalem evening weather, as well as due to me being “on” most of these 10 days with the group, feeling intensely and sleeping very little) – I kind of expected it to happen and as those little signs of an upcoming cold announced themselves, I imagined being back in west Hollywood sharing some of my newly gathered narratives with a cup of tea on my side, a sore throat and my pajamas. And here I am, in my little living room, doing just that.
This picture captures me receiving a hug from the group after leading them in a nigun session. Before that session we enjoyed a hearty dinner with my parents and younger brother as special guests. Though I tried to be all nonchalant about my parents presence, my anxiety did not seem to go unnoticed.
Why the anxiety? Well, in a perfect world, my parents would be all accepting of me being gay and working for a GLBTQ synagogue and yet, with the broken world we live in, my parents have been a struggling with the issue over the past twenty-something years since I came out to them. I can’t really talk about my life with my father, I’m not even sure he was aware the group I was with was from the GLBTQ community. Though over the years I minimized my attempts to impose acceptance of me on my father, there’s still and probably always will be that small child within me that awakens in my father’s presence, longing for approval, love and validation. That longing can translate into quite the creative drive. It can also be a constant little flame of sadness within. And with that group hug came my own “it get’s better” moment of trip. With a hug, optimism and hope erupted and washed away the melancholia. It felt really nice and safe. And I’m sharing this story because I know there are many folks out there with similar stories carried, but also to give an example to the kind of intimate moments this group was able to create over our 10 days together. Just something about this group that had this very gentle, empathetic and respectful energy, as if everyone’s radars were specially sensitive to each others emotive space. I remember walking with M. along the streets of Tel Aviv after having visited Gavra – the party for gay orthodox Jews. For M. and for others, having a place to be able to happily and comfortably celebrate who one is was a profound experience. On our way back, when we passed by the hostel M. used to stay at 10 years ago as a closeted orthodox teenager making its first incognito explorations in Tel Aviv’s gay life, we had a little full-circle moment as M. realized the transformation he has accomplished on his journey. Everything came together and tears of gratitude came running down.
These are all personal stories on how things that weren’t necessarily on the itinerary affected us all. In a country where “the opposite of a fact is falsehood, and the opposite of one profound truth may very well be another profound truth” we’ve embarked on this journey where we all dealt with some of our most profound truths along the way, giving and receiving the support to handle it from each other.
Waiting here for my cold to subside, I choose to cherish those memories and learn from them. More stories to follow, I think.