Wow, I've been here for a while now. Seven months and going strong. And as much as I can write about it from the beginning, I want to tell you about the time I got back here. Again. But first, who am I, and what do I do here?
My name is Ron Harel, and I'm Detroit's ShinShin, a young Israeli emissary. In Hebrew, the term ShinShin is an acronym for Shnat Sherut, a gap year of service and volunteering abroad before the full army service that I will start next year. I volunteer at Frankel Jewish Academy, Temple Israel, Ann Arbor Hebrew Day school, and many other programs through the Jewish Federation. In the summer, I will be a counselor at Tamarack Camps. Besides that, I love writing and acting and basketball. And I used to race dirtbikes!
In the middle of February, I had a flight back home to Israel. For two weeks, a small break just to renew my tourist visa. So I went back, reunited with my family, friends, my crazy dog and five cats. (Maybe the number of cats has something to do with the craziness of the dog.) It was amazing, but this is also not what I'm going to tell you about today. I want to tell you about the second time I got home — back in Detroit.
When I was in Israel — surrounded by my friends, getting much love from my family, driving on the roads I have known forever, and visiting the places I love the most — I had the time of my life, and yet, a little secret I didn't share with anyone. I couldn't wait to be back to Detroit. Not because I didn't enjoy my time. Being home was such a refreshing experience, an opportunity to remember why I came to the Motor City to share my love of Israel.
I know that I have a lifetime in Israel, to drive on the scenic roads of the Jezrael Valley, where I live, to enjoy the beautiful nights of Jerusalem and the vibrant streets of Tel Aviv, to go with my friends to our favorite restaurants or to have Shabbat with my family. But here, in Michigan, in this moment, I only have one year, just one. And the time goes by so fast.
Over 14 days in Israel, I had managed to thaw a little bit from the snow. After 17 hours of flights and connections, I landed in Detroit on what seemed a very sunny day. Going out from the arrivals gate took a second to remember that the sun here is a terrific liar. It was freezing cold. I was only wearing the U of M crewneck that I got on one of my Friday afternoons working in Ann Arbor. This cold breeze that knocked my teeth out came with such a warm embrace that made me realize. I'm home again.
After just a couple days of running around jet-lagged, reconnecting with everyone, going back to my workplaces, and meeting students, teachers, and colleagues again to share some fun experiences from Israel, I realized. That also here, thousands of miles away, I'm surrounded by friends, getting so much love from this big family, driving on the roads I’m getting to know by heart and visiting the places I love the most.
For a long time here, I was looking for the craziest experiences that would make this place my own. That will prove that I'm using my time right or doing things I'll remember forever. For a long time, I tried to be everywhere, see everything, and experience as much as I could from everything and everyone.
But this one Sunday morning recently, I was driving down Woodward Avenue to Ferndale to my favorite coffee place right after I got back from Sunday school at Temple Israel. I was listening to the radio on my favorite 80's station and meanwhile trying to figure out a lunch plan with my friends. During this short drive that I already knew by heart, I realized that it was as simple as that. These roads, traffic lights and Michigan lefts that were strange and scary to me just a couple of months ago. Felt so right. Felt like home.
In seven months here, I know the difference between miles and kilometers, inches and centimeters, Celsius and Fahrenheit (probably the most necessary thing in the Michigan weather). I know that the dates are starting with the month first, that you can get through every Go Blue Go Green battle in style with just the correct facts (Tom Brady here, Magic Johnson there). That you can be a Spartan or a Wolverine, but you gotta know that the Lions lose on Thanksgiving, and the Pistons used to be really good, actually.
I love it here, I really do, not because of the degrees Fahrenheit or Celsius, but because I learned that the small things, here and in life, make it unique and meaningful. Make it home.