Julian Resnick writes from Israel

What is it about being on a Journey that draws me in so powerfully?

Why did I wake up a little after 4am this morning in Jerusalem only to be sitting some sixteen hours later in the Movenpick Petra? Exhausted. Wiped out, and yet feeling a sense of great contentment and purpose. 

What did I do today? I got myself and the seven people I am travelling with to Ben-Gurion Airport in time to take the 8am flight down to the airport near Eilat; from there to the Yitzchak Rabin Terminal; etc.; etc., until we got to our late afternoon walk in Petra which remains undeniably exquisite in spite of the hawkers and the hundreds — no, thousands — of visitors who fill the Siq with noise and chatter, but never enough to drown out its symphony of shadows and litany of light.

But I have been here before, so why do this again? It is all about fresh eyes. About seeing it again through the eyes of an eight-year-old, the eyes of a thirteen-year-old, the eyes of a fifteen-year-old (and their parents and grandparents, of course, but it is the young eyes that are so wonderful to see through).

It is about those moments when I see the young person getting beyond how hot it is; the fact that they are being asked to walk in the late afternoon after getting up at four in the morning; the fact that the lunch was “weird food” — neither a Big Mac nor KFC; and seeing what beauty means. Seeing the young person beginning to understand that there is a world out there filled with wonder, that we can only see when we wander in it.

As I approach my 69th birthday in a few weeks’ time, which will coincide, as it always does, with the anniversary of my Aliyah — this time the 47th anniversary — I am more aware of the power of the Journeys I take with other people, and equally the Journey that I have taken from Somerset West to Kibbutz Tzora: from a small Jewish community focused around the Shul and Habonim (a tiny minority in a sea of the ‘other’), to an intentional Jewish community within a country which self-defines as a Jewish State, even as that definition gets more and more complicated to understand.

And I think of all of those whom I met along the way on this Journey, in Somerset West, my family of origin whose Journey took it to Sea Point, Israel, Los Angeles and NYC (just thinking of where we are today). My friends from the Jewish community, once again spread out across the globe. My classmates from Somerset West Primary, from Paul Roos Gymnasium in Stellenbosch, from Hottentots Holland High, from Cape Town High, from UCT and, of course, from Habonim, literally living in the four corners of the earth. In New Zealand, Australia, the United States, Canada, the UK, Germany, Portugal — the list goes on and on.

What are our Journeys about? Are they Journeys from, or are they Journeys to?

Did we move towards something, an attraction, something pulling us towards wherever we got to, or was it a force pushing us away from where we found ourselves?

I think back to my first experience of Journeying. In the back seat of the Chevvy, the three of us: my brother, my sister, and myself. (No seatbelts of course; it was long before they were installed in cars.) In the front, window rolled down, my father driving and my mother in the passenger seat (even though once again no separate seats, just one long seat from window to window). On our way to either Caledon, to visit Uncle Selwyn, Auntie Nayomi and our cousins, or to Oranjezicht to visit Zeide and Bobbe or Uncle Bennie and Auntie Bea and our cousins, or to Fresnaye to visit Grannie and Simon. Most Journeys in the Chevvy were to visit family. Besides visits to the immediate family there were, of course, the visits to multiple cousins and to huge numbers of people my parents’ age who were all known as ‘Uncle’ and ‘Auntie’ whether related to us or not.

The one Journey which did not involve the Chevvy was of course the most exciting of all: the visits to Auntie Sevvie, Uncle Phillip and our cousins in Bulawayo. These involved driving to DF Malan (am I allowed to use that name?) Airport and flying SAA to Rhodesia (now known as Zimbabwe). It was exciting to fly, it was exciting to be in another country, it was exciting to see family, but mainly it was exciting to see…. The Flintstones on TV!!

It was these early Journeys, I believe which created the pathways into the more sophisticated versions of today and, at the same time, explains why it is, when I see the eyes of the children light up as they understand something new on their own personal Journeys, that I am so moved.

Of course, it is not only the Journeys of the children which move me, as most of my Journeys are with people my own age, I am moved by where each of us has got to on our personal Journeys and what traveling can do to these Journeys we are on. It is when a seventy-year-old, my age group today, stands in the Majorelle Gardens in Marrakech or next to the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin or in a simple hut in Auschwitz-Birkenau or at dusk near a leopard in Motswari Game Reserve, and in the moment understands something new about their own humanity.

It is when I understand that the moment demands a certain conversation — be it about the meaning of beauty, the questions the Jewish People have faced throughout our history or about our vulnerability, and we have the conversation, with all its complexity, its pain and its sense of awe — that I understand why I am on the Journey and why I believe it is so crucial that we keep Journeying on.

The Journey has been one of dispersion and of finding new homes.

The Journey has been one of touching the points of pain and those of awe and wonder.

The Journey has been one of dislocation and of building new relationships.

The Journey has been physical, emotional, spiritual and inevitable.

We have no choice: it is either to move and grow or stand still and wither.

Journey on.

• Published in the July 2023 issue – Click here to start reading.

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