A sore thumb in Abilene

I ran across an article this week about the Abilene Paradox, which admittedly sounds like the title of a Big Bang Theory episode. Apparently it is a social phenomenon in which a group of people come to a decision that none of them wants. The back story is that four people decide to go to dinner in Abilene and have a terrible time only to find out later that none of them actually wanted to go.

The author stated that this would never happen in Israel because everyone is so vocal about their opinion and that this sounded like a phenomenon “in a society of very polite gentiles.”

The point of the article was not a comment on society, but rather how to encourage teens to follow their own hearts and not bow to peer pressure.

In that moment, I was transported to my childhood – I grew up in a small town in the US, in those days “a society of very polite gentiles.”

My best friend – a Mormon, who was probably my best friend because there were no other kids our age in the neighborhood – told me that she was worried about me. Apparently she had spoken to her mother about my weird behaviors: walking out of music class when it was time for Christmas carols, skipping the Christmas pageant, being altogether different.

Her mother’s sage advice, which my friend shared with me, was: “If she wants to stick out like a sore thumb, then let her.”

Me? A sore thumb?

Listen, without being too full of myself, I was adorable and everyone liked me. Even if they thought my immortal soul was going straight to hell because I was Jewish, they wholeheartedly prayed for me and hoped that I would see the light because it would be such a shame for a sweetie like me to rot in hell for eternity. But a sore thumb? I don’t think so.

It was one of those transformative moments in life that you only recognize in retrospect. I could have been sad that I was a sore anything and was different. But the truth is that your hand functions best with a thumb, sore or not. And if I’m going to be a thumb, then by golly, I’m going to be a great one!

So with all due respect to Abilene, I’m not going. But if you want to go, I’m not going to stop you.

Even stock photos agree: Thumbs are Awesome!

Expat life and aliyah-versary

I can honestly say that the four and a half months traveling around Europe and the Middle East with my then husband was one of the best times of my life. On the flight home from Egypt, I nearly kissed the ground in Minneapolis and I wanted to hug everyone I met who spoke with that glorious Midwestern accent. But that feeling faded fast. Upon returning home to small-town Washington, I sank into a depression. Suddenly I was waking up in the same room every day seeing the same things and experiencing everything in English in an easy and familiar way.

One of the gifts from my mother is finding a way to be proactive and analyzing feelings to figure out what to do about them. So I went to the library and started researching how to live abroad. I decided that I would do whatever it took to live an expat life. I didn’t know where and I didn’t know when, but this was something that I would make happen.


Could it be a lion in Zion?


On the kibbutz, I met a guy from Uruguay. I barely knew where Uruguay was, but I could safely say it was in South America. I had nothing in common with him other than the fact that we were both Jews participating in a Hebrew immersion course in Israel. It was nearly Passover and somehow we had a deep, animated conversation about matza balls. His grandmother and my mother made them exactly the same: they were lead balls that sank in the soup and sat in your stomach for days. And suddenly I understood what the notion of a Jewish People means in the sense of a shared history, traditions, and culture. Meeting Jews in the US still allows us to connect as Americans. But what do I know about Uruguay? I was connected to this stranger in a way that I could never connect with strangers in the US. There a friendship starts at zero and builds. With this guy, we already started at two and grew from there.

I had found the place, Israel the ancestral homeland of the Jews. The when was sooner than I expected. I turned my life upside-down and was living in Israel ten months after this matza ball moment.




Moving to Israel is called “making aliyah” in English. The verb in Hebrew is “to go up” (l’allot). Sixteen years ago this week, I made aliyah. Many people who come to Israel look back on their lives here and conclude that they’ve “made a life” here and they have been uplifted. They usually mean that they found their soulmate, got married, had kids, bought a home, and became part of Israel in some way.

That traditional path didn’t work out for me in the US and it hasn’t work out for me here. And yet, I still choose to be in Israel because I ran to Israel, not away from the US.

Here I was able to discover myself and define who I am. It’s been a slow process. It was only a few years ago that I gathered the courage to go to Thailand to learn Thai massage. I was 42 and apparently finally had the answer to life, the universe, and everything. I came home, quit my stable job (that was draining my life energy), and became a massage therapist and copy editor. I wouldn’t have even thought to enter the field of copy editing if I hadn’t lived in Israel. Even when I have exhausting days and stress myself over deadlines, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

What has been uplifting to me in Israel is giving myself permission to live an expat life and exploring what it means to me to be part of the Jewish People. And the most uplifting thing – my true aliyah – is my journey of self-discovery.


Looking back at far how I’ve come already