I was caught completely off-guard by the question. "Don't you sometimes long to run away from all this war and violence and madness and terrorism? You could always go back to Australia." I looked at my friend, a tourist from my birthplace. I didn't know how to answer her. Once I would have known. I would simply have said, "Yes," and my eyes would have filled with tears of nostalgia for the comfortable lifestyle, the ordinariness of everyday living, of only bothering to listen to the news if I wanted a sporting result or the weather forecast. All the security - emotional, financial, physical - that I'd left behind. She was looking at me strangely and I suppose a lot of time must have passed since she'd asked me the question. To me it had become extraordinarily complex. A simple "yes" or "no" would not suffice. We were sitting on a park bench in Beit Hakerem, where I live. It was Sunday afternoon and I'd looked at this scene hundreds of times without it truly registering. A little boy was walking his dog on a leash. A pretty girl was jogging, music from a Walkman giving her the beat and rhythm. A grandfather who looked Russian wheeled a baby carriage. A young couple sat near us sharing a felafel and looking in each other's eyes. Nothing special. Nothing dramatic. All the drama had been played the weeks before. Down south in Gaza. Up north in Lebanon. Weeks of being addicted to the news every hour. Watching funerals of beautiful young soldiers on TV. Making daily phone calls to ensure that all our loved ones, in the army or up north, were safe. Scanning the newspaper for names of victims, terrified that some names might be familiar. How could I run away from all the things that had shaped your life for decades? Of course I could leave, but I'd be taking all that caring and commitment with me. It would be like an amputation, and I'd never be a whole person again. Over the years I'd been back for holidays, but the trips were never successful for long. For a few days I'd bask in the warmth of seeing family and friends, enjoying their attention and the luxury of their lives. But then, someone would make a thoughtless remark about Israel, and I would bristle at their lack of understanding and feel that I had to defend the country on my own. I'd become tiresome and boring on the subject and long to be back home in Jerusalem, where I COULD criticize the government and the conduct of the war and the lack of good manners, because I'd be talking to people on the same wave-length. It was different, very different. For the first time, the familiar scene in the park suddenly became very dear to me. I didn't know any of those people, but I loved them. They were my family. I hoped that the little boy with the dog would not have to fight in any more wars; that the grandfather would live to see the baby's bar-mitzvah; that the young lovers would marry. Finally, I had my answer. "No, I don't long to run away. It's not easy, but we understand what all the sacrifice is about." "And it's home," I added as an afterthought.

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