East, West, Home’s Best

Travelling on planes, trains, taxis, cars and even a bus on one occasion, not to mention a great deal of walking, staying in New York, Las Vegas and San Diego in the USA, and Amsterdam in the Netherlands, taking in visits to museums and meetings with friends and relatives in most of those places. All that was accomplished in the course of three weeks until we finally landed back in Israel a few days ago at the ungodly hour of 2 a.m. OH and I have survived to tell the tale only to reach the conclusion to which the heading attests.
Our wonderlust is assuaged for the moment, and it’s difficult to say whether our sleep disturbances are occasioned by jet-lag or advanced age. The discomforts of overseas travel are many and varied (unfamiliar food, strange beds, foreign languages, cramped seating on planes, traffic jams in cities, different manners and mores, not to mention expenses of various kinds), but the overall benefit of meeting up again with friends and relatives, gaining access to the wonders of museums and art galleries, taking in a Broadway play and a symphony concert in one of the world’s finest concert halls, make all the discomfort worthwhile. After all, who can put a price on the renewal of ties of friendship and family, as well as our love of art and music?
Thoughts of the comforts awaiting us at home were never far from our minds, no matter how enjoyable the various experiences were, and that brought me to thinking of my parents and grandparents, who were forced to leave their homes and wander to unfamiliar lands or, worse still, face exile and deportation to concentration camps and death.
My grandfather who died in his bed at home in Hamburg in 1936 is now seen as ‘the lucky one,’ as my other three grandparents all died in tragic circumstances far from home. Looking at the situation in the world today, we see so many people exiled from their homes and forced to seek shelter on foreign shores. That word ‘home’ raises so many emotional echoes in my mind, and I’m convinced that thoughts of the parental home that was lost must have haunted many of those millions who sought refuge abroad, whether sent away as children on one of the Kindertransport trains or forced as adults to make their way to a sanctuary of any kind anywhere in the world. To the best of my knowledge, most of the Jewish refugees who were scattered all over the world as a result of the Nazi peril in Europe made the best of their situation, established families and contributed to society. Those who came to what was then British Mandatory Palestine helped to build the Jewish State, in an effort to ensure that there would always be a home for Jews suffering from persecution anywhere in the world.
And so, once again, an enjoyable trip abroad has brought me to think about the Holocaust and its repercussions that are still with us. It seems unimaginable that after the persecutions that the Jews have suffered throughout the generations there are still those who would deny Israel’s legitimacy, claiming that its existence has caused injustice to others. But when the pioneers first came to the country that had once been Jewish they did not seek to disenfranchise the local population but rather to live alongside it. When the fledgling State was attacked on all sides, it had no option but to fight for its life, setting off a train reaction that resulted in the mutual exile of populations (Palestinian refugees and Jews in Arab countries). Nowadays no-one pays much attention to that concept, as the Palestinians have deliberately perpetuated their refugee status in order to use it as weapon in the battle for hearts and minds, while Israel has endeavoured to assimilate and integrate its Jewish refugees.
So many expressions refer to home. Home is where the heart is. There’s no place like home. Robert Browning’s poem, ‘Home Thoughts from Abroad.’.A pop song with that title by Clifford T. Ward, written in 1973. And many others with which I’m not familiar, and doubtless written in other languages.
I consider myself fortunate to have a home to return to whenever I go travelling. I thank providence that I can still indulge in the luxury of going to foreign lands and then return home. I hope that I will still see in my lifetime a solution to all the problems of all the refugees, wherever they may be.