The U.S. Foreign Service taught me at two essential life skills: how to pack a suitcase and move house. As both a former Former Service Officer (FSO) and then a FSO Spouse (fun fact: we started the other way round and switched midway), we have moved locally, cross-country and internationally – sometimes all three in the same year.
After overseas tours together in London, Tel Aviv, and Manila, Phils, assignments to Main State in Washington DC and my husband’s solo Tour of Duty in Kabul, our latest moves have been in Israel. In October 2018 I left Washington DC to set up a beachhead in the north of Israel.
After the turmoil of the previous few years Zichron Yaakov felt like a warm bath – the best summer camp ever, only with amazing, fresh food and in wine country. We arrived with our trunks only to find our initial transit flat underwhelming due to misleading / incomplete disclosures. Enough said. So that was apartment number one.
After another month, I had found (and furnished) a better temporary apartment – we would move to Jerusalem for family reasons before too long – where we settled in happily and waited for my husband Matt to sell off our Washington DC home and furnishings, retire, and join us here. That was apartment number two.
Living in Jerusalem since June 2019, we have have again moved from our initial apartment – extra points for moving house in the midst of COVID-19? We did stay for the duration of our one year lease, and that was the end of apartment number three.
Last May we relocated within Jerusalem to a cozy Ottoman-era house in a highly walkable neighborhood called Old Katamon, renovated ten years back and now part of a small apartment building. This garden apartment met our COVID-considerations including a large courtyard with space for our old deck furniture (the only big furniture that we shipped and have kept), gardening, and private parking. We have appreciated the high ceilings, many windows and French Doors for ventilation and most of all the outdoor space as COVID restrictions ebb and flow – we are now well into Israel’s third Coronavirus surge and impending restrictions. So now we are comfortably ensconced in apartment number four.
Throughout our moves we have been blessed with old and new friends and opportunities for spiritual and social support. Of course the Coronavirus has made it much more difficult to get to know our new neighbors here in Old Katamon. Even at the height of COVID-19, however, we found a new spiritual home literally around the corner in one of a myriad outdoor prayer groups that fill the gap left from closure of ‘bricks and mortar’ religious institutions. The heartbeat of Judaism is home observance; I have been impressed anew by how much can be done with the support of a WhatsApp Group and knowledgable neighbors.
Now as we contemplate the future, I am reminded of the past. More than twenty years ago we found a home where we could raise our children, cultivate our garden, and open our doors to our community, friends and family to share in our simchas (celebrations) and support us in our sadnesses – the stuff of life. To find it we drew a circle on the map of northwest Washignton DC – marking a quarter-mile circle around our Synagogue and Gan (nursery school). The house was not large by US standards and we never had more than one car. We realize how fortunate we were to be truly a part of the fabric of our community.
We are not yet at the point of finding our permanent home – I hope this will be sooner than later. When that time comes we will not be looking for an isolated fortress on an island to separate us from friends and neighbors. I can’t imagine more of an impoverished existence than a gated mansion on Indian Creek Island.