The traffic on Dizengoff Street was horrendous at that hour full of cars, scooters, taxis, bicyclists, and pedestrians fighting for a space of their own. I don’t even know where we were going. With Sophie in the passenger seat, I’d been driving aimlessly for over an hour through the streets of Tel Aviv waiting to pick up Stav from work. I was waiting for a call, a reason, a purpose, anything at all… I might have wanted that drive to stretch on forever.
Sophie and I talked about everything that two exhausted and confused friends could talk about. An American and a Wallon Belgian finding their way amidst a thick crowd of Israelis-in pursuit of our dreams, our paths, love, and fulfillment. Two years prior we found ourselves dropped into an isolated kibbutz in the Western Galilee of Northern Israel (as heard in the bible, yeah yeah!) to focus on our craft and put ourselves in a new world of ideas and creativity. Over the course of the next two years, we’d see the seasons change and see ourselves change. We experienced entrances and exits; birth and death; love and heartbreak; hatred and compassion and a plethora of other lovely events that built us into the women we’d become.
Earlier that day we sat by the sea contemplating where we were in our lives. Unsatisfied with living in Los Angeles I returned to Israel to see Stav, to see my friends, and to reclaim all the bits and pieces I left behind. I returned so that I could drive through the north-my old home- and eat chicken hearts to strengthen my own and head south into the desert to visit an oasis. But I expected that everything would be the same as I left it two years earlier, like a dollhouse in the darkness of night with everything left peacefully in its place. I thought upon my return that everything would pick up right where it left off, which is why I left so disappointed in the end. Well, that’s what Leor chalked it to. I’d have to agree.
All those feelings of familiarity hit me at various speeds during those two weeks, perhaps just as much as I’d felt in those earlier two years. A place I’d once considered home became even more foreign and intangible to me. I knew the language but couldn’t muster the words. “Why don’t you speak Hebrew?” Sophie asked as I purchased a phone card. “Lo ba li (I don’t feel like it)” I answered her, ironically. I just couldn’t be bothered to try anymore. I knew I was on my way out but still I held onto some remaining sense of normalcy-whatever that meant.
So we sat in traffic with no destination in mind. We started across the sea from where I parked my car in Neve Tzedek then winded our way through narrow streets into Southern Tel Aviv chock full of low-rise apartments and convenience stores. Eventually we headed north towards Dizengoff Center and watched as the sidewalks became full of well-dressed Tel Avivis out for coffee, dinner, and last minute shopping, the streets growing abuzz with frenetic energy and bustle-at least, by Israeli standards.
Nearing the intersection of King George and Dizengoff, we stopped at a red light. Sophie turned up the radio and the live version of “Etzlech Ba’olam (In Your World)” by HaYehudim was playing. I had so many memories of that song, all of which came flooding in. I remember hearing it the first few times and really finding that guy’s voice irritating then feeling it gradually grow on me over the years until I started to hum its tune. I remember discovering that it was actually a cover of an Evyatar Banai song, who just happened to be my favorite Israeli singer. I remember listening to it with Stav back in Gaaton as she taught me the words, explaining the difference between using “etzlech” and “shelach” a grammar lesson I still cannot grasp to this day. I remember how I sat in the back of Abed’s taxi and upon hearing the HaYehudim version on the radio started belting out the words mimicking the male lead singer’s voice causing Abed and Stav to crack up laughing.And there we were, Sophie and I, listening to this popular tune on the Galgalatz station stuck in traffic by the Dizengoff Center. We both knew the song and sat in silence with nowhere to be anyways. Suddenly Sophie exclaimed, “Look at the lady in the car next to us! She’s listening to the same song!” I turned over to see the driver in the next car leaning against her window wearing a look of exhaustion on her face stuck within the confines of her car, her world, singing along to the crescendo of the song, “Give me your hand, give me a place in your world” over and over again. Sophie and I just watched as she abandoned herself to the very song we were all presumably listening to while stuck in this awful traffic. I said as much to Sophie, that pretty much everyone listens to Galgalatz. “Nu-uh”, she said, “Yaniv listens to Shmonim veShmona”. But that night, at least one other soul was and in that moment in time, we were linked in that traffic jam listening (…and singing) to a song that could only make sense right then and there. The demons of the night were already out dancing and I was under a spell.