“Oh, I am so homesick. But it ain’t that bad, ’cause I’m homesick for the home I never had.” -Soul Asylum
“I’m an alien, I’m a legal alien…” -Sting
“I don’t belong here, feels like I don’t belong.” -Switchfoot
I am the only person I know who is not welcome in their home country. I’m not on a terrorist watch list. I haven’t committed a felony. It’s just another one of my charming little quirks.
I was born in Israel, to a Moroccan/Israeli father and an American mother. My parents weren’t together, so his name didn’t appear on any official documents. No one can explain why my name was never entered into the national database, or why I wasn’t issued an Israeli birth certificate. They didn’t have to issue a passport for me when we came back to the States, because at that time an infant traveling with a parent could be added as an amendment to the parent’s passport. I have a hospital birth record written in Hebrew. I have an American passport and birth certificate stating that Israel is my birthplace.
According to the Israeli government, I am already a citizen by birth. As such, I’m obliged to show Israeli papers whenever I enter the country. Paradoxically, I don’t exist to them, and because I can’t prove that I exist, I can’t get Israeli citizenship papers. This double bind means that I face interrogation every time I enter Israel. In case anyone was wondering, being interrogated by Israelis isn’t fun.
I spent most of 2011 trying to get my Israeli citizenship documents in order.
It was a huge blow. I had always held out hope that in Israel I would finally find a home.
It raised a lot of questions for me about citizenship in general. I always knew I didn’t belong in the rural Midwestern town where I grew up, and felt a strong affinity for Israel. The first place I ever felt at home was Italy. I worked hard to learn the language and adapt to the culture, so maybe that’s why I love it so much. But for Italians, family is everything, so without Italian ancestry I could never be at home there. I am technically Israeli, but I don’t speak enough Hebrew to fit in there. I loved living in France best of all, but there I don’t have the benefit of fluency or ancestry.
I once had a well-traveled friend who said, “I’m a citizen of the world”.
I admit I was jealous.
But as a new Christian, I thought, “I’m a citizen of heaven”.
Now I think I’m more at home here than my friend was.
My understanding of what it means to be a citizen of heaven has changed. I still ache for those other places where I felt glimpses of home. As I grieved over them recently, I felt God speaking to me, “It’s just a backdrop. The point of the story is what I’m doing in you. I transcend geography, and so do you”. Where have you experienced a sense of home or belonging? What glimpses have you seen of life as it was meant to be lived?
According to the Bible, heaven isn’t where we will spend eternity. Everyone who accepts God’s kingship will live with him on Earth. A new Earth, but Earth nonetheless. Home isn’t a distant, dreamlike, future destination anymore. God has been showing me that who I am is not out of context
anywhere. As a citizen of heaven, I am at home now, everywhere that God is king. I bring the kingdom with me, in some small measure, everywhere I go. On a more personal level, he is building his kingdom in me. I am becoming more at home in myself.
Could it be that the problem wasn’t that I didn’t belong, bu that I belonged more than I realized?