This is the most famous line penned by Shaul Tchernichovsky, Russian-born Hebrew poet and namesake of many streets in many towns in Israel. In Hebrew the line goes "האדם אינו אלא תבנית נוף מולדתו" and comes from a poem wherein Tchernichovsky talks about how the impressions from a person's youth -- when "his ear is still fresh" and "his eye not yet sated with sight" -- to a great degree determine his life. It is his native landscape that is the constant reference for a man's experience and which he seeks to rediscover. The poem ends (my lame translation follows)

And so in the expanse of days, and in personal battle
The parchment of his life unscrolls
And as one by one come up and are interpreted
Every character and character, symbol and symbol evoked
Which were in the beginning scratched onto it
Man is but the imprint of his native landscape

The reason I'm noding this line is because I'm feeling extremely homesick today. I don't feel I can take living in America much longer, and I am vowing to myself to remigrate as soon as I finish my Ph. D., but who knows if I will. There certainly are many advantages to living in America (Netflix is not available in Israel; employment opportunities also) and I do admire America for its (very real) individualist tradition, but among the things for which I can't see myself settling here are: Americans' obsession with personal space (which by not respecting I have vexed many), braindead mass culture (I was dumbstruck to find out how many hours the average American home watches TV, and it shows), and (tying into the personal space issue) the damned distance between everyone and everyone, as everyone keeps on moving. So I was thinking back to all the places I had lived and what I liked about them and it turned out it was all the stuff about them that were like Haifa and Israel: in Houston it was the bay and the gulf, affording fresh seafood and sunny days at the beach, where the water is actually warm (you can take a coastie out of the coast but you can't take the coast out of the coastie); in NorCal it was the eucalyptus groves and the fresh produce; and in Ithaca it is the gorgeous nature trails, and though the landscape here is nothing like my native landscape, hiking and backpacking were a big part of my upbringing. Man is but the imprint of his native landscape.

And then I listen to people who grew up in dead rust belt industrial towns like Allentown, and have gotten out of there by the skin of their teeth. And they're glad to be out; they can't bare of thinking of moving back. For some, it would be their death. And you know what, some times I feel the same way about Israel: it's living in complete denial of its situation vis-a-vis the Palestenian poeple and it's crazy how so many otherwise reasonable people I know become unwitting racist assholes when it comes to the subject. It's all very discouraging. Then there's also the ubiquitous military culture, the religious appeasement politics, and the cultural provincialism. It all does give one second thoughts. But unfortunately, those limestone and eolianite hills and Mediterranean waters (not to mention my dear, dear Hebrew) are the landscape that has been imprinted on me, and it's a hard effect to reverse.

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