Michael Gold­ing is the author of the nov­els Sim­ple Prayers, Benjamin’s Gift, and A Poet of the Invis­i­ble World, now out from Pic­a­dor. He will be blog­ging here all week as part of the Vis­it­ing Scribe series on The ProsenPeo­ple.

In the spring of 2014, I was invit­ed to teach two days of mas­ter class­es in Beit Zay­it, a moshav on the west­ern edge of the Jerusalem For­est. I’d been to Israel in 1987, and was deeply moved by the expe­ri­ence. But while I was hap­py at the thought of going back, I also expe­ri­enced a trace of fear. Over the years, the con­flict in the region had only grown. The news brought sto­ries of car bomb­ings, bus bomb­ings, mor­tar shelling, civil­ian stab­bings. There was even a report, the year before, that swarms of locusts had crossed the bor­der from Egypt — mak­ing it seem as if the tiny coun­try had returned to bib­li­cal times. As the date of my depar­ture drew near, I joked to friends that it was a sui­cide mis­sion. But in truth, I began to won­der if I was crazy to go off to a land besieged by such ran­dom acts of terror. 

When I arrived in Tel Aviv, that ear­ly June morn­ing, there was a fra­grance in the air that took me back to the youth­ful days of my first vis­it. And as I strolled the beach — and dined at the port — and roamed the ancient streets of Jerusalem — I felt as if I’d nev­er left. 

How could I have for­got­ten the splen­dor of the place? 

How could I have stayed away for twen­ty-sev­en years?

Over the next two weeks, my head tried to remind me that Israel was a dan­ger­ous land. But my heart only expe­ri­enced the joy of being in a place where the peo­ple were kind and the food was good and the air was sweet. My fears dis­solved. I tru­ly felt I was in The Promised Land.”

A few days after my return, while I was in in New York to see my edi­tor, three Israeli teenagers were kid­napped at a bus stop in the West Bank and sub­se­quent­ly killed. Ten days lat­er, an attack in the Golan Heights killed anoth­er Israeli teenag­er. The war that erupt­ed between Israel and Pales­tine last­ed for sev­en weeks. And the airstrikes and ground fight­ing result­ed in the death of over two thou­sand people. 

There are voic­es in my head that say, Don’t go back; it’s too charged; too risky.” But I’ve been invit­ed to teach again next year, and I’ve already booked my tick­ets. Because I know that what­ev­er fear I may feel before going will dis­si­pate once I’m there. Israel calls. And, crazy or not, I can’t wait to return. 

Michael Gold­ing was born in Philadel­phia and edu­cat­ed at Duke, Oxford, and the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia at Irvine. He is the author of Sim­ple Prayers, Ben­jam­in’s Gift, a trans­la­tion of Alessan­dro Baricco’s stage play Nove­cen­to, and the screen­play adap­ta­tion of the best-sell­ing nov­el Silk. His new nov­el, A Poet of the Invis­i­ble World, is out from Picador.

Relat­ed Content: