It’s hard to believe that this very week marks exactly eight years since we left Israel. And being that we lived in Israel about eight years, it means we have now been out of the country as long as we were there.

We moved to Israel immediately after getting married, and all four of our children were born there. And since moving back to the States, we haven’t been able to return.

But we are going back.

Not to live, but to visit. And not all of us, but I and my two oldest girls. And we can’t wait.

Even though we lived in Israel, I feel like I somehow forgot to experience IsraelAs I started to plan our itinerary, I realized how much there is to do and how short the time is. Every day we will be in a different part of Israel, visiting family and friends. If things go as planned, by the time the trip is complete we will have been in the north, south, east and west of the country. And the goal is to ensure we visit all the landmarks and museums and holy sites.

Even though my children lived in Israel, they were young when we left, so they don’t remember much. But my girls can’t wait to visit the local makolet (market), where we picked up their bags (yes, bags) of chocolate milk every morning. And they still remember some of their friends from preschool. But they certainly don’t recall much else.

As we sit and plan, my girls ask me what it is like in the Golan, the north of Israel. “I don’t know . . .” is my reply. I can’t even recall if I have ever been there. They want to know how long it will take to hike Masada. But I don’t remember, as the last time I did the hike, I was on a teen tour in high school. And the weather in Ashdod? Hmm, never been there myself. Not even sure exactly where Ashdod is without looking at a map.

I realize that almost every place I am taking my girls is a place I have either never been to, or haven’t been to in years. Even though we lived in Israel, I feel like I somehow forgot to experience Israel. How sad that we will be in more places, and see and do more things on one short trip, than I managed to do in eight years!

There is something about settling in a place, living in a place, that can inadvertently take away from tapping into all of its potential. Now, I dream of being able to walk to the Western Wall and touch the stones and just have a chance to connect and pray. But when I actually was only a half-hour’s walk away, we rarely made it there. It wasn’t that we didn’t value its importance, but we were busy. We had our regular lives to live. And when packing lunches, doctor appointments and grocery shopping can fill one’s free time, there is little left for some of the most important things.

Planning this trip reminded me of the necessity to sometimes be a tourist in our own lives. When we are aware that we will be in a certain place for only a very set amount of time, we don’t want to waste it. We want to make sure we experience all there is to experience, see all there is to see. We need to make time to see the people we care about.

I never had a chance to get to Tel Aviv to say goodbye to my grandfatherOne of my biggest regrets in life is that when we lived in Israel I never had a chance to get to Tel Aviv to say goodbye to my grandfather. I was very close with him, and before I had children, had visited him as often as I could. But by the time he wasn’t well I already had two children, two babies, and taking four buses to visit him in his old-age home proved too overwhelming. Even as I write this, knowing how truly difficult it was, I can’t get past the fact that it was not impossible. I could have made the trip. It would have been difficult, but it would have meant the world to him (and me). I just kept pushing it off, waiting for a better time, a more convenient time—and sometimes, that time just never comes.

It was actually with my grandfather in mind that this trip came about in the first place. This was not really planned. It just happened. It happened because it is something we have wanted to do for years. But there was never a good time. It was always too complicated. Too expensive. Too something or other. And then I looked at the calendar, and realized that life is not getting more simple.

And now it is happening. It so easily could not have. After all, for years it hasn’t happened, for reasons I don’t even remember. But now that it is, I can’t understand why it took until now.

But because it did, we are all so grateful to be going. We are so aware of the tremendous opportunity we have, and the gift this is. And, because we are going as tourists this time, we will be seeing our country through different eyes. We will be visiting family and spending time with them, fully aware that this is not something we can do any day we want. We won’t just be sitting on the bus to get from point A to point B, but using the ride as a chance to look at the scenery and appreciate Israeli culture and life as it happens alongside us.

Only when we assume we may not have another opportunity do we grab one when it becomes availableBut I don’t want to be only a tourist on this trip. I hope I can incorporate the lesson of living this way into my everyday life here as well. When we think we have all the time in the world, we push things off. When we assume we can go next week, or the week after, or in a few months, and enjoy that outing with our children, chances are it won’t happen. Because only when we prioritize, only when we recognize the importance of doing what should be done now and not later, does it happen. Only when we assume we may not have another opportunity do we grab one when it becomes available. Only when we reserve that time, make those plans, and be that temporary tourist do we actually get to experience all the treasures around us.