After several years of outdoors-style vacations, getting used to Manhattan's hustle and bustle took me some time. About 20 minutes. My jet lag wore off in a week.
Manhattan is both constant and changing (construction sites are only outnumbered by eateries), providing a different aesthetic experience every time I visit. My queen of style and aesthetics and hubby's cousin, Marion, and her family, made our stay especially enjoyable as we were able to spend quality time with them both in the city and at their lovely house in the Hamptons. Thanks to them, we stayed in a stylish Manhattan apartment, above their Tribeca business. Describing their kindness, lovingness and style is way beyond my writing talents, so I'll stop right here.
Since we already saw the city's major attractions, our program highlights this time were the High Line, the LongHouse Reserve (in East Hampton), 3 guided walking tours (highly recommended!), different markets, a Broadway musical, the NY Public Library and Bryant Park, a [too short] walk in Central Park, the South street sea port, the Frick Collection (a top aesthetic experience), and a bit of shopping. Left plenty of interesting sites for future visits.
The most interesting part of any vacation abroad is human connection. Regular tourists usually only talk to hotel receptionists and waiters, very few talk to locals. We were lucky enough to dine with friends of our relatives and even visit one couple in their special East Hampton house. A sweet elderly lady sat next to me on a bench in Washington park and we talked. She recommended me a book I intend to order and read. Not surprisingly, she is Jewish and has relatives in Israel. Not surprisingly, because 3 million Jews live in NYC. One can live a peaceful Jewish life there at any observance level (was interesting to see a minyan in a corner of Grand Central), work less than in Israel, earn more, and not serve in the army for 3 years (with all the implied meaning). So why do Jews live in Israel and not in the USA?
One possible explanation is that Israelis are a bunch of masochists. Possible, but I think not.
If I'd be in my righteous mood, I'd say because we need to keep up (and continuously perfect) this country for any Jew who wants to come either because of persecution or antisemitism (now it's happening in France, but it can happen anywhere) or because of economical or Zionist reasons. True, but today I don't feel righteous.
There is this nationwide homeyness before and during Sabbath and holidays, even if you are secular like me. You don't feel different observing a holiday and don't have to explain to others what that is. You literally walk in the footsteps of our biblical ancestors. You get goosebumps when the guide prays in the Western Wall Tunnel at the place closest to the the Holy of Holies. All true, but not the entire story.
In Israel there is more to your life than the usual ingredients of personal happiness (family, work, friends, vacations...). Contributing to the unparalleled re-building of the Jewish homeland after 2000 years fills your life with true purpose and meaning. It's not always easy, even scary at times, but an experience unmatched by any amount of fund raising, donation or expression of solidarity (all very important). It's the real thing.