Yay! I just received my Israeli citizenship after living in Israel for little over four years. I am very proud to become a part of the eight million and more Israelis that make up the most beautiful and pluralistic society in the Middle East.

Born Brazilian, I heard about Israel only while going to church with my Grandma. She is a devout Christian and, at the time, she tried her best to make her grandson follow in her footsteps. However, I was never that attracted to religion and the main reason I accompanied her was to play with the other kids my age outside of the church.

From my childhood on, Israel remained a tiny distant country, far from my life in Sao Paulo, until I met an Israeli girl in Brazil during her exchange program. Many things have happened since then, which could easily provide enough material to write a novel. We moved to Israel at the end of 2009, an event that would create a major shift in my life.

I remember arriving to Israel and confronting a wave of new perceptions, like the predominant smell of olives in the air, date palms planted along the paths, hundreds of small building complexes, a majority of white cars on streets and a vortex of spoken languages. Probably the same impressions tourists or new immigrants also have at first. To my surprise, Israel was very different than anything I could ever imagine.

I faced big challenges: I learned Hebrew and English, went to university, found a job, tried to advance in the supermarket line, received my driver's license and collided with a huge cultural shock. Yet, I survived.

I made friends from all over the world: Russians, Arabs, Ethiopians, Argentinians, Cambodians, Thai, French, Koreans, Uzbek, Germans, Italians, British, Americans, and of course Israelis. All of them living in Israel for different reasons, with different backgrounds, intentions, dreams and goals, but all with something in common: they decided to stay.

I discovered a society where differences are respected. A place where one can find, in the same neighborhood, a synagogue, a mosque and a church. The only place in the Middle East where there is gender equality, where homosexuals have regular lives and minorities have political parties and representation in the parliament. “Wow, so is that about Israel?” I have constantly been hearing it from friends abroad while explaining them how amazing Israel is.

I know Israel is not perfect. I am not trying to sell a foolish and blind enhancement of the Israeli state. I know there are many issues, like the skyrocketing real estate prices, the claims for more social justice, the temperamental Israeli drivers, the police men that ambush you in a hidden corner after the stop sign, the national security concerns, the ongoing conflict with Hamas and the difficulties to find a mutual- agreement for the establishment of the two-state solution.

However, in my eyes, and probably many others, Israel is a good place to call home.

The Israeli people welcomed me. They were very patient with me while trying to communicate in Hebrew, respected me as a new immigrant and lent me their hands to support me along the way. Here I found a big family, good friends and unexpected opportunities.

Thank you people of Israel for, remarkably, making a unique and exceptional country. For absorbing, supporting and respecting new immigrants and the peoples' different cultures, religions, opinions and sexual inclinations. For founding a society based on the principles of education, progress, democracy, respect and morality. What a home! Now is the time to celebrate! After all, I am now an Israeli. Finally, I'll be able to get that discount at my favorite hummus place.

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