It didn't start out as the greatest love affair of my life, although I was enamored from the start. As soon as I stepped off the plane, I felt as though I had come home, that I was at peace, exactly where I was supposed to be. Our relationship hasn't always been easy. There have been times when I wanted to quit and walk away, find a new place to spend my life. There have also been times where I was dazzled, blown away, nurtured, loved, and understood. I've never had a relationship like this before, where I put in so much effort to make it work and felt like I was fulfilled by the other side. When I initially entered into this relationship, in my head, it was only going to be for a limited amount of time. Both Israel and I knew that we could only be together for a short, passionate love affair. However, the thought of leaving this beautiful country, this gorgeous city, was truly heart-breaking and I couldn't imagine going back to the States. And part of the reason I decided to leave my previous program was so that I would have the option of staying.

I'm not a commitment-phobe, but it takes me awhile to get to a place of commitment. I have to make sure the highs outweigh the lows, that I'm getting more out than I'm putting in (or at least enough to keep me happy) and that I feel good about my decision . I started talking about making aaliyah when I first got here, so enamored was I by the language, the history, the newness of it all. I had friends who had made aaliyah and said "Just give it time. Don't rush into anything. See how you feel after being here for awhile." And so I did. And I went through periods of feeling like, wow, this is a hard place to live in. And it is. Most importantly, my immediate family isn't here. Although I am so incredibly grateful to get to know and spend time with my large extended family in Israel, I am so close to my parents and my sister and its hard to be away from them. Also, many people often live in the red, work 4 jobs, hustle to make ends meet. The apartments aren't as nice, my car isn't here, there are no good gyms around and there's not even a Target or Trader Joe's! Israelis can be aggressive, things can be disorganized, and it took me 2 months, 6 phone calls and an extra $50 to get a package from the States. But it's home. It feels like home. And for me, this is where God lives. God is a part of the conversation, exists in the interactions between people, dwells among us very palpably in our books, our rituals, in every crevice of this city. It's hard to be in Jerusalem and not feel the energy and holiness here. I love that conversations with taxi or bus drivers can be about the nature of God or whether a 2-state solution is possible. I love that when you buy something new here, people say "titchadesh/i", blessing you that you should be renewed by your purchase. I love that I can be studying a line in the Torah and think "Oh yeah, that took place down the street". I love the gorgeous foliage that blooms starting in winter. I love that the entire country celebrates having a day of rest, being with family, and making space for some relaxation. I love that people are upfront with who they, what they want and what they think (although it can also be crazy making!). As a friend who made aaliyah once said  to me "Israelis have a really rich inner landscape, which they bring out and engage with."

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In Hebrew, moving to Israel is called making "aaliyah", literally ascending. That is what I feel, in my soul, I have done. I have found more depth, authenticity, and connection here in Israel than anywhere else I've been. I'm really close with my family, and being so far away is really just heartbreaking. However, when talking to my mom about this, she said "Yes, but you have to follow your heart." And while it may not be easy, it will sure as heck be worth it.  That is what I have learned to do since coming here, this is what Israel has taught me, and I hope that I stay clear enough to continue to hear that loud resonance of my inner being, lovingly guiding me towards my highest good.

May we all find the place where our hearts feel full, where we are connected to ourselves and others, and where we are challenged to become our best selves. B'shana haba'a b'yerushalayim! 
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