This is the true story of how I fell in love with an Israeli and moved to Israel. Everything is true. Except for my boyfriend''s name. It is not Uri. He does not like the limelight. I guess I could have called him Limey, but that makes him sound sickly, sort of like lime disease. Uri''s sexier.
The story is somewhat cliché. I was on Birthright 15 months ago and met Uri there. He was one of the soldiers. Oh yes, so scandalous, I know. However, don''t be too titillated: instead of a macho paratrooper, Uri was a sensitive, gangly, technical soldier. In truth, he was a big nerd. I was intrigued.
Beyond the fact that I swoon for nerds, we had a surprising amount in common. Even though we grew up across the globe, we shared a love for Radiohead, the film High Fidelity, and progressive politics.
Photo by Noah Veltman
One of my favorite memories was when we stayed at a cheesy Bedouin camp. We slept in a "traditional" tent made several years ago. We drank tea while a Bedouin told us about his ancient culture for an hour, as if that is possible. We even rode camels. Uri said it was like a group of Israelis touring the US and learning about Native Americans by staying at a reservation where all the Native Americans wore feathers.
After we ate dinner, he asked, "Did you like the paella?"
I replied, "Sure, it was nice."
He smirked, "My Mom can make better. And she''s Polish."
We laughed, sharing a private moment of judgment amongst the ardent organizers and distracted Americans.
Photo by Noah Veltman
But the real moment of change was when we were at Yitzhak Rabin''s memorial. He told me that one of his first memories was Rabin''s assassination. He was six years old. To imagine someone grow up in such a tragic era, when there was so much hope, broke my heart. It also broke my heart because Uri seemed like a kindred spirit. If my great grandparents hadn''t moved to the States, they could have immigrated to Israel. This could have been my life.
Photo by Carine LaporteTowards the end of our tour, I was asked to recite the lyrics from, "Song of Peace," which was sung at peace rally where Rabin was assassinated. The song was also found in his pocket when he died, stained with blood. By the end of the song, I burst into tears.
Without flinching, Uri recited the rest of the song by heart. When we were on the bus afterwards, he took out his guitar and started playing. I could tell he did this partially to comfort me.
My life had undoubtedly changed. I had no idea how much so.
I extended my trip to Israel for another week, spent more time with Uri, and quite simply fell in love. At the beginning of the week, I told Uri that he should contact me whenever he was in the States. At the end of the week, Uri encouraged me to come back to Israel, even if just for a few months. I told him I wanted to. And I meant it.
As I was sitting on the plane, exhausted from little sleep and the thought of coming back to my drab job and loveless life in the States, I looked at my rented cell phone. I knew I''d need to turn it off and would probably never use it again.
Then I got a text message. It was Uri. He wished me a safe flight and said he missed me already. I started crying. I texted him back that I wish I didn''t have to leave.
After I arrived home, I knew I had to come back to Israel as fast as I could. After years of half-hearted, disappointing dating, I knew that a relationship with Uri was worth pursuing.
So I did. But it took a bit to figure out how.