Traveling Home Only to Realize I Was Already There (Another Love Letter to Israel)

As the plane landed with a thud in Newark, New Jersey, so did my heart land with a thud in my chest. I had been looking forward to visiting the states for WEEKS. Having just made aliya about 2 months previously, I was having a difficult time adjusting and really just wanted to hug my parents and my friends, drive my car, and get a yummy latte from Starbucks. I never expected to feel a sadness at landing in the US, a longing to stay with my loud, Hebrew-speaking, phone-binging-with-WhatsApp-texts fellow Israeli travelers. But here I was. I hurried through immigration to get to see my parents, conversing easily in English with the workers. I accidentally threw out a “sababa” to the passport control officer as I headed to the luggage carousel. I encountered there many Israelis, including the woman I had met in the airport before our flight, a shlicha who complimented my Hebrew and already had a guy in mind to set me up with for when I get back.
I was thrilled to see my parents, but feeling so sad to be far from home. I didn’t quite understand…hadn’t I been waiting for this forever? Wasn’t it lovely that customer service was actually a thing here, that people were smiling and polite and that I understood everything they said?
It hit me as I continued to have interactions with people. Yes, they were nice. Yes, they cared if I was satisfied with their service. But it feels empty to me in the US. In Israel, I feel connected to every single person. I feel my heart bursting open with love, I feel my love spreading out over the entire country. This insane country where our crazy religion was born, where we speak the language of our forefathers, with its geographical beauty and diverse traditions. I just really love Israel. And although it’s hard to be away from “home” where I grew up, it turns out I’m actually already home, in Israel.
I’ve had numerous people tell me “You’re so brave to make aliya. You’ve got guts!” I didn’t realize so many people wanted to make this move to the holy land, but couldn’t or wouldn’t, because it's so darn challenging. I was speaking to my non-Jewish best friend, telling her “It’s so so hard, but I’m so happy and it’s so worth it” and she said “It sounds like having kids!"
I know I write a lot about how hard it is to be in Israel and how much I love it anyway and how I feel called to be here, pulled by my heart to live in Jerusalem. I guess that’s just where I’m at right now. I hope and pray that everyone can find their geographical bashert, the place that makes their soul sing, where they feel connected and complete. Thank you, Israel, for filling me up in ways I didn’t even know I could be filled up. May we all have a year of love, health, abundance and joy.