The night before I first met you, I was anxious; I remember laying wide awake in bed, unable to fall asleep. There were many different thoughts running through my head: I wondered if we would get along well; if you would be just as amazing as you were in my dreams. I wondered if that which was said about you was true; perhaps, you were even better. Everyone had always spoken of your unadulterated, unparalleled beauty; my friends and family held you in the highest regard. I wanted to know you; I wanted to be with you. I wanted to discover, for myself, why so many people loved you. I wanted to have a personal connection with you; a connection that would last until my final hour, through better, and through worse. And, in only a few hours, I was going to meet you for the first time.
I was 15.
As a young child, I wanted nothing more than to meet you, even if only for a day. I had heard stories, from my father and mother, about your magnificence. You were young when my father met you, and you loved him wholly until the day he left you. My mother had flown out to visit you as well; she has spoken about the amazing times she had with you. They still think about and long for you.
I wanted to meet you, too.
I was often frustrated by you, although it was never your fault. I would sit in class, and the teacher would ask about you: "Have you ever met her? I sure do miss her." It seemed like everyone knew you, except for me. My friends had visited you plenty of times with their families, but I had not. Everyone always spoke about how well they knew you, and how amazing you were. Ultimately, I was jealous of their relationships with you; I wanted one with you too. I would pray in the morning, in the afternoon, and in the night, for the chance to meet you. I knew my time would come eventually, but I was impatient.
You were worth it.
My grandparents never met you, in spite of the fact that they so badly wanted to. They, along with their families and friends, cried every night for the chance to be with you, safe within your arms. The thought of meeting you was an inspiration, one which helped so many, including my grandparents, through some of the darkest days of modern Jewish history. You were their Hope, and they loved you unconditionally. My grandparents laughed and smiled with you when you were at your best, and cried for you when you were at your worst.
You see, you have always held a very special place in my family's heart. Finally, you were going to have a new, special place in mine.
Israel, from the moment I laid my eyes upon you, I knew there was no turning back. When I landed that next day in the Summer of 2013, I felt different; you were even more spectacular than I could have ever imagined. The warm radiance of your sun resting upon my skin was pleasant; your sounds, albeit loud and far from few, were comforting. Your smell was delightful, and your sights were familiar. It was almost as though I had been here before, although I knew I never had. I remember staring out of the bus window in awe, thinking to myself, "Jordan, you are finally home." When I entered the gates guarding the chamber of your heart, the Old City of Jerusalem, I found myself speechless; I had finally made it. I was, at last, in the city of my dreams.
Every step I took drew me closer to you, Israel, and I fell in love with you.
I fell in love with your people; with how every stranger acts like my brother, sister, mother, and father, even though they and I may have only just met. I fell in love with your culture; although it may be loud, fast-paced, and vexing at times, it is also warm, comforting, and rich. I fell in love with your land; with those perfect, golden sunsets, and your beautiful scenery. I fell in love with your beaches that stretch your the length, and your mountains which teem with life. I fell in love with your fulsome history, lined with miracles and heroes. I fell in love with your grit and your resolve; how life goes, no matter how difficult the situation may be. I fell in love with you, because you made me feel at home; you made me truly happy. And because of that, I never wanted to leave you.
But I had to.
Israel, when I left you after that Summer, I made a promise to myself; I promised myself that one day I would return, and officially make you my home. I promised myself that I would come back and follow the dreams of my grandmother and grandfather, as well as so many others who so badly wanted to make you home, but simply could not. I promised myself that I would follow my own dream, and officially make you my home.
This past week, I did just that.
On Thursday night, February 4th, 2016, after being with you, again, for a little over five months, I officially submitted my application for Aliyah. I pressed the final button to submit my application with my grandparents smiling down on me, and with me smiling back up at them, knowing very well that, as I had promised myself, I am living out my dream of coming back home to you.
This time, for good.