Home Sweet Tel Aviv.

After being in New York for a few months, I felt so disconnected from my life in Israel that I seriously considered just staying home. I could barely even remember why I wanted to return. Of course I knew, but I just didn’t feel it the way I thought I would. I thought I would get sick of being home, itching to come back, with no doubt that this was the right decision. But I didn’t want to leave. How could I after realizing everything I missed while I was gone?

When I thought about staying in New York, however, one feeling remained strong in my memory: the complete and utter sadness I felt over the thought of leaving Israel just a few months ago. When I remembered that, I knew I owed it to myself to see this through.

So, despite the pit in my stomach at the thought of leaving my family and friends once again, I did it. I got on the flight and landed in Israel as an Olah Hadasha (new immigrant).

Now I’m back in Tel Aviv, and–sorry Mom, cover your ears (or eyes)–I immediately remembered all of the reasons why I love it here; why I was so excited to not just move back here, but to make aliyah (become a citizen). For a while, I forgot how much this place felt like the most challenging and rewarding and beautiful home I’ve ever known. I feel lighter here–happier. I can’t explain how, or why, but I do. 

And somehow it’s like I never left. The place I had grown to know and love had waited for my return and embraced me with open arms. Strangers on the plane, the beach, and even the woman I bought a toaster from on Facebook marketplace, offered to help in my job search and invited me to Shabbat dinners. This was the Israel I couldn’t imagine leaving a few months ago. The place that feels like home even when I’m surrounded by people I don’t know, speaking a language I only barely understand. 

The first morning I woke up in my own apartment, I couldn’t keep the smile from my face. I was back in the city I love, living by myself, about to create a life that is entirely my own. My gratitude for this was ever-flowing.

I felt a sense of inner peace I hadn’t felt in a long time–since the last time I was here, probably. It’s the kind of inner peace that lets me know everything will be okay because I am exactly where I’m supposed to be at this moment in time. 

I talk about this inner peace even as I recognize how I felt in New York–that I was happy there too. Happy in a different way, but happy nonetheless. I felt happy in a comfortable-and-familiar kinda way. I was glad to be with family and old friends, but I couldn’t help feeling like something was missing. But here, in Tel Aviv, I feel happy in a passion-and-excitement-about-life kinda way, and, frankly, that’s what I’m after.

It’s a hard pill to swallow that this is where I feel my best right now, because wouldn’t it just be so much easier if I felt happier where my roots are? There are things about New York and people there that I love too, but for some reason Tel Aviv is just where my soul comes alive. I think I felt so lost while I was home because I wished that following my heart didn’t mean leaving everything else across the world. But alas, here I am across the world, and so far it feels pretty spectacular to be back.

Written by Jessica Bard.

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