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Finding my Way Home

The night before I left New York, my friend came over to see me off. Casually leaning against his car, he looked at me and asked “Are you scared?” “Yes,” I replied. “But if I wasn’t scared, then it wouldn’t be worth it.”

Fear can paralyze us. It can leave us tottering on the edge of a cliff, with pebbles plummeting into uncharted territories, and ominous winds pushing us this way, and that. Some remain, forever swaying between what is, and what could be. They are afraid to take that final step, to take that leap of faith. That jump, which will force them to abandon all sense of security as they topple into the unknown. Taking that leap, and throwing ourselves into the wind is vital for our survival, and growth.

I finally made the decision to come to Israel, after two very long years of ignoring my instincts. I had been in limbo, balanced on the edge of my metaphorical cliff, trying to build a life for myself in Manhattan. That’s what twenty-somethings do, right? Live fast in the big city? Internships turned into dead ends. Dead ends turned into dreaded mornings, and long days. Yet all the while, I still felt as if I was being pulled in another direction. I resisted, determined to continue on the path that I had decided upon years ago. But the romantic notion of travel was alive in my soul, and it flowed through my veins. Israel kept coming back to me. It was what got me out of bed every morning, and through my long days as a telemarketer, sales rep, and server. I dreamed of walking among the ancient stones of Jerusalem, and of watching the sun set over The Old City. I longed to learn Hebrew, eat schwarma, and hike the winding trails of the north.

One night, over drinks, a friend and I were discussing our career goals. She was enjoying success in her new job, and was working on developing an impressive project for them. I brought cupcakes from the bakery I worked in. When she asked me what I had been up to, besides selling cupcakes, I saw a glimpse of what could be. I could see myself sitting on a hill in Jerusalem, as I had done during my first trip here, at seventeen. I could practically taste the mountain air, and feel the wind of the crisp night embracing me. With a deep breath, I finally managed to summon the words from the depths of my soul. “I want to live in Israel…” to which I quickly added, “but I can’t just leave.” She looked at me, puzzled by what I had said. She took a sip of her wine, placed the glass carefully back on the table, looked me straight in the eyes and said “You should just do it.” It was as if someone dropped a cartoon anvil on my head. “Just do it,” she continued, “buy a ticket, and leave! Go tomorrow, next week, whenever. But do it.”

I went home that night, stunned. She made it sound so easy. Just do it, she’d said. But I wondered how easy it would be, really, to pull the rug out from under my comfortable life. I wondered how it would feel to take that enormous leap of faith, and hope for the best. I was scared. Terrified, even. The moment I made the decision to come here, I suddenly felt more free than I had ever been in my life. It was exhilarating. But in the weeks leading up to my departure, I began to grow anxious. I was plagued by thoughts of uncertainty, badgered by doubt, and constantly questioned whether I was making the right decision. I tried to justify my choices. Old fears returned, and I was scared. Today marks three weeks since my arrival in Israel, and I feel as though my life has finally clicked into place.

I’m sitting outside right now. The wind has forced me to abandon all sense of control over my hair, and I feel like I am flying. I could do cartwheels across the student village, if not for my complete lack of acrobatic skills. I feel free. I feel whole. My soul is dancing. My heart swells with love, for everyone, and everything. I am overwhelmed by it. This feeling, this wholeness, is what was missing before I came here. Turns out all I needed was to set myself free. In the twenty-one days since I’ve arrived here, I have fallen in love with life all over again.

At night, the glowing lights of the The Old City illuminate the horizon, and as I gaze out, I feel an incredible calm settling into my bones. I feel more alive here, than I have in years. My thoughts are clear, my heart is full. I laugh loud, and often. I am open to experience life as it comes to me. I feel my walls crumbling, and my determination strengthening.

I spent my first night here, sipping beer under the stars with new friends. We laughed, shared stories, and discussed the various ways in which we came to find ourselves laying on a hill beneath the Jerusalem sky. Some of us came here out of curiosity. Others, because they had no where else to turn. Some had been here for several years already, and others, well, we had Jerusalem in our bones. She was whispering our names, beckoning us from the sleepy lives we’d been living. We had been drawn here. We found answers to our souls deepest questions here. We felt connected to something greater. That morning, we had been strangers. We came from all over the globe, but in that moment, we weren’t from different lands. We didn’t speak different languages. We were just…people. A group of people brought together by Jerusalem. In that moment, all doubts melted away. I wasn’t scared anymore. I was home.

Fun Facts about Jerusalem

  • 874,000 residents
  • 2,000+ active archaeological sites
  • 50+ churches, 33 mosques, and 300 synagogues
  • 60+ museums
  • 1,500+ public parks and gardens
  • Some of the olive trees in Jerusalem are more than 800 years old.
  • There are more than 26 wineries in and around Jerusalem.
  • There are more than 50 Christian churches, 33 Muslim mosques, and 300 Jewish synagogues in the city.
  • Jerusalem hosts more than 30 annual festivals for everything from opera to film and from books to wine tasting, the most in all of Israel.
  • Jerusalem hosts Israel’s second-largest Pride parade, which draws more than 25,000 marchers.
  • Jerusalem has over 2,000 archeological sites.
  • There are 90 hotels in Jerusalem hosting over 9,000 hotel rooms.
  • There are over 6,000 species of plants in the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens.
  • Jerusalem has 1,578 public gardens and parks

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