Dear girls of the world: live where you flourish, even if it’s not where you grew up
Dear girls of the world,
When I was 17 years old, I went to Israel for the first time on a science program, hoping to beef up my CV before applying to college. I’m Jewish, and Israel has great science programs, so off I went for the summer. On that program, I found out that I did not love science as much as I thought, but I did love Israel.
I fell in love with the people who were so direct and honest that I found it to be charming much before I found it to be rude. I loved the culture, which was so family-centered that everyone treats you like a little sister (for better and worse). I loved the food, which was fresh and healthy, everything spiced with za’atar and dipped in hummus. I loved the history of the land, where my people had flourished and fortified for thousands of years. I loved the music– a mix of Hebrew, Arabic, and other international languages that resembled the Israeli people itself. I loved that as a Jew, I didn’t have to give a half-smile every time someone wished me a Merry Christmas in December, because instead they wished me a chag sameach (“happy holiday” in Hebrew); and neither did I have to explain to my teachers that I would have to reschedule a test because it conflicted with the holiest day of the year.
When I returned home to Seattle that summer, I became incredibly sad that I wasn’t in Israel– I was told that I was bitten by the “Israel Bug.” I so badly wanted to be back in Israel that the next summer, right before college, I convinced my family to organize a family trip to the holy land. Israel was just as glorious as I remembered. Again, upon returning to Seattle, I was bitten by the Israel bug, wishing I was somewhere else. I knew I would have to return soon.
Missing these ladies and our happy hour shenanigans ? #tbt #family #threegenerations #beer #happyhour @igersisrael @insta_global @insta_israel @ig_israel @ig_our_israel @igersjerusalem #israel_times #israel_best #israel #isreal #israeligram #israelite #israelinstagram #israeli #instagram_israel #instaglobal #jerusalem #jerusalemoftheday #jew #jewish #jewsbelike #liveloveisrael #jews #timesofisrael #instagram #instaphotography
In college at a private women’s college in Southern California, I took it upon myself to learn more about Israel from a political perspective and got involved in advocacy fellowships that brought me back to Israel twice more in the next year.
When it came time to study abroad, there was no question where I’d be spending my semester: Paris! Only kidding. I went to Israel. (But you totally believed me for a second, right?) On my semester abroad in Israel, I met my best friend and boyfriend of three and a half years, saw the world, lived independently, and when I returned to school, I felt I had outgrown the manicured lawn and pre-prepared food of American college life. Don’t get me wrong– the academic and social life was incredible and stimulating, and I wouldn’t change it for the world, but I was ready for a new kind of stimulation.
The very day after I graduated college, I moved to southern Brazil to live with my boyfriend, learn some Portuguese, and explore a new place. I was able to stay 7 months over the course of three trips. Brazil was incredible– I found a great community of internationals, entrepreneurial people like myself, and became fast friends with some amazing people. But after a while, I felt lonely because of my lack of Portuguese, mobility, and close friends. Ultimately I wasn’t bit by the Brazilian bug like I was in Israel, but that was good for me, as it only strengthened my understanding of myself and what I wanted for the future.
After returning to the U.S., I remember lying in my comfortable, cozy bed in Seattle, staring at the ceiling. I thought about how my peers were all getting nine-to-five jobs, finding an apartment, and settling down. It sounded nice, just not as it applied to me. I knew that I would never find meaning in that life, and I would always feel a pull to Israel.
After talking it over with my boyfriend, we decided to move together to Israel once he finished school. I sat my family and friends down to “come out” to them about my big plans.
“Mom, dad, I have something big to tell you.”
“What is it honey?”
“I’m… moving to Israel.”
“Oh, sweetie! We always knew! It’s okay; we love you no matter what.”
⛰ Masada never truly fell– it lives on, in all of us. We are thus left with the great responsibility to tell the stories of our Jewish ancestors and live as they could not. . . . @igersisrael @insta_global @insta_israel @ig_israel @ig_our_israel #jewish #masada #mayanot #birthright #nature #view #travelblogger #travelphotography #travelgram #travel #wanderlust
But in all seriousness, for some friends, it was difficult to understand why I would move outside of the country in which I grew up. My parents told me that when they were my age, nobody would even think to venture past the local university, let alone move to another continent half across the world. I would be the first of my family in four generations to immigrate, and even my great-grandparents had war as an excuse.
When I told the rest of my friends and family about my move, I received many awkward reactions. Some told me how “lucky” I was. Others asked if I was scared to move to another place without any family there.
It’s not luck that I’m moving– I’m just doing it! “You can do it too if you want!” I insisted, but they would usually just giggle uncomfortably as if there were too many things holding them back to even think about it.
To me, what was scarier was following a pre-determined path of getting a job, apartment, and settling down at age 23. If I didn’t follow my heart and I ended up regretting it on my deathbed– that’s what would be truly scary.
So I moved. I’ve been living in Israel for a year and a half now with the conviction that this is where I want to be, and of course, if that changes, I can move elsewhere. But nothing ventured, nothing gained.
And it’s been amazing. I am happy feeling in control of my own destiny and triumphs. Even though the honeymoon stage has somewhat diminished, I continue to find meaning everywhere I turn. I’ve found life-long friends, developed my career as a journalist, learned a new language, and had some unforgettable experiences. People always tell me that I am one of the greater “success stories” of those who have immigrated to Israel.
Of course, it’s often challenging. Many people come, but not everyone stays, because Israel (or any place for that matter) is definitely not for everyone. My boyfriend doesn’t love it as much as I do. I’ve been suffering from a very painful back injury for nine months. Sometimes the Israeli bluntness that I found cute at first decreases my morale. I still can’t communicate fluently in a group of only-Hebrew speaking friends, and it’s frustrating. And when everything closes on Friday night and all I want to do is go out, it’s annoying.
But ultimately, I flourish here in Israel and although I dream to travel the world, stepping out of my comfort zone even further, I know I will always have a base in Israel. Dear girls of the world: live where you flourish, even if it’s not where you grew up. The world is too big to be limited– your dreams and desires are much too big to be limited!
So go catch the Israel Bug, the English bug, Spanish bug, Brazilian bug, or whatever bug sparks meaning in your life.
who is currently living and flourishing in Israel