Before I went on my Birthright trip last July, people told me to “make sure [I came] back with a nice, Jewish boy.” I fancied one of the soldiers of Bus 129 but he liked one of my roommates. I moved on to one of the American boys after he reached his way into my heart. It was July 5th and my group was preparing to take the bus to Independence Hall. The boy had asked if he could sit next to me. We hadn’t talked much at this point, save for when we were on our first of two flights to Israel and we chatted a bit or when he offered to carry me up the stairs in Tzfat because I had injured my foot in the Golan Heights. I told the boy he could sit next to me, but we didn’t talk until after visiting Independence Hall.
The boy had asked me what I did the night before. I told him my British cousins visited me (their son was in the IDF at the time) and that I hung out with them all night before going to my room and eating some of the cake they gave me. The boy told me I should have found him, although the thought never crossed my mind. I told him I still had cake and invited him to come to my room later. We spent the rest of the day together talking, sharing cookies and pizza and he helped me walk as my foot still hurt. I had never met a guy as kind as this boy. I was smitten. The boy came to my room later that night and we split the rest of my cake while chatting about our childhoods. Everything was fine until the boy mentioned his girlfriend’s father. He had never said he had a girlfriend.
I had always thought that the term “heartbroken” was just hyperbole, but as I sat on my bed with pain in my chest, I wasn’t so sure. How ironic that the boy who helped me open my heart completely shattered it. The next few days were hard. The boy was nice to me as usual, but talking to him was painful. I hid my sadness as best as I could, although the group saw right through me. The boy and I ended up having lunch together after our morning hiking up Masada and then swimming in the Dead Sea. He was talking about his girlfriend and how they were breaking up because he was moving to the West Coast for graduate school. I thought now I was “allowed” to tell him that I liked him, seeing as now he was going to be single, but seeing how sad he was shattered my heart further and I knew what I had to do. I wrote on a post-it, “Love, if it is meant to be, will somehow survive; just believe.” I handed it to him and he smiled and said thank you. Apart from us leaving each other at the airport, I haven’t seen or spoken to the boy since we departed Israel last July.
Coming back to the US after Birthright was hard. While it pained me to not have my Birthrighters, the biggest pain came from EVERYONE asking me if I met a “nice, Jewish boy.” Both my then bosses asked me if I met my nice, Jewish boy. The oldest of their two children, a six-year-old boy whom I had been nannying for at the time, had asked me if I “found [my] soldier.” Kids are supposed to ask what you brought them as a present (which he hated anyway). My family asked me where my “Jewish husband” was. No one cared what I saw, did or ate in Israel. In fact, when I began telling people that I was moving to Israel to be an Israel Teaching Fellow, apart from hearing the misplaced “Don’t die!” comments, I was told to either meet a nice, Jewish boy or that I’m coming back to America either engaged or married.
I gave up everything in the States so that I could teach children. If meeting a Jewish (or any) guy was so important, I could’ve saved myself a lot of time and money by staying in the States and going on JDate. I read on Reddit once that one doesn’t need a relationship to be whole, but that a relationship is the bonus one gets for being whole. I’m hesitant to be in a relationship due to not having a good relationship with my now ex-boyfriend from two years ago. My cousin Rochelle once told me that I’d feel less cynical about love if I were with someone who I was really into. She’s probably right–like she is about everything–but my heart belongs to teaching, not boys. Even if I did happen to find someone in Israel, I can’t say where things would lead. Believe it or not, I had found someone here already but, as I predicted, it blew up in my face. One of my dear Fellows, Shelly, had to deal with that mess last night as she stood outside Laganski Pub with me and I rehashed stories of friend and love issues. She’s a trooper for sure.
I may feel the pressures from America (and society) to find myself this nice, Jewish boy but I know that when the darkness of those thoughts tries to swallow me whole, I can take solace in the little ones. My students have never once asked me if I have a boyfriend or if I’m married. If they do and I tell them no, I can guarantee that they won’t ask me why. Maybe one day my American comrades and family will get the hint, too.