My mom’s voice on the phone emits waves of pride, bringing chills of joy to rise on my skin while explaining the accomplishments that bless my life. The intensity of gratitude for the puzzle pieces of my Aliyah sliding into place rattles my excitement for next year. My mom comforts my understanding. “You exercised muscle in your years of dedicating attention to your education, volunteering, and programing as a counselor and now you are flexing those muscles to impact Israel.” I take a breath and give another node of gratitude to the wisdom of her words that invariably guide me. I mumble over the thought again and digest the depth of strength in her analysis of my journey. Muscles grow by being broken down past their previous level of comfort.

Drenched in exhaustion from constantly exercising empowerment of self and the advancement of the residents at Aleh Negev, I smile up at the radiant skies. My joints weigh the bends of patience, acceptance, and explanation. My love and connection to my partners in combating confines of speech support my soreness. My joy of life knots with empathy to bond togetherness with comfort. And then my skin that unites all these muscles filters out the negativity from my focus, or at least attempts in that matter.

Assisting in therapies introduces me to phenomenas that overpower the technical instructions. The motivation that conquers doubt empowers all members of the involved party. The parameter of genuinely fighting to inspire another to accomplish a goal backfires the passion back at me and then it’s transformed into our united mission: a two bodied muscle. The togetherness of improvement unlocks the mechanisms of the leg braces and the wheels of the walkers. The significance of accomplishment wraps pride in completing a sentence or in eating independently and challenges me to measure up in whatever tasks are on my list. The humility I absorb toggles a tinge of categorical response. Following the ratio of abilities I am given, I should be accessing and improving those capabilities at least proportionality, if not more intensely. Thus our muscle inspires me to build on the built for my sake and for proper appreciation.

The arduous dismantling of cells needed to produce muscle forces belief in the cause. To commit fully, I make peace with the uncomfortable aspects. I connect to the quote by fallen soldier Uriel Perez about the many thorny plants that prick his skin, realizing that anyone who lives in Israel must learn to love the thorns of Israel. The love of the intense process validates suffering through battles. It takes pain. It takes investment. It takes faith. It takes prospective and it takes will power.

My immigration absorption is far from easy, sitting on the extreme end of the spectrum. It’s the “Survivor” version of starting my life in this country. Middle of nowhere. Challenging tasks. Lone contestant. Impossible living conditions. Trying foods that I would rather not repeat. Lots, lots, lots of bugs. But the days are filled the actualization of loving the thorns for the fact that they are the thorns of Israel. That’s what my Aliyah teaches me daily- to love the pains because the pains belong to the land that I belong to. The list of challenges transforms into a gratitude list. The thorns prick at my layers, developing their ability to flex with might. They are my therapies, furthering my aptitude. The thorns of Israel are my guide to success in Israel.

My sore muscles throb from personal strives to make peace with my insecurities in expressing the truest caliber of myself in the limitations of my surrounding language. The pounding only intensified by strides of planning and questioning the future. What career to best advance my impact in Israel? Where to find the education that ignites the intellectual vivification for which I thirst? How to prioritize time for the more flexible goals I value for installation for the future? The potential captured in my muscles stiffen from anxiously awaiting the redemption of her growth. And then the thorns stick a resounding stab of reality into the aches, only ameliorated by the successes that trample onto the path of resourcefulness: the acceptances for a second year of National Service at a wide variety of extremely competitive locations, the expansion in my Hebrew understanding and the changes of responsibilities at Aleh, the connectivity to authenticity in my growing relationships with the residents at Aleh and my fellow banot sherut. I am a success not only in spite of the thorns, but in the merit of what they teach me as I stretch my well toned muscles, beaming with joy in the process of making it work in my land.