I spent three-and-a-half glorious years living in Tel Aviv. These were by far the best years of my life. It has now been one year since I’ve been back in America. My next trip to Tel Aviv is only a few weeks away and I am beyond excited to go back to Israel. I’m sure that this brief, 10-day trip to the Jewish homeland will be life changing. I know this because I left something behind when I made the decision to leave Tel Aviv — I left my heart there.

Pieces of the Past

Over the years, I’ve learned that you first have to be lost in life in order to be found. For example, I didn’t know who I was when I first moved to Tel Aviv. I was just a twenty-four-year old girl who wanted more from life than what America had to offer.

One year ago — when I left Israel — I considered myself to be “found.” I was twenty-seven years old and so much more knowledgeable than I had been when I first made Aliyah. This is because living in Israel taught me some very important life lessons that I simply never would have learned otherwise. For example, three things I learned were:

  • How to care: It might seem weird that I had to move all the way across the world to learn how to care — something that should come so naturally to humans. Yet I didn’t really learn the value of caring until I moved to a country where I saw first hand how important it is to truly care about others around you. For example, since moving back to the States, I now notice when old people drop their canes and no one bothers to help them pick it up, or when someone needs help finding a place and no one bothers to give them directions. None of this ever fazed me, however, until I moved to Israel. In Israel, I saw how much people cared for others around them. I saw how helpful people were to strangers. I’m not entirely certain why it’s not like this in America, but I am sure that I never would have learned the value of caring about others if I never experienced life in Israel.
  • How to express your opinion: Israel is a country where people freely express their opinions. For instance, if someone invites you over to their house for dinner and asks you how the food tasted, you can be honest and tell them if you did or didn’t like their cooking. However, this freedom of expression doesn’t go over so well in America. I was recently asked by someone what I thought about an event they hosted. Honestly, I didn’t enjoy it and I told them that I didn’t have fun — they seemed shocked by my response. I didn’t want them to take this personally though, I just wanted to let them know what I really thought. Living in Israel taught me to always express my opinion and I will never stop doing this no matter where I live.
  • Israel isn’t dangerous: I recently spoke with a close friend on the phone and told them how excited I was to go back to Israel. They responded that they were happy for me, but “to be careful.” Really? Be careful? “Of what,” I thought. I told this friend that I had more to fear living in San Francisco each time I walked outside by myself! For the record, Israel is not a dangerous or scary place. Yes, I experienced two wars while living in Tel Aviv, and yes I saw a missile intercepted over my head by the Iron Dome, but never once did I actually feel in danger for my life. Hell, I’m more scared living in San Francisco than I was in Tel Aviv. Did I know this before moving to Israel, though? No, I didn’t. In fact, my older brother had to convince me to go on Birthright just because I thought Israel was dangerous at first. Now, however, I feel like Israel is one of the safest places in the world.

I could continue to write about all the lessons that I learned while living in Israel, but that would turn into a book rather than a blog post. The point I want to make though is, that as I reflect back on the many things that I learned while living in Israel, I’m overcome with emotion. Since moving back to America, I feel lost yet again. Not in the same way I did when I was twenty-four years old and seeking adventure, but in a way that involves not knowing where my heart has gone.

When I left Israel, I left a big piece of myself behind, a piece that I am sure will always remain in that country. Physically, I am in America, yet my heart remains in Israel. How do I know this? I know because I don’t feel the same warmth that I felt while I was living in Israel. I don’t feel the same care I felt while I was living in Israel. I don’t feel the same connection to nature, people and places that I felt while living in Israel. Simply put, I don’t feel with my heart anymore, because I am unable to do so.

This is why going back to Israel for the first time since I’ve left will be life changing. I am going not only to visit, but to hopefully pick up the pieces of my past that I left behind, so I can feel whole once again and become one step closer to finding my true self.