It was anti-climactic really.
There was no free flight, no crowds cheering for us on the tarmac, no welcome mat laid out for us; we were on our own.
Our journey started separately.
I landed a year after him, disappointed to find tarmac under my feet instead of sand.
I hated it. He was indifferent.
We both found our way to a corner where forgotten people gather to run away. Buses blew up, people got stabbed, and we rolled another joint. No one wanted to stay here forever. Slowly they drifted back across the ocean, leaving us behind. One day we realized we had grown out of the bottles. We discarded the smoke, leaving the square hand in hand. Only there wasn’t anywhere else in the world we wanted to be.
We flew back to tie the knot for the sake of aging grandparents and used some of our wedding money to pay our way back. Then life happened. Student visas maxed out before we knew it and the job I was offered required a work visa.
We weighed the pros and cons. It wasn’t all that hard. We had been here too long to qualify for any rights except the one we really craved; the right of return.
We walked into Misrad Hapnim, sat for a couple hours, filled out some forms and then sat a while longer as someone printed out our information, laminated it with our picture, and shoved it into a little blue folder we slipped in our back pockets unceremoniously.
We were Israeli.
We went back to our daily routine, but something had changed. Roots sprouted from our feet, digging into the earth beneath us. Only we couldn’t see them, and when the recession hit and we were faced with a hard decision, we left thinking we could make it somewhere else.
Ripping out of this soil hurt so bad, we were back before the year was up.
This time, we dug a hole deep enough and wide enough to support our hopes and dreams. We grew, twisting to face the sun with every curveball. We changed. We got stronger and braver and learned the ways of this land.
And here we are. Still, our roots reach down. Every day they snake through the shifting dirt, finding new ways to tie us to this land.
We move across this changing landscape, finding our footing as often as we slip on smooth stone. We keep going because we want to. We decided to be here for so many reasons that are no longer important as we live our best lives. What matters is that we are here. We are thriving in the desert; our roots have found an endless well of water. We are home.
We are not Israeli.
We are not American.
We are just another pair of Olim making it in the place we chose to call home.