Leah Stern

Third Down and Free

Photo courtesy of Oded Balilty, AP

So I’m doing it. I’m immigrating to Israel for the third time. And to Jerusalem no less. What’s that they say about always doing the same thing and expecting a different result? Well most of my friends and family in fact do think I’m absolutely insane, a sentiment only someone equally delusional would even attempt to deny with a straight face.

And its not only the humans in my life that have expressed concern. My 14 year old Dachshund gave me “eyes” this morning. After all, he’s seen this movie before, the third installment of a bizarre trilogy mash-up of “How Stella Got Her Groove Back,” “Eat Pray Love” and “The Great Zohan.” And he’s wondering if along with all my other worldly possessions, he too will spend the next three weeks in a cardboard box, before boarding a freighter in Miami bound across the Atlantic for the Port of Ashdod.

Cinematic clichés aside, why would someone give up a cushy job, shiny leased car and high rise condo in one of the most vibrant and dynamic cities in the world for the dusty hippy-dwelling streets of Jerusalem, let alone for the third time? Why trade in Neimans, Bloomingdales, Publix and Target for Castro, Fox, Rami Levi and Super Pharm?

It’s the same dynamic that has defined all of my life relationships. Push – pull has been pushing and pulling me since I first fell in love with falling love with the Promised Land some ten years ago, at the ripe old age of 24. My dream then was ambitious but singular. I was going to be a war correspondent and that was it. And I did what everyone who arrives in Israel without connections or a history does: I made pizzas and folded laundry. And then, my lucky break, an internship at the Jerusalem Post which consisted of making the Editor-in-Chief coffee for a month, which in turn lead to my impromptu (and in retrospect irresponsible) coverage of a bus bombing in the French Hill neighborhood of Jerusalem.

It was a baptism by fire for a curb reporter but I knew then and there that I had found my calling. All of my dreams came true shortly thereafter, one after the next. First, the dream job as a TV News anchor at IBA News. Only in Israel could you know nothing about broadcast journalism, take a screen test and find yourself in the anchor seat a week later. Next, the prestigious lecturer gig at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, teaching international students “one man band” reporting.

Of course, life has an unpredictable trajectory and the magnetism of materialism is not to be underestimated. And so I made it back across the Atlantic again, with a revived thirst for western capitalism and the great green dollar. I had completely forgotten about the existential aspects of living in a material world and I was going to be a “material girl.”

Having indulged in all the finer things over the past couple of years, I am not “closer to fine.” And I think I have finally learned my lesson. Life, at the end of the day, is about discovering what gets you out of bed in the morning.

For me, one of the recent motivators to “return home,” was the passing last month of my old friend and colleague Steve Sotloff who was beheaded by ISIS terrorists in Syria. It was his life’s dream to travel to war torn countries and share the stories of those who didn’t have a voice to be heard. This past conflict between Hamas and Israel also heavily reminded me of why I went to Israel in the first place: to live my most true existence and be my most authentic me. In Israel you go with a lot less: less money, less space, less “stuff,” but you gain so much more. You are your most authentic self, where you see the world in its truest colors: conflict, hatred, desire, love and you have to work really hard for the things you acquire. You meet the most eclectic and authentic people who would give you the shirt off their backs for you. You learn to be the best argumentalist, negotiator, manipulator you’ll ever meet because you have to, and you’ll suffer and wonder what the hell persuaded you to live such a life in the first place, when you could be on easy street in New York, Miami or LA.

I chose the harder route, the road less traveled by, because I know it will make all the difference. See you on the other side, it’s my third Aliyah and it’s a charm. There’s no going back this time.

About the Author
Leah is Partner, Head of Global Communications at OurCrowd, Israel's most active venture investor and one of the world's leading online venture investing platforms. With over 20 years of experience in planning and executing communication strategies for fast-growing tech companies across multiple sectors, Leah is passionate about helping startups tell their stories and reach their target audiences. As a PR expert, Leah has successfully delivered thousands of media placements in top broadcast and print media in over 150 countries, working closely with the CEO and the portfolio companies. Leah also founded Stern Power PR in 2017, a boutique PR agency that delivers focused and impactful communication solutions for global startups from seed to exit. Previously, Leah served as an investor relations consultant, a PR and social media officer at the Israeli Embassy in Rome, and a journalist for various media outlets, including CNN and The Jerusalem Post.