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 Stern is the CST: Chief-Story-Teller for OurCrowd, the world's leading hybrid VC crowdfunding platform, which enables accredited investors around the world to invest alongside it in great start ups on the same terms. Stern is also serving as producer and anchor for the Israeli Government Press Office News in Jerusalem, as well as acting as a multi media journalist and content producer for Storyhunter, Yahoo South America, Huffington Post, Miami Herald, Miami New Times, Fisher Island Times, Detroit Jewish News,, The Jerusalem Post and The Times of Israel. Stern was formerly the SE Regional Director of NPH USA, a non profit organization that responds to the plight of orphaned and abandoned children in Latin America. Stern has spent the past ten years as an international correspondent in the Middle East as a TV reporter, anchor and editor for IBA News in Jerusalem, Israel's only local English language news program. Stern frequently directed, produced, and filmed news features in Israel for CNN's World Report Program. Stern was embedded with the Israel Defense Forces during Israel's disengagement from Gaza; broadcasted live war reporting during the second Lebanon War from Israel's north; Conducted Inside coverage of Pope John Paul II's Funeral in Rome; Documented a two-day journey in Ethiopia with the Falash Mura. From 2010-2012, Stern was based in Rome, serving as a liaison between the Israeli government and the Vatican, producing content for the world media and social networking avenues, including Vatican TV co productions. Stern is fluent in Hebrew, conversational in Italian, proficient in HD video shooting, SLR photography and editing. Stern graduated with honors, from the University of Miami with a degree in film production and Political Science and studied abroad at the renowned Film, Arts, Music University in Prague.