Whenever I ask people why they choose to make aliyah (immigrate to Israel), the most common response I receive is that they feel more at home in Israel than they do in the States. I definitely feel that tension, and it was especially palpable yesterday. Celebrating the 4th of July in Israel was a bit of a surreal experience. (Don't worry, family -- I'm keeping my promise about coming home from Israel at the end of this year!)
As an American Jew with a strong connection to the Jewish Homeland, I feel a sense of belonging and national pride in both places equally. My body feels more at home in America, while my soul feels more at home in Israel. Navigating the space between feeling far from home and feeling as though I've returned home has been exhausting and exhilarating, and I wouldn't trade it for anything.
Yesterday, the HUC community gathered in Abu Tor (a neigborhood in Jerusalem about a 30 minute walk from the apartment in Rehavia) for a barbeque. The location was perfect, and we had beautiful views of the Old City and surrounding areas. It was the first real opportunity I've had since arriving in Israel to talk at length with most of my classmates, and I am even more confident that this group of people is the absolute best! I'm feeling really excited about being "stuck with" most of them for the next couple of years!
I'm up early this morning to prepare for my first Shabbat in Jerusalem since 2010 -- and it's going to be fantastic. My room mates and I are hosting about 15 people tonight, and we have a to-do list about a mile long! Businesses in Israel start shutting down for Shabbat at around 2pm on Friday afternoons, so the window of time for Shabbat prep is dwindling by the minute. We're cooking a chicken dish, and asking everyone to bring something when they come by tonight. Those who know me know that my cooking skills amount to boiling water, microwaving TV dinners, and (once in a blue moon) whipping up a mean from-scratch Puttanesca sauce. But I have a feeling that with the help of my room mates, I'll be cooking circles around Mario Batali by the end of the year. ;-)
Speaking of room mates, I seriously struck gold with mine. Jacob and Liz are two of the most wonderful human beings (not to mention friends) I have ever known, and living with them has been an absolute joy so far. I couldn't ask for better people to come home to every day.
On that note, I'm off to join the pre-Shabbat rush. If you want more reading material, check out Liz's newest update on our apartment blog: http://westsidechazanim.blogspot.co.il/
Shabbat Shalom l'kulam!