Every Yom Kippur since I was born has been spent standing next to my Dad in synagogue. Whatever was happening in our lives and wherever we were during the year, on this, the holiest of holy days, we found each other. But this year was different.
This year, I found myself standing next to 200 young Jews on a rooftop in Tel Aviv with a group called BINA, the only secular Yeshiva of its kind in Israel. I was one of no more than a handful of English speakers. Other than a few prayers, it was all foreign. There were no familiar faces, words or tunes. No Dad standing next to me. And for some reason, I knew I was exactly where I was meant to be and felt totally enveloped in love and comfort.
Before moving to Gedera and participating in Yahel, I was what you would call an “involved” Jew. I worked at The Jewish Federation, I had been on Birthright and I even did JDate…. Doesn’t get much more Jewish than that trifecta!
When I made the decision to participate in Yahel, I was focused on the volunteering, and the grassroots social action. I knew it would be wonderful to be in Israel, but I thought I had that part “covered”. I was wrong. I was right that my day-to-day life would be incredibly moving, challenging and engaging, but I underestimated the effect that Israel itself would have on me. When one moves 6,000 miles away from home, it is normal to have times when you feel lonely. I thought that it would be people who would fill that void, but while I have met many special and incredible people, it is Israel herself that makes me feel most at home. Every new city I visit, hike I take, beach I lay on, holiday I spend, I find myself surprised at how connected I can feel to each place and each experience.
Israel is complicated. She is far from perfect. But she is my family. And I look forward to many, many more adventures together.