The gift I brought home from Israel, A Jerusalem stone engraved with “Im Eshkacheich Yerushalayim Tishkach Yimini” “If I forget thee O Jerusalem, let me forget my right hand" - Psalm: 137, rests above the fireplace in my house and serves as a constant reminder of how my year in Israel transformed my view of Israel as being the Jewish homeland into it being “my” homeland.
This past year allowed me to connect to the Psalm.
I know that now I could never forget Yerushalayim.
When I first arrived in Israel, it was hard to adapt to the culture.
Although deep down I felt connected and knew Israel was my homeland, I still felt homesick. I missed the familiar streets, stores, food, and language; they all felt so foreign here.
The shuk was not my typical grocery store, buses not my usual transportation, and people not of the culture that I was used to.
As time progressed, my thoughts shifted from the focus of all that Israel was not and to all that Israel was.
It is the place where much of our history occurred; it is the place where the year revolves around the chagim, and it is the place for the Jewish people, no matter how far away.
Fast forward a year I am back in America and all those feeling of homesickness once again return.
When I see pictures of Yerushalayim, instead of seeing a distant place I see a place that I know and love well, I see my home, I see a place where I was fortunate enough to live.
When I sadly hear, too often, about many murders, bombings, and war I feel hurt that my brethren and our land are being attacked.
Living in Israel for a year gave me a sense of camaraderie and connection to the people there and the Jewish nation at large.
I understand that not everyone has or had this opportunity to be in Israel for a period of time.
Even within my own family, the story is told about how badly my great grandfather in Poland wanted to go to Israel and it was far beyond his reach.
His yearning was so strong that he even slept with a bag of dirt from Israel underneath his pillow.
Unfortunately he, unlike me, never had the occasion to do so and knowing this, I feel especially privileged that I was able to.
As I continue on through the journey of life, wherever that may lead, my year in Israel will remain a part of me.
As I walk in the streets and go about my life, I will constantly think about the people, places and events that I encountered.
Even at times that I am not able to be there in person “libi bamizerach;” my heart will be there.