The first time Elizabeth saw me, I had just burst into a room and was shouting about shawarma. I have no memory of this, but it sounds about right. The first time I saw Elizabeth, she was picking out bourekas at a bakery. She has no memory of this, but that, too, sounds about right.

Neither of us was looking for love when we joined the Masa Israel Teaching Fellows (MITF) program. We both planned on spending ten months in Haifa teaching English, experiencing Israel, and being someplace new.

But we found it. We became friends first, bonding over a shared love of Hamilton, books, and long walks into the Mediterranean. And soon, our conversations got deeper and longer, and we shared long bus rides around the city and the country, splitting headphones and trading books.

We got to know each other as we got to know Israel, and not long after we met, we went on our first date. We went to the Haifa Zoo, sang on top of Mt. Carmel, and went to a Druze restaurant that, to this day, is the best k’nafeh I’ve ever had.

On days off, we’d travel to Akko or Tel Aviv or Arad. We explored neighboring villages, hiking trails, and an overabundance of restaurants and side streets. We made friends. We had spots that felt like they were just ours. We made Israel our own, and in a way, Israel made us. We’d never have met in the U.S., but we were brought together by circumstance and held together by experience.

Since our program ended, we have left Israel and moved to Washington, D.C. And now, instead of exploring Israel, we’re exploring new places with our poodle puppy, Evie; but, we’re still splitting headphones and trading books. And though this new place is exciting and fresh, we still catch ourselves looking back to all the places we experienced together, the food we shared, the art we saw, anything and everything that went into the first place we called ours.

Hayley Sklar is a Masa alum of Masa Israel Teaching Fellows, a program with Israel Experience.

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