After almost 20 years, I finally made it back to Israel. I’d heard so much about how I wouldn’t recognize the country and all its changes in the last two decades, so I was excited for what was in store.

In talking to one of my brothers right before going, I expressed my disappointment in arriving at night and not truly being able to relish in the “Welcome to Israel” sign I remembered as we disembarked the plane and walked into the airport. My brother laughed saying “That’s not there anymore!” looking at me like I was from another planet. Apparently there’s now a jet bridge. I’m all for modern times and I’m sure it’s a pain when it’s raining or cold out, but quite honestly it’s one of the most vivid memories I have of arriving to Israel at 15. Oh well, I guess things have to evolve.

For my first few days there, I was in shock at how little I remembered about the country. It was like I had never been there before. And not because the country changed so much, but because I had little recollection of what I had visited or not back then (besides the kotel).

I have many memories of that trip to Israel: repelling, eating with the Bedouins, spending a couple of days and nights in the desert, our week in the “army”, learning Krav Maga, sleeping on the beach in Nitzanim, going to a club called Coliseum, and much more. It’s not that I’ve blocked the trip out, but as we walked through the streets of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv it all felt new.

It was different to experience it at 35 with my mother then it had been at 15 with forty friends. Both great experiences, but different. In Jerusalem, besides seeing all the sites and museums, I got to see my family that lives there and go to my cousin’s wedding (more on that later). In Tel Aviv, I got to see old and new friends and ate some pretty amazing meals. I got to refresh on my Hebrew although more in my head than out loud. It’s amazing that you can be fluent at a language in your teens and now feel tongue tied even trying to get out a simple sentence. Almost everyone speaks English, so I didn’t practice too much, but I did start feeling much more comfortable with the language as we got towards the end of the trip.

As I got ready for my trip, a lot of people kept telling me that I wouldn’t want to come back and/or that I should move there. I could tell you definitively that while I loved it, I wouldn’t want to live there. It’s nothing against the country…I think it’s just that I’m too Americanized and I wouldn’t want to move so far away from family. Obviously, if I had to, it wouldn’t be the worst place to be 🙂

With everything that happened in Paris and that is happening throughout Europe, I thought a lot about how lucky we are that Israel exists.I knew this prior to the trip, of course, but the anti-Semitism happening in the world right now really validated that for me. In recent weeks and months, Jews from France and the Ukraine have easily been able to immigrate to Israel finding a safe place to live. I find solace that should anything happen in the States, that I have a place to call home.