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My First Love

Yael Eckstein praying at the Western Wall

August 31, 2016

Writing at The Times of Israel, Fellowship Senior Vice President Yael Eckstein fondly recalls her recent trip to America, but says that despite its challenges, the Holy Land is her true home:

I spent six emotional weeks visiting my first love. Although we don’t meet often, when we do I feel uncomfortable at how easily we still relate. There is no denying that with my first love I understand the language between us, the culture around us, and the spark which united us for so many years. Things aren’t complicated between me and my first love; everything is routine and familiar.

Familiarity. That’s the word which captures the confusing and conflicting feelings I have when I return to America — my first love.

Eleven years after leaving, I still love California’s rolling mountains, New York’s commanding skyscrapers and the Midwest’s endless forests. I will never stop being awed by Arizona’s breathtaking canyons.

But it’s not home.

I still love walking into a mall without having my bag checked, going to a concert without fear of a terror attack and driving for hours without a military check point.

I love sleeping in my childhood bed, fully understanding the language spoken around me, laughing at jokes which I ‘get’ without thinking, and being able to express myself comfortably in my mother tongue.

But it’s not home.

As a first love, I will never stop feeling a connection to, and appreciation for, America. But I have moved on.

My home is now a land which my forefathers walked thousands of years ago, witnessing miracles and wonders. It’s the land I prayed towards in my childhood, and sang about at summer camp. It is the Promised Land that my people yearned to return to through exile and suffering...

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