Going back to Israel meant a lot to me. This was the first time going back since I’ve been in New Jersey, but it’s not really coming home, but rather home for a vacation, which made it a bit weird.
After six months, I couldn’t wait to see my family, my friends, and my home. I didn’t really know what to expect. You are here (in NJ) half a year and you think that things back home will freeze and move on exactly from the same place you left them. But time goes by: my friends have joined the IDF, among other things that are different. But in the same breath, things are exactly the same, and everybody tells you that it feels like “you left yesterday.”
After a long flight and butterflies in my stomach, I saw my family waiting at the airport for me, all wearing “WELCOME HOME” shirts. After seeing them, it really did feel like I never left. When we left the airport, every sight and sound excited me, even the brown ground, covered with some grass…the most unexciting sight in the world, but it's Israel, and it is home - so I was thrilled!
I got home, saw my dog, and my bedroom. I smelled my mom’s cooking, drank coffee, and heard Israeli music from the TV. I got to see my newborn niece (and she is the cutest baby ever!), my sisters, and my neighbors.
While in Israel, I had my security clearance assessment for my job in the army - a position in the spokesperson unit. I saw most of my friends during the weekend because they are now in the army. But three friends haven’t joined yet, so I spent most of the week with them. We turned Aroma (the coffee shop) into our meeting place and we sat there at least five times during my trip. We went to the mall, went on hikes, and saw a concert by Israeli singer Ishay Ribo.
I was in Jerusalem, where Maya and I went to the Western Wall and to Mahane Yehuda market. I visited Vadhan – a Bedouin tent that sells pitas with labane and chocolate. My friends and I traveled through Nahal Habesor, a trail in southern Israel along the HaBesor Stream, and on my birthday (March 4th), we went to Tel Aviv to the Sarona Market, ate the best ice cream in the world, and visited the Carmel Market.
Travelling across Israel on my visit was exhausting, but a great vacation back home. But when I really think about it, I have all my entire life to travel in Israel and see the places and attractions I’ve yet to see. What I really wanted was to feel at home – to see my family and friends, and to feel the warmth of this familiar place. I wanted to build up my strength for this crazy second half of the year I will be experiencing in New Jersey. It was a great vacation, and I recognize that It was exactly that: a vacation. Now, I’m back at Federation, my community and family, right here in the heart of New Jersey.
Follow Dana's (and Maya’s) continuing journey in the heart of NJ at jewishheartnj.org/shin and on Instagram @heartofnj_shinshiniot