I first moved to Israel a few weeks after turning 19. I had just graduated high school and never lived anywhere else besides Eagan, Minnesota, where I grew up. I didn’t have any particular desire to move specifically to Israel. Actually, I could have just thrown a dart at a map and been just as satisfied with whatever place it hit. All I knew was that I wanted to travel and my parents preferred me to study, so it seemed like a natural solution to put them together and study abroad. Luckily for me, Israel has a large number of inexpensive study abroad programs that I happened upon and my dad happened to have an infinity for Judaism and history which made it all quite simple. However, I’m not Jewish, I had never heard Hebrew and had never traveled alone. So basically, I packed my bags, cried a lot at the airport, missed a bunch of flights getting there, and was thrown into an interesting experiment which felt like a small, seemingly insignificant decision of ‘just a year abroad, it’s no big deal’. It’s quite amusing to me now, while sitting in my husband’s childhood home in Kfar Saba, Israel writing this and thinking about how that “small decision” massively changed the course of my life in a way that I never intended. There are a hundred more stories to fill in the gaps but if I could give credit to one thing/place/experience that hooked me so deeply and convinced me I wasn’t done living in Israel after that first year abroad it would be Jerusalem.
There is something so magical and abrasively interesting about a city that has been fought over for thousands of years and never quite tamed or owned. Jerusalem is the center of so much belief for three of the largest religions and it’s all so uncomfortably overlapped, in your face, and yet beautiful. There is a lot of struggle and heartache there, an insurmountable load of frustrations and still, it stands vibrant, bizarre and enticing, always a bit misunderstood and bewitching.
After living there for almost 6 years Jerusalem felt like a small village to me, and not the place where the whole world seems to meet. I had the greatest feeling of home and belonging there I have ever come across and like to call it my ‘soulmate city’, haha. However, I don’t think I’ll ever live there again. The city is changing quickly, becoming more religious and less of the gritty hip punk-ness that made its more rigid unbearable side bearable. Most of the places I loved have closed, and the market, where I spent the majority of my time, is also evolving quickly to be something less familiar to me. I like to think that I left Jerusalem at the exact right moment to still be able to sit down and write so nostalgically about it. It’s also probably important to mention that a lot of people don’t feel the same way about Jerusalem as I do. The other side of the ‘enticing and beautiful’ is the abrasive, difficult, noisy, crowded and somehow manipulative side of being there that can easily get under your skin. Still, at the end of the day, I think the best words to sum up the city are bizarre and bewitching, and I will probably always be overly nostalgic and missing it there.
((All of these photographs were taken in/around the Old City of Jerusalem with a point and shoot 35mm film camera (Yashica T4), and whatever film I had laying around))