I moved to Jerusalem three days ago. In many ways, I feel as though this wasn’t as huge and monumental as one might assume. For one, I’ve been to Israel more than a dozen times and have spent more days in Jerusalem than I can count.
I’m also only living here for a year. I still have an apartment in New York, and will be returning home next May, where I will spend the next five years in school. Jerusalem is a city I’m intimately familiar with, and it’s not as though I completely uprooted my life and moved to an entirely foreign city or country.
In many respects, the biggest move in my life was when I left Montreal for a job in New York and actually uprooted my entire life to live in a different country. That required navigating the complexities of US Homeland Security, getting legal permission to work in a foreign country, and driving a U-Haul 500 kilometers down the I-87.
And yet… this is huge. The significance of this year in my life will be unmatched, and the ability to live at the nexus of the Jewish universe certainly is monumental.
And yet… in many respects, I feel a greater spiritual attachment to New York City. From my shoebox apartment, I lived in a concrete jungle. My dreams were made there. Screw cliches, it’s true that New York makes you feel like there’s nothing you can’t do, and the streets certainly do make you feel brand new. (Thanks, Jay-Z).
So while I’m incredibly excited to be here in Jerusalem, there’s an odd sense of something missing, because I feel as though I actually already made aliyah – to New York City. My hagshamah (personal fulfillment) – came from the crowded, paved streets of New York, not the cobblestones of the Old City.
And yet… I love Israel. Deeply. While I have a strong, nuanced and vibrant relationship with this country, I love it in the way that I love the Toronto Maple Leafs; in addition to the incredible highs and great joy, it involves lots of furious screaming and yelling “COME ON!”
My love for New York is like my love for a person – as a friend recently told me, New York isn’t a city that exists in the background of your life; she is a city that plays an active role in your life.
So can I challenge myself this year to renew my love for Jerusalem and Israel? Can this place move from the background to the foreground of my life? Aside from the superficial struggles – like figuring out where to buy tofu – I hope to struggle with my sense of spiritual attachment to this place in the coming year.
Perhaps there’s a reason that the word for place in Hebrew – makom – is also one of the words for God – tough to think about and grasp, but an inextricable and vital part of life.