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of the first week in Petach Tikvah.

It is odd how quickly a new place can become a home.

I have never felt so connected. I pop outside only to see people strolling up and down the tree-lined streets of this gorgeous city-town of mine, just to have a walk. I see children walking home from school, noses buried in their phones, cross-crossing the streets to subconciously make use of every bit of shade provided them. Older teens on their electric bikes zooming past, laughing and playing music out of their speakers.

I have learned which part of town is Russian, which part is religious, and which part I should never be caught in past 6 pm. I have witnessed the leisurely pace of Israeli life in combination with the grumblings of makolet cashier women who just "do not have the time for stupid Americans." Witnessed that nationalistic push against becoming too Western, too American, too loud for no reason (though being loud for a reason is not only forgiven, but encouraged).

I've found myself transforming into the Israeli I have always wanted to be, not the half-baked mutt of Russian-Israeli-American that I have become.

Some things have become second nature, like clicking the hallway light button before walking up the stairs in my apartment complex or turning a key two times before entering the room. I only look once before crossing the street because a second glance is a show of weakness that drivers will pick up on before speeding through the crosswalk.

I hang my clothes to dry in the sun, wear billowing dresses, and have learned to resist the urge to pet the stray cats that loiter in the shade on every street.

I haggle at the shuk, take the bus, walk everywhere, fight about politics, eat hummus with every meal, and appreciate shade more than I ever have before.

This place is my home. As if I was meant to be here, as if this is what I was missing my entire life.

I understand now why my father sighs, "Israel," with longing and why my mother sometimes still answers me with, "tov."

My skin has adjusted to the heat and the jarring disconnect between "outside" and "inside." The difference between the sweltering sun or a blasting air conditioner. My curly hair is not out of place and my body type is not something to be ashamed of, here. And listen....arak really is the best hard liquor. Don't fight me on this.

There is so much hard work to be done: teaching English to middle schoolers, learning Hebrew, and living with a set of roommates with strong personalities. But for now, I am enjoying the sunshine, the falafel, and the sense of Jewishness that pervades everything we do here.

Life goes on.

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