Dear Israel,

Where do I even begin? I remember when you were just a dream; something I didn't think I would ever actually do.  You were this far away land filled with mystery and promise and now you're something so much more.  I walked off the plane in April with a thousand different emotions.  I was excited, anxious, nervous.  Now in August, I'm sitting in the JC and feeling all those same emotions.  It's been quite a ride, hasn't it?
 I have explored every nook and cranny of this country.  I have seen the desolate desert of the Negev and the lush forest of ancient Dan.  I have been to three different seas and countless cities.  I will always remember singing Dr. Chadwick's sphfelah song at Tel-Gath.  I'll smile when I think of splashing through Hezekiah's Tunnel and feeling like I was in the middle of an Indiana Jones movie.  I will forever think of Sam Bookie, the most delicious bakery in Jerusalem, when I see a croissant or other pastry.  I will remember the late nights and early mornings, the pita and the rice.  I will never again be able to sit in a classroom at BYU and feel like I have a good view.  I will forever remember sitting on the shores of the Sea of Galilee with the water kissing my toes when I read about Christ's ministry there. I will miss running through the streets of Jerusalem like in Aladdin.  The wraps on campus will seem like such a let down after all the delicious falafel I have eaten on Ben Yehudah Street.  I will miss hearing the call to prayer from the mosque across the street and welcoming in Shabbat at the Western Wall.  I will miss the French toast pita from the Oasis and the Friday night movies in the Forum.  It's hard to believe that in just a few hours I will be driving down a back road of North Carolina.  I won't have the option to go to the Garden Tomb or Gethsemane on Sabbath anymore.  I won't look out of my window and see the Dome of the Rock. I won't walk down the street and hear a car horn every 30 seconds.  I'm not sure if I'll miss that, but I'm sure I'll think of you when I do hear one :)
Israel, I find myself feeling like you gave me so much.  I have learned so much the last four months.  I learned to sleep through pretty much anything.  Buses are actually not the worst place to take a little power nap.  Facebook is not the best way to keep in touch, but rather a simple phone call goes a long way.  I learned to do a front flip, swan dive, Peter Pan dive, back dive, and a jump serve all while I have been here.  None are as scary as they seem.  I have eaten a lot of fish while I have been here and it really isn't too bad.  I've learned that you really can write a paper on just about anything, whether you really understand the topic or not.  Between you and me, I have no idea what the Oslo Accords are.  I learned that white V-necks are the most stylish shirts in the entire world; they match everything.  A pastry a day keeps the parasites away :) You really know the way to a girl's heart, Israel.  Don't tell America, but I don't think she can top you.
You have taught me more than just these things, however.  I have learned how to stand on my own two feet.  I now know that it is important to spend sometime with myself.  I have spent countless moments sitting on the grounds of the JC just thinking.  It was in these moments that I gained some great treasures.  I learned how much I love the scriptures.  All the answers to my questions are contained in the pages of these four books.  I learned how to pray with real intent.  I stopped just going through the motions and learned to really communicate with my Father in Heaven.  Through this I learned how much He loves me.  He has this overwhelming perfect love for me and I was able to catch a glimpse of this during my time here.  I have come to know my Savior so much better through this experience. Christ was a real man and he did die for the sins of the world.  He performed miracles all over this wonderful land and I got to stand in places where Christ did.  I will never read the accounts of his life the same again.  You have given me a beautiful gift, Israel.  I can never repay you for what you have given me.  I am leaving you with this great gift that cannot be put into words.  I came to you as a confused college student and I am going home as something more.  I'm not sure what life holds for me next, but I know that what you have given me will play a major role.  I don't know when I'll be seeing you again, but you will always hold a place in my heart.  I hate goodbyes, so let's just treat this as a 'See you later.' Here's to you, Israel.

Leaving a piece of my heart with you,

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