Israel has always played a special role in my life. It was a destination I traveled to many times. From becoming a bat mitzvah to studying at Tel Aviv University to chaperoning trips to Israel for teens and young adults, I developed a yearning to live in Israel. I always had this indescribable feeling of belonging when visiting, and I knew I would have to make one of those visits permanent.

Eventually, I became a resident and could call Israel home.

Israel is a place to connect to my Jewish roots — the historical sites, people, and customs and traditions. When a holiday is approaching, you feel it everywhere, and it is part and parcel of everyday life. The bus and cab drivers wish you a chag sameach. Almost everything shuts down.

Jessica Katz Yonatan

The beauty of the land, from the luscious North to the arid South, is unmatched. Even after making 13 trips and living there for years, I always have something new to discover. I enjoy sharing these discoveries with others and helping them plan trips to Israel, whether a first-timer or a returning traveler. Part of me lives vicariously through them!

Even though I’m back in Atlanta, my love for Israel remains strong, and the importance of its existence is reinforced for me. Both personally and professionally, I have opportunities to share my love of Israel with others and to continue building bridges between American Jews and the land of Israel.

See all the reflections on Israel’s meaning on this special anniversary.