Starting to Swim

By Marissa - August 24, 2018

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At the end of my first day in Beer-Sheva, I went to the pool. If any of my OSP classmates read this, they’ll probably start laughing about now because if there’s one thing they all know about me, it’s that I love to swim. I remember floating on my back and seeing how the evening sunlight caught against the palm trees, gilding dark green with gold. People chattered in Hebrew as the sky relaxed into dusk, and the water – always a source of energy and calm for me – murmured warmly. Somewhere in that moment, underneath the haze of nerves and exhaustion, things seemed to… click. Moving across the planet from Seattle to Israel went from an abstract intellectual concept to reality. And the idea of being able to make a home – a real home – here suddenly didn’t seem so far-fetched. I started to believe that I could.

Getting ready for Shabbat near the Dead Sea, first weekend in Israel


Four weeks later, I think I have, and there are a million little and big things that constantly remind me how thrilled I am to be here; how glad I am that I didn’t let fear be the deciding vote in whether or not to embark on this adventure. I’ve visited Jerusalem, seen the sun rise over Jordan, and watched a meteor shower in the desert sky. Most importantly, I’ve found community among amazing people with a huge spectrum of interests, ideas, and talents. We’ve had movie nights, card game marathons, and the shared struggle of Hebrew homework; swim sessions, hummus runs, and long, satisfying discussions. We continue to explore and savor this experience together. I am so grateful for them.

In Tel Aviv


Of course there have been hiccups along the way. One of the trickiest was figuring out the logistics of food storage because Beer-Sheva has a wildly hotter climate than Seattle. (In short, the freezer is my new best friend.) And there have been moments – even handfuls of hours – when homesickness reasserts itself. It is one of the nastiest, most unproductive feelings I know of, and is usually a symptom of a more specific problem: loneliness. The cure? Get out and do something with other people, or at least in the vicinity of other people. The more I invested energy in developing a strong and dynamic sense of community, the more my homesickness diminished.

Sunrise over Jordan


Adjusting to a new place is like jumping into a cold pool. The first few seconds are crazy-intense; every part of your body and mind try to convince you that it’s overwhelming, that it can’t be endured. But then you break the surface. You take a breath. Slowly, you start to warm up, and you remember just how adaptable and just how resilient you really are.


And then you start swimming.


“Hope when you take that jump
You don’t fear the fall
Hope when the water rises
You built a wall
Hope when the crowd screams out
They’re screaming your name
Hope if everybody runs
You choose to stay”

  • OneRepublic, “I Lived”

Jerusalem from the Mt. of Olives (photo creds: Anne K)