By Eliana Rudee, Originally published in JNS
As I lie on my manicured lawn in the shade of an evergreen tree, I listen as an ice cream truck passes my home, reminding me of the 23 summers I’ve spent on Mercer Island, a small and quiet suburb of Seattle. People call Mercer Island “Moishe Island” because of the number of Jews who live here. But even in a public high school that was largely Jewish, my 12th grade math teacher knew me as the “Israel girl.”
“Stop talking to your neighbors, Israel girl!”
“What’s the answer to the equation—Israel girl?”
“You have another question, Israel girl?!”
He knew my name was Ellie, but thought it was funny to call me “Israel girl”… and I didn’t even want to stop him.
You see, in 12th grade, I had just come back from my first trip to Israel, a summer science program at the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa. Like many before me, I was immediately captivated by Israel’s people, culture, food, language, weather, and that inexplicable buzz you feel when you visit Israel for the first time, as if you’re falling in love.