Shalom Life | September 06, 2014

The Love Jewce: In Love & Birthright

There are no words to describe how deeply I fell for the country, the Israeli people or for him

By: Kailin Beard

Published: August 19th, 2014 in News » Israel

The Love Jewce: In Love & Birthright

The Prelude

When I signed up for the Extreme Adventure Birthright program my life had hit a plateau. A dead end job. A comfortable relationship. The day to day routine that had slowly drained me creatively and spiritually. As my flight left Toronto on its way to Tel Aviv I knew that I was about to have the most amazing experience of my life. What I wasn’t expecting, was that my current reality would become distant memory and my life would be turned upside down. To call this a love story would be the understatement of a lifetime. However, what I’ve come to realize is that there are no words to describe how deeply I fell for the country, the people or for him.

The first few days passed slowly. Doing my best to meet all 40 plus people in our group and soaking up every little thing kept my mind very busy. It wasn’t until the third day of the trip that our eight Israeli soldiers (our brothers and sisters, as we would come to call them) joined us. They would only be with us for five out of the ten days of our trip. It was on that third night that I met him.

Day 3 of 10: Jordan River Rafting

Having not yet spoken a word to each other, he jumped out of his kayak and threw me out of mine and into the river. This was our ‘love at first sight’.

“God, Israeli men are so touchy,” said my best friend Alysha.

“Yeah,” I said, although I secretly loved it. It was something about his sly yet gentle smile that drew me in. You have a boyfriend, I quickly reminded myself as I pushed those thoughts away. He introduced himself to me later that evening.

“Eden,” (Ed-en) he said.

“Kailin,” I said back.

“Kailin,” he repeated.

“Yeah like Kaitlin but without the T.” I had become so used to correcting people when they first say my name, I hadn’t even noticed that he’d said it right the first time.

“Yeah, Kailin.” He laughed. I went on to butcher the pronunciation of his name and it wasn’t until closer to the end of the trip that I was finally able to say it correctly. We didn’t talk much after that. A few words here and there, but I wasn’t on the trip looking for a hook-up or a replacement for my current boyfriend. I was happy (or so I thought). Yet there was still something about him; something that made me want to get to know him, and this thought terrified the living shit out of me.

kailin03

Day 5 of 10: Soccer and Kings of Leon

It wasn’t until Shabbat (Saturday) that Eden and I really started talking. Everything was pretty much closed on Saturday during the day and seeing as we were in Jerusalem, we were all really looking forward to spending a night on the town. A group of about ten of us ended up on a patio for dinner and Eden and I made small talk with each other from across the table.

“I love soccer” he said as he noticed a game on the TV at the bar behind me.

“Yeah, soccer’s good.” I was lying. I hate soccer. I found his comment odd though, because not once did he look past me to watch the game. He just steadily kept the conversation going. He told me later how nervous he was around me, but I never would have guessed. He was so outgoing and carefree that I couldn’t help but be comfortable around him. You have a boyfriend, I reminded myself. When we got back to the hotel our conversation shifted to music. He showed me a video of Kings of Leon playing ‘Trani’ live at Cochella 2004. I’d seen this video many times, because my boyfriend was a huge KOL fan. This sparked a long discussion about Kings of Leon and other bands that many people in Canada don’t even know about let alone Israel. I thought to myself, Wow when Eden comes to Canada he and my boyfriend will get along so well. Secretly I knew this would never happen. I could already feel the forces pulling us together and I was doing everything in my power to push back. I had a life back home, I had obligations to my family, and a boyfriend who loved me very much. Yet regardless of how rational I tried to be, it was undeniable that something was developing.

Day 6 of 10: Eden’s last night.

This was one of the most emotional days of my whole life. We spent the morning at the Holocaust museum. I bawled. Then at the military cemetery. I bawled some more. Ninety percent of the tombstones were marked with ages twenty-two or younger. This, coupled with our soldiers sharing their personal experiences of loss with us, was more painful to me than anything I had ever felt before. Eden held me as I sobbed into his uniform. He kissed my forehead. I remember being terrified by this and immediately I pulled away from him. He wore his love for me like a badge on his shoulder. I did my best to avoid him for the rest of the day, but by the time we got to the hostel we were making plans to have one last hurrah for the soldiers before their departure in the morning. In the party room that evening, Eden and I sat together for a long time talking while everyone was playing drinking games and dancing.

“I have something I want to give to you,” he said. With each step I took to his room the voice in my head repeated you have a boyfriend. He sat on his bed and I sat on the one across from him. It was then that he opened a small velcro case that was attached to a chain around his neck. He pulled out a small rectangular metal object that had perforation marks down the middle.

“Do you know what this is?” he asked.

“Your dog tags.”

“Yeah, that’s right.” He started to bend the two halves back and forth.

“What are you doing?” I asked nervously.

“I want you to have it.”

I jumped off the bed, half in shock and half ready to run out the door. “I have a boyfriend,” I said to him. He stopped for a moment and looked up at me.

“I know,” he said and continued.

“No, no, no!” It was no use. By this point I was on my knees pleading with him as he sat calmly on the bed. “You need it more than me! What if something happens to you? I can’t take this!”

Snap. The once solid metal tag was now two separate pieces. Any resistance I may have had about my feelings for him was now pointless.

“Don’t worry about me. I will get new ones, but this one you will keep with you and I will keep the other half with me.” He put a metal piece back into the velcro case and placed another in my hands. I turned it over a couple times and couldn’t find the words to express how unbelievably confused but happy I was to have been given this gift. Naturally, I started crying. When I finally looked up at him, I saw that he was crying too and in that moment the life I knew was shattered. With this one act he had broken me into a million pieces and only he would be able to put me back together again. I reached up and wiped away his tears with my thumb and together we sat there. The morning sun shone threw the window to wake us up and I realized we had literally cried ourselves to sleep. My progression of emotions went from confusion, to embarrassment then to the overwhelming feeling of terror. What the fuck, I thought to myself. Even though nothing physical had happened, this was enough to make me feel as though I had cheated. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

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