The following is from Natalie Solomon, who grew up in Birmingham and whose parents are members of our Jewish community:
On December 6th, 2012, a few weeks from now, I am going home.
Not to Birmingham, Alabama, where I was born and raised, graduating from Mountain Brook High School in 2000.
Not to Montreal, Canada, where my parents are from and where my extended family lives.
Not to Washington, DC, Paris or Barcelona, where I studied and lived during my undergraduate years.
Not to New York City, where I have lived for the past six years.
No, I am going to the home of my past, to embrace thousands of years of my ancestors; to the home of my present, the place in the world where I feel the most fulfilled; and to the home of my future, the place where I hope to build a home and a family. I am moving to Israel.
I am sure many of you are thinking, "Her poor parents; this nice young woman is moving to a war zone half way across the world. Her mother must be flipping out."
Well, I am proud to tell you, that my parents, Barbara and Eric Solomon, stand behind me 100%. And I stand with Israel -- in good times and in tough times like now. I want to be there and live alongside my fellow Jews in my ancestral homeland.
My parents know that I am the most authentically me in Israel. My parents know that Israel today is only a phone call or a skype session away. My parents know that we have the most incredible army in the world, and they know my friends who have been called up this week for reserve duty, to protect the Jewish state.
My parents have seen the way my face lights up when I am arguing in Hebrew with someone on the street; when I am telling them the story of a beautiful Bauhaus building in Tel Aviv; when I am walking with them through the ancient streets of the Old City of Jerusalem; when I am sitting by the Mediterranean Sea as the sun dances on the water.
My parents are concerned about what's happening in Israel -- as every person with any concept of right and wrong surely is. But they are not concerned about my decision to live there.
They are proud that I am a young woman following my passion -- a passion for my people, for my community, for my tradition, for my land and for my country. And I am proud of them, for understanding me, and for giving me their blessing.
My journey home to Israel began when The Birmingham Jewish Federation helped send me to the Alexander Muss High School in Israel program when I was 15. Now, at the age of 30, I am ready to go build my home -- and life -- in Israel.
Upon moving to Israel, I will continue in my current role with the Alumni Community of Birthright Israel, in addition to assuming expanded responsibilities that come along with my new position as Manager of Israel Programs. I will no longer be New York-based. I will be based in Israel.
I invite "y'all" to contact me the next time you are in Israel. You will be amazed at how "Israeli" this Bama girl is! Feel free to be in touch before your next trip to Israel. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And if you see my mom or dad, tell them I say thanks.
Alexander Muss High School in Israel and Birthright are both Partners of Jewish National Fund.
Photo is of Natalie Solomon in front of Tel Aviv City Hall.