Today was an unremarkable day other than that it marked the 9th anniversary of my Aliyah. The Israel that I arrived to was one of turmoil; Bibi had just been elected Prime Minister in a country which was still reeling from the assassination of Yitzchak Rabin. Bombings on the number 18 bus and the Dizengoff Centre were fresh in people's minds. Shortly after arriving the opening of the tunnels under the Kotel led to rioting and the Syrians' manuevering on our Northern border sent us to Malcha to pick up gas masks.
Mobile phones were expensive; it took me almost a year to buy my first one. I didn't have an email address and wouldn't have had a place to check it anyway. Jerusalem phone numbers were just getting a 7th digit (either a 5 or a 6 because a uniform number would be too easy to remember) and international calls were provided by Bezek for an absolute fortune. There were NIS 3.19 to $1 and NIS 4.96 to 1 pound. There was no such thing as a Euro.
The Tel Aviv bus station was in the process of opening (someone shut it - please!); the Jerusalem one was in its current location but in a different world. The Begin road was being built, trains still ran from Jerusalem (barely) and the light railway hadn't been dreamed of. No-one lived in Ramat Beit Shemesh or Modi'in.
Since I arrived to Ulpan Etzion in July 1996, I have made (and broken) lots of friendships, welcomed many friends who have taken the same step - and said goodbye to not a few who have gone back. I have lived in 5 apartments (including my current one), spent 12 months in the army and worked for 3 employers, one of whom I like (my present one). I have met, fallen in love with and married the most wonderful woman in the world and together we have made a beautiful home in my favourite area of my favourite city in the world.
I have been blessed with a lot of good luck along the way - I don't regret any major decision that I have made and am still believe that this country is the place where all Jews should live.
I wish for peace.
I look forward to spending the next year building on the previous 9 - thank you for reading and writing such wonderful comments - it's wonderful to look back on and to share.