In four months, I explored all of Tel Aviv’s beauty and imperfections — what makes her special as well as how she fits into the much larger context of this world.

I met interesting people I may never see again but also people I hope stay in my life forever.

I made it to the city’s most popular attractions, like Shuk HaCarmel, Neve Tzedek and Jaffa, but also to hidden gems like Florentin art galleries and tucked-away game bars.

But throughout all of that, one place in particular truly touched my heart.

In the beginning of my gap-year program, my counselor invited my group to a writing session in this obscure place about 30 minutes’ walking distance from my apartment. When I got there, I spent another 20 minutes exhausting myself looking for where they were sitting.

This place was huge with endless opportunities.

There was an outdoor gym, a children’s park, and skateboarding ramps. There was a breathtaking shoreline with massive boulders blocking off human entry.

You can get a workout at Charles Clore Park in Tel Aviv. Photo by Oreen Cohen
Boulders line the shore at Charles Clore Park. Photo by Oreen Cohen

A neighboring beach was crowded with locals playing matkot – the unique Israel game of beach paddleball.

In the distant skyline I could make out ancient Jaffa and its historic clock tower, juxtaposed with the modern architecture that lay before me.

About 30 feet up were grassy areas and hilltops designed for lovely picnics, fierce sunbathing, and — wait a minute – writing sessions! I had finally found my fellow students.

Grassy areas and hilltops at Charles Clore Park, Tel Aviv. Photo by Oreen Cohen

I eagerly joined them on the picnic blanket and took out my journal and pen. I was ready to relinquish the emotional strain I had accumulated over the past months.

Belonging and rebirth

Of course, living in Israel has been a dream come true, but I cannot deny the initial anxieties of living on my own for the first time in a foreign country.

My counselor had the right idea to try and write out some of our most pressing thoughts as a symbol of letting them go.

And so I wrote… I wrote about my feelings of rebirth when coming to Israel. I wrote about my new understanding of the word “belonging” and what that word means to me. I also wrote about the people in my life whom I admire the most and my biggest hopes for my future self.

And just like that, Charles Clore Park became my new safe haven. I would go there whenever I needed to release some stress or simply be reminded of who I am.

Charles Clore Park in Tel Aviv. Photo by goga18128 via Shutterstock.com

The irony of living in Israel for four months was that I came here to grow closer to my identity, as I am part Israeli, but I ended up feeling more confused about who I really am.

In America, I constantly yearned to go back to the promised land and celebrate my Jewish identity. While in Israel, I recognized that I have a lot more “Americanness” in me than I thought. I missed parts of America I didn’t even expect to, like big open streets and cultural diversity. It truly is tiring missing one place every time I am in the other.

Emotional clarity

But looking out into the crystal-clear waters at Charles Clore Park brought me emotional clarity. In this place, I found a bridge between my two homes, as the sea is unique to both my hometown of Fort Lauderdale and my new home in Tel Aviv.

I felt a little less conflicted about my identity and a little more at peace with the revelation that I may just have two.

Charles Clore Park holds some of my fondest memories in Tel Aviv. Aside from the various writing sessions I used as therapy, I also enjoyed going on runs along the boardwalk during sunset. The view as the sun travels down is unparalleled anywhere else in Tel Aviv.

A view of Charles Clore Park in Tel Aviv. Photo by Jose Hernandez Camera 51 via Shutterstock.com

I also shared special moments there with people who changed my life forever. We climbed the enormous rocks until the guard yelled at us for ignoring the big sign in bold red letters that said, “Do not climb!”

We then proceeded to sit on the grass and share a lovely picnic with coffee and croissants from one of the many nearby bakeries.

So next time you’re in Tel Aviv, take a trip down to Alma Beach and visit Charles Clore Park. I promise there is something there for everyone. For me, it became yet another place I could call home.