A Piece of Natchitoches in Israel

Netanya, Israel on a peaceful summer day

By Candice Richardson

I spent my entire life in small town Louisiana, and I spent my entire life complaining about being in small town Louisiana. As most young people from a small town do, I always thought the grass was greener somewhere else. Surely, all of my woes would be alleviated if I just didn’t live in Natchitoches. Surely, if I lived in a town where there was more to do than just stopping by Sonic during Happy Hour or perusing the aisles of Walmart for the thousandth time, life would be peachy and perfect, and I would never complain about another thing ever again.

There was always something troubling me about being stuck in old Louisiana. There was nothing to do, there was no culture, there were no people like me. I was certain there was something else out there for me.

So, after 26 years of being burdened by life in the rural northwest of Louisiana, I took it upon myself to leave. Where did I go? Shreveport? Dallas? New Orleans? Of course not. I moved to Israel.

In August, I left behind Natchitoches’ meat pies and the bricks of Front Street to live in Netanya, Israel, a beautiful city on the Mediterranean sea in the middle of the country–just a 20 minute drive from the bustling metropolitan city of Tel Aviv. It was my dream come true. I was leaving not only Louisiana, but America as a whole. Finally. A place where I could kick that ever growing feeling of boredom and complacency.

The first month was magical. I spent my evenings going to the beaches of the Mediterranean Sea, going to fabulous Israeli restaurants, taking the train to go club hopping in Tel Aviv, taking in all of the history in Jerusalem’s holy sites that we know so well from the Bible. It was unfathomable to a girl from Natchitoches. This was my life now–a riveting, joyous adventure in a foreign land far from anything and everything I knew.

In the midst of all this glamor, however, something happened. Something unprecedented.

A month and half into this new, “perfect” chapter of my life, Israel was hit with the most devastating terrorist attack in recent history. The terrorist group Hamas launched over 3000 missiles into our country, and hundreds of terrorists crossed the border on foot to begin carrying out an onslaught of horrible crimes against our people.

As I sat there watching the news, heard about my friends being forced to return to their compulsory military service, saw the terrifying videos of young kids and elderly people being forced into captivity at the hands of Hamas, I had an epiphany.

Suddenly, I missed the idea of going to Sonic at Happy Hour or aimlessly walking around Walmart. I missed Chili’s being one of the only restaurants I had access to. I missed the god awful Natchitoches Central traffic from 3 PM to 4 PM. I missed having “nothing to do,” because now there is always something to do, and that something to do is worry about my fellow Israelis’ safety and well being.

I am thankful for where I came from now, because where I came from has prepared me well for this situation. I saw firsthand how a small town can come together in hard times in Natchitoches, and I have brought that same energy to my community here in Israel. The kindness and the care that I experienced from my childhood in Natchitoches has equipped me with the ability to be here for my Israeli brothers and sisters and do what I can to help us all get through this troubling time.

I carry a piece of Natchitoches in my heart here in the Holy Land, and that beautiful glimmer of hope will help us get through this trying time.

באהבה מישראל, קנדיס ריצ׳רדסנ
(With love from Israel, Candice Richardson)