My Aliyah Journey

With the decision to make Aliyah comes a slew of oft-asked questions and comments. Here are the ones that have come up most in my experience, and my answers, thoughts, and musings:

Wow! That’s amazing-wonderful-crazy-interesting-fill-in-the-blank-with-exclamatory-first-reaction.

Why, thank you. I think it’s pretty [fill-in-the-blank] myself. But, deep down, I feel like I’m just an an average Torah-observant American Jew who, given my life circumstances, had no reason not to make Aliyah.

When did you realize that you wanted to make Aliyah?

Good question. Definitely one of my favorites, because the answer goes like this:

Deciding to make Aliyah came in stages:

  1. There was that Jewish History class in 7th grade when I learned about Ezra, and how he led a fraction of the Babylonian Jews to Israel, even though the entire community was given permission to leave and rebuild the Temple in their homeland. It dawned on me, much like those Jews, I had the freedom to go too.
  2. At first, I was very anti-Aliyah. I was proud to be an American Jew and that was that. My first trip to Israel, at age 15, I went kicking and screaming (and overall a total mopey face). What looked like a teenage tantrum was something much more than that: Deep down, I knew that first-hand exposure to Israel had the potential to change my worldview…and it did.
  3. By my second trip to Israel – on a summer program after 10th grade – I knew Israel was more than another nice place to a Jew. It’s where the Jewish soul is at home; where Torah and Jewish life thrives. Emotionally, I was convinced. Yet was I ready to make the sacrifices and commitments that come with “living the dream?”
  4. I attempted  Aliyah several times before I got on that Nefesh B’Nefesh plane. I tried to go for college, I tried to go in the middle of college, I tried to go right after college. Each time, something else held me back (finances, unfinished education, emotional ambivalence). At a certain point, as I grew in my career and social life in America, I realized that if I didn’t make the move soon, while I was young and flexible, my chances would steadily decrease. It was time to either accept it as a nice dream, perhaps for another time, or to pursue it.

How did you know you were ready to make Aliyah?

My case is a unique one in that I had a year and a half’s notice regarding the end of my job and office, due to a merger. I loved my job, my office, and my colleagues, and I especially loved (and still love) our field, Jewish education. Knowing that my life was about to change inevitably definitely helped.

Still, the most glaring indicator was when, emotionally and mentally, I felt confident about taking on the responsibilities, challenges, and changes that come with living in Israel. With all the good comes all of the above…and still, I wanted more than I wanted the comforts of my life as it was.

How do your parents feel about it? Won’t they miss you?

They are very supportive, thank G-d. Yes, they will miss me and I will miss them. As I mentioned above, Aliyah comes with sacrifices. Even so, I feel that this is the best place for me to be a Jew and to one day, please G-d, raise Jewish children.

My parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and ancestors far beyond, all made sacrifices to sustain and nurture committed Jewish lifestyles. In my life and time, Aliyah is the best choice I believe I can make to continue the lifestyle and connection to G-d that I and everyone who came before me holds so dear.

It took you 10 years to make the move. What kept you going and inspired?

Ultimately, being able to live in Israel is a privilege determined by G-d. As we see with Moses at the end of his life, you can be motivated and committed to something (ex: Eretz Yisrael) with every ounce of heart, soul, and action, but if G-d’s will is otherwise, it cannot be. G-d has a plan for each of us, and I’m grateful for every day G-d gives me in the land of my forefathers.

That being said, the following helped me never give up on my goal:

  1. I found a role model who accomplished the same goal, Rabbi Aaron Rakeffet. His lectures on YUTorah, and eventually, his guidance and support on a personal level, always helped me feel connected.
  2. Viktor Frankl’s Man Search for Meaning: “What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for some goal worthy of him. What he needs is not the discharge of tension at any cost, but the call of a potential meaning waiting to be fulfilled by him.”
  3. Maintaining strong connections with my friends and family in Israel.
  4. Visiting, always with the intent of learning more about the realities of building a life in Israel.
  5. Reading Sefer Devarim (Deuteronomy). Never fails to stir those Zionist feelings 🙂