Before I write an entire blog on my Aliyah journey, I should probably start with why I am making the journey to begin with. About 99% of the time, when I tell people I am moving to Israel, their response is “Why?”. This is a loaded question with a very long answer, but I will do my best to get through some of it now.
Also, as an expat, or potential future expat, defining your 'why' is incredibly important. In fact, when I'm feeling down, I often come back to this blog post to see why I felt so strongly about moving to Israel in the first place. I highly recommend every expat write something similar before moving somewhere new. Check out my thoughts below!
I am fiercely proud to be Jewish. As I’ve gotten older I have realized being Jewish is something of a miracle. The fact that not too long ago, it was conceivable that Jewish people would be wiped off the face of the Earth and now there are around 16 million Jews living around the world is remarkable. But, make no mistake…just because we are almost existing in numbers close to pre-Holocaust days, it has not been easy to get here. This deep-seeded hatred for Jews is something that is a reality for a lot of people every single day. But, the Jewish people are the strongest in the world and we cannot be destroyed. For me, Israel represents the strength of the Jewish people, our fight and our determination. To be able to be a part of Jewish history and Israeli history is something I feel I have to do and something that I was truly meant to do.
The first time I actually experienced Israel first-hand was just seven months ago. To say I fell in love is an understatement. It was a feeling I have never quite had before…I just knew. I instantly knew I was meant to be there and that I was supposed to stay.
My entire trip to Israel solidified my decision at every moment…but there was one moment in particular where I knew there was no turning back. We went to visit Mt. Herzl Cemetery. For those who are unfamiliar, think of it as the Arlington National for Israel. As I stood there and looked at the new graves of young soldiers who gave their lives for Israel, I started to feel somethings I can only describe as guilt. Guilty that when I got off the plane I was told, “Welcome home”, I got to enjoy this place and call it home without ever having given anything to this land. I was instantly accepted as one of their own but had never done anything to deserve that welcome. Meanwhile, these people gave their lives to make sure the Jewish people have a homeland. That brought me to feel something else: pride. Pride in Israel and in this place as the Jewish safe haven. I care so deeply about the existence of Israel and about what the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) fight for every day. The IDF ensures that another Holocaust cannot happen because they protect the Jewish people and protect Israel so Jews will always have a place to go. This is so incredibly important to me. I was flooded with a sense of purpose and knew I had to give back to the land of Israel, to really be a part of it. I feel that I happen to live in America but that I truly belong in Israel.
Aside from that defining ‘aha’ moment at Mt. Herzl, the rest of my time in Israel only strengthened my conviction to make Aliyah. I believe Israeli people have better priorities than those in America. They care more about experiences than money, more about being kind to others than doing for oneself. The Israeli people I had the pleasure of meeting represent the kind of person I want to be. I also think that mandatory IDF service in a country that’s always fighting for its existence helps Israeli people to appreciate life in a way that we don’t here. We take things for granted where they appreciate everything they have because it’s been fought for every step of the way. The sense of community in Israel is palpable and strong (just look at the concept of a Kibbutz!)
As far as Judaism is concerned, my relationship is only strengthened through time in Israel. It was one of the most amazing things I have ever experienced to see in real life places that are in the Torah. I walked around sites that prove the Torah to be true. Generations of artifacts match what is written in the Torah and they are all located in Israel and that is pretty remarkable. I can also say if you have never been to The Western Wall, it is my one recommendation that you go. I wrote my admissions essay to Wake Forest about my desire to put a prayer in the wall, and six years later, I got to do just that. The feeling of being at the wall is something I cannot even begin to describe. Whether it is the closeness of G-d or just the simple fact that millions of Jews have stood in the same place, prayed at this same wall, that makes this experience something I want to relive over and over (and I will get to when I move here!)
I always look forward to going to Shabbat service every week for a few reasons. I truly do enjoy being in temple and being among others who share my beliefs, in keeping tradition, reminding myself what is truly important and thanking G-d for everything I have been given…but it’s the feeling after I have left synagogue that I actually cherish the most. As I walk home alone on Friday evenings, I feel at peace. I feel a happiness wash over me that is like no other happiness. It’s a whole body feeling that brings in my Shabbat each week. That feeling that I look forward to so much is something I feel all the time in Israel, not just on Fridays at 7:30pm.
A combination of the experiences and feelings articulated above plus so much more all go into my decision to move halfway across the world, completely alone and start over. Of course I will miss my friends and most of all my family, but I have never been more sure of a decision before. It’s the right thing to do for me.
I know this all came about quickly and might not make sense to everyone, but it makes such perfect sense to me. As anyone who knows me knows, I love to plan. I need to plan. I have a 10 year plan at all times…and normally, things go just according to plan. Wake Forest, Fulbright, Harvard…all things I have planned and worked for for years and years. So, this sudden desire to break my plan may seem out of the ordinary and out of character. But, I assure you it is the right thing. I connected to Israel in a way I didn’t know possible. This is what is supposed to be in my plan…even if I didn’t realize it right away. I want and need to be in Israel; to be an Israeli. My family will visit me and I hope they fall in love with this place as well. But, no matter how far away I am, I know I will always stay incredibly close with my family and I will be a better person for making this move.
In case anyone missed it, my anticipated Aliyah date is early July 2017! 6.5 months left!