Wednesday, August 13, 2008


I have begun to seriously consider the possibility of making aliyah after I graduate from college.

This may seem like it is coming from nowhere, just an impulsive move on my part. Let me explain that it is not quite so.

I remember the summer after my seminary year (I didn't leave Israel right away; rather, I stayed until early August of that year) rashly announcing to someone that if it were feasible, I would make aliyah right then and there and go to Bar Ilan or something. I was standing in Alon Shvut at the time, and the air swirling around the yishuv seemed to have a magical effect on me anytime I visited - I always felt more connected to Israel when I was there than on my seminary campus. But the nineteen-year-old me who pronounced this desire to make aliyah wasn't being quite realistic: the truth was, at that point in time, I didn't want to make aliyah. I was still sorting myself out from seminary, Bar Ilan didn't hold that much interest to me, and in all honesty, I wanted to go back to America and start college.

And I'm glad I did, because my two years at Stern (and G-d willing, my third and last) were some of the most enjoyable years of my life, truly. I've made friends there who have been some of the most thoughtful, fun and committed people I've encountered. It was at Stern that I was able to become more comfortable with myself and to examine the different hashkafot that I have been exposed to. Not making aliyah after seminary was one of the best things I could have done for myself.

A year and a half after I came home from seminary I went to Israel again. This trip was very short - just a week, barely enough time to get over jetlag. The Jerusalem winter was a frigid one, with numbing wind that whipped across the city at night. I was often too tired or cold to leave our apartment very much, and so when I came back to America, I wasn't running to make aliyah. Why? I just wasn't.

I should also add that for years my parents talked about making aliyah, or at least buying property in Israel. I remember being in one of the early grades in elementary school, and my father, on a trip to Turkey to visit his family, made a stop in Israel to scout for available apartments and a possible position at various universities throughout the country. My parents have yet to make aliyah, but they were able to realize their dream of buying property in Israel when they came to visit me in seminary. With the help of G-d, Who was clearly guiding my parents when they wandered into the office a real estate agency in the neighborhood of Rechavia, my parents purchased an apartment in the Kiryat Shmuel neighborhood of Jerusalem.

But what really spurred me to think of aliyah as a real option was this past trip that I went on just a couple weeks ago.

And oh, what a trip.

I was in Israel for three weeks, the first two of which were spent in Jerusalem at our apartment. For the final week, I was able to participate in an incredible tour of Israel, thanks to the offer of a much-beloved friend and her family.

Living in Jerusalem for those two weeks was the closest I've ever come to truly feeling like Israel could be a permanent home for me in all the time I had spent in Jerusalem thus far. One day, while I was walking down King George towards home, a chill ran through me and gave me goosebumps that were quite unconnected to the blazing heat of the day. My goosebumps were the result of the awesome, spine-tingling, tearfully exciting feeling that I experienced at that moment of a simple and incredible love of the place I was standing in. I need to be here, I thought to myself. I love this city. I love this country. This will be my home.

And then came the tour.

I didn't expect that from this tour would blossom a feeling of connection to Israel that I hadn't really felt yet on a consistent basis, but rather had experienced a few flashes of it here and there. I didn't think that this tour would be such an emotional catalyst for me. I had no idea that on this tour, because of the places I was seeing, I would feel that chilling, thrilling feeling of love that would make me choke up in the middle of the afternoon. I didn't know that what I would see on this tour would bring me, finally, an incredible appreciation and understanding of the people -- albeit secular -- who poured themselves, their tears and sweat and blood and exultant smiles, into this land so that I, 60 years later, could hop on a plane and come home to our apartment in Jerusalem, an act that is easy and pleasant because Hashem gave us control of our birthright so that we could come back and rebuild it.

But the tour was this, and more. I am indebted to my friend and her family for having me along, and for giving me this chance to connect so much to the land. So much so, that I desire nearly completely to come back and live there permanently.

I do have concerns, though. I know that day-to-day survival in Israel is based on more than an overwhelming and abiding love of the land. I am not afraid of the bureaucracy that everyone loves to hate, or going food shopping, or speaking in Hebrew every day. What I am afraid of is not finding a job that gives me enough satisfaction so that I won't regret having left family and better job opportunities (and with that, more ways to support and build a family) in America. I'm afraid of the loneliness that will come from moving away from all my family and most of my friends. Those things aren't small concerns - they're big ones, and for that reason, making aliyah after graduation isn't a cut-and-dried plan just yet. There are lots and lots of details to consider and people to talk to and network with before I can really, truly commit to this.

But I want to . . . I want to. And if not right after I graduate, G-d willing in the near future.

And maybe Mashiach will come and bring us all to eretz avoteinu before we need to worry about making plans for it ourselves . . . bimiheira biyameinu.


Erachet said...

Hello, me. Every single paragraph of this post is me, from the part about seminary to going to Stern and why it was good there to coming back to Israel a year and a half later to growing more and more serious about aliyah to concerns and fears about leaving family and friends and just making it there...

Apple, we seem to have ESP a lot. Maybe it just means we can be there for each other during major thoughts/decisions/events like this one and others in the future. :)

RaggedyMom said...

See you guys there!

the apple said...

So much for a unique train of thought :P

(and minus the Bnei Akiva experience, hehe)

I've noticed that also, ever since we both started blogging. Amen to what you said.

RM - excellent!

SJ said...

Beautiful post. I wish I could channel the determination and certainty that you feel...

Yet, as you make clear in your post, it is incredibly important to be emotionally and mentally prepared before taking that giant step...and these interim years in America can be crucial to fostering the development necessary to make successful aliyah a reality. I guess I just have to be patient, remember the dream, and believe that when I am ready, I will be able to make it happen.

Baila said...

I guess getting your education in the states is good advice. And then staying a bit to make some money. You need money to make Aliyah. But then there is the likelihood that you won't come. Take it from me. We kept pushing it off--for 15 years. It just gets harder as you get older, you get more entrenched in your life, your family, your community. If you think you are close to your friends now, wait till you've lived through the joys and challenges in your life with them for the next 20 years. That is what I did, making Aliya in my 40's, with older kids. I won't say I regret not coming sooner--this was G-d's plan. But leaving those friends and family at this point in my life was wrenching--I have felt a grief like a permanent loss (chas V'chalilah)--even with skype and instant messaging etc. And don't even get me started on coming with older kids.

Despite all that, I'm glad I'm here. Aliyah is tough any time you come. I would say it's not for everyone (Jameel may disagree, but I believe if someone doesn't want to be here, they shouldn't). Come for the right reasons, because you believe that as Jews it is our priviledge to be able to govern our own land, that our nation belongs here, that you can contribute something to society. If you do believe all that, do yourselves a favor, come as young as you can. Build your life and community here. In twenty years you'll be Israeli, your kids will be Israeli and your life will have meaning. And you won't be thinking, as I did for 15 years, "I should be there".

[Cross commented at Serandez and at Jameel]

SaraK said...

You're making me cry! Beautiful post, I have many of the same feelings and I really hope to make Aliyah in the next few years.

G said...

Okay, so here is something that has always worried me about the whole idea.

From everything that I saw in my two years there in addition to what you hear/read...there does not seem to be a place in Israel for one who wishes to just live what i like to call a "regular frum" life. It seems like one needs to pick a side in Israel to a greater degree than what currently exists in the states.

again, only my impression

the apple said...

SJ - amen.

Baila - exactly, which is why I would like to go as young as possible and avoid getting "stuck" in the States.

SaraK - thank you!

G - okay, so the same thing worries me as well. It's actually one of the things that turned me off while I was in seminary - couldn't stand the factions. I have been told that there are communities that do exist where you can be somewhat "nondenominational," if you know what I mean - how that affects schools and shuls in those places, though, I don't really know. But it does bother me. I do wish that if/when I eventually move there I'll be able to retain that sort of normalcy, and be part of a community that supports that sort of lifestyle.

A lot of what I'm questioning in this whole process is how much are certain practices that you find in chutz la'aretz and not in Israel make it worth it to stay here. This is one of them ... although I think that being in a holy country 24/7 does have some of its own charm, regardless of the issues :).

M said...

Wow, Apple. This was incredile. The writing was incredibly touching. I'm in Israel now- I've been studying at Neve the past four weeks. My mom is Israeli and we always grew up with a passionate connection to Israel. according to my brother's count, I've been there for a sum total of about 14 times. That's almost one for every year of my life. Throughout nearly my entire high school career, I insisted vehemently that I wanted to live in Israel. No one took me seriously (and as a more adult than child, I see why). Then the past two years out of high school, I realized that one must make the choices that are most condusive to his destiny and role in life at the present moment. Not always do they involve living in Israel. Plans can change based on new information. I was all set on returning to America for the new semester, getting a decent job, starting to work on my million projects. A few days before I was supposed to leave, I decided to consider staying here for the next half a year at least, possibly longer. To be perfectly honest, my reasons for staying involve more personal circumstances than philosophical idealism. Israel definitely has something about it. What it is I thought I knew but now discover I don't. (as with so many other things in life) I will be staying here for the time being- I wonder if I will regain my youthful longing to live in this land. If I will ever come to feel about Israel the same way I did when I was back in the States, or if I will be able to remindmyself of the incredible zechus of living here and being on its stones and eating its fruits and drikingnits waters, and not get caught up in my own little personal life kinks and knots that tend to overrride any grand appreciation of Israel's awesomemess. I don't have any specific point to make in this comment. Take it as the wonderings of a young girl in Jerusalem.

G said...

...not to mention the same issue as it regards to schooling.

aoc gold said...

O wind , why do you never rest,

Wandering, whistling to and fro,

Bring rain out of the west,

From the dim north bringing snow?

~by wow powerleveling