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.