The Facebook post that started it all. “2.5 years later and I finally own the one document that will allow me to fulfill my Aliyah dream – signing up for the hand scanner entry for immigration at Ben Gurion Airport!”
77 likes and counting – more than possibly the last 6 months of “likes” combined. But, really, the question is WHY? And, SO WHAT…its not like I made aliyah today.
2.5 years ago I got on a plane to fulfill the one dream I had longer than any other – to make aliyah and become a citizen of the place I felt most at home. For the record, this did NOT mean I felt most Israeli, or now I realize, that I would ever feel “really” Israeli. Perhaps that comes when I have a child that goes into the army. Perhaps not.
But, nevertheless, 2.5 years ago, I became an Israeli – feelings or not. And I have been a card-carrying member ever since. I have proudly displayed my tehudat zehut “identity card” on facebook, to friends and family back at home (in the US), and to the countless salespeople who insist on seeing it for the purposes of verifying that I am eligible for whatever discount card they may be hawking that day. I “belong”.
So, if this is the case, then why does today feel more significant than the day I stepped off of the plane? Why is this document different from all others? Ma nishtana?
As a friend emailed me today, he said that he values his Israeli passport more than any of his other paperwork or certificates because we are privileged to be among a time and a place where this is even possible – to be able to be a citizen of a Jewish country. And, in this, he’s right.
This morning, as I went through paperwork, I coincidentally found my birth certificate. On it, unmistakably, it is written that I was born in Orlando, FL. I am a Floridian, an Orlandoan. Nowhere on that birth certificate is it labeled that I am a Jew, or that the place that I was born has some kind of ownership on me, nor I to it.
And yet, today, I received just the opposite document. A document that claims me, and I had to claim (literally). And what is even more important, it is this very document that says something to the outside world – that I belong here, to this place and to this people. And that it “belongs” to me. I only use this document when I leave here, and enter another country. It signals “belonging” somewhere, and in me it makes me feel a sense of responsibility as a representative of this country when I leave – not to mention a citizen while I am here.
This responsibility scares me. And excites me. And compels me to step forward – into the life I have wanted since I was 16.
A year and a half before actually setting foot on my aliyah flight, I made a speech to departing olim in NYC about why I was making aliyah. I pointed to 2 reasons:
1. The vegetables
2. So that I could finally put my hand in the hand scanner in immigration at Ben Gurion airport
As of today, I have finally fulfilled that dream – I can apply to have my hand scanned – and then even my hand print will belong here.
I am finally the Israeli I’ve wanted to be…it only took me 2.5 years.