“Mazel Tov.” The manager of the Apple Store in San Diego is quick to show me the photos of him at the Wailing Wall with his apple kippah on his recent trip to my about-to-be-home. Last minute preparations and frantic attempts to understand the crazy Aliyah process during the Israeli Foreign Ministry Strike tests my family’s mental patience and rattles the strands of my parents’ worries.
Enthroned by the role of the baby in my family, I announce my plans to step away from my birthplace and claim roots to this distant land in the Middle East. Eyebrows are raised. Glances shift to my parent’s nod, confirming the truth. A cautious smile arises. Questions finally torpedo towards me as my well repeated affirmations echo from my passive mind. The oxymoron of Being In The Moment taunts my insecurities, for every action is merely completing a task based for the future.
Last October, when brainstorming my Aliyah timeline and my plans for Sherut Leumi, I quietly plotted and broadened my knowledge of the embedded textures of my dream. The profound confidence in my decision fueled the momentum of my zillions of emails and phone calls to the individuals that I plan to follow. Dedicated to the schedule of my Jewish studies, I had breathing space to digest the feasts of life planning. With each bite of decision making, I excitedly absorbed the reality of it all: What this would mean for my university experience, my career, my future family- and their relationship with the ones who hold my heart back in America.
My first Israeli bureaucratic experience of signing up online for Sherut leumi interviews in the limited allotted time wrung out my frustration with being a newbie here, but more importantly instituted a deep appreciation for the endless care Israelis and older Olim will dispense. If generated, my nerves from the first interview day had the potential to fuel the world. Shaking out the Hebrew from my stunned mind, I realized the extent of my intelligence trapped in English. Yearning to open the doorway into my translation-less world, I smile and attempt to explain my commitment to helping people with special needs.
Rolling away the defeat post interview, I focused on my next opportunity swimming up 3 days later. I rearmed myself with confidence by translating my college resume to hand to my interviewer with a letter of recommendation, and drilled myself on Hebrew terms I would weave into my pitch. Aleh Negev interview day only replays in my memory like a dream. I am calm and collected sitting on an egged bus to Beer Sheva when I look up and see Sharona, an sabra from Olim parents. With her helpful translations during the tour of Aleh Negev and exceptional friendliness, the day swings by in excitement. When answering questions in Hebrew, I refuse to surrender. I imagine my year of service and I am here. I am doing what I love. I am improving the lives of others, flexing my compassion and communicative skills. I am immersing myself in Israeli culture and language, experiencing independence and reliance on those more familiar with experience here. I am helping the Negev bloom and the individuals at Aleh grow in their abilities. I am serving my country, as a member of Am Yisrael.
Relaxing in my perfect San Diego backyard, I tear up looking at the gentle clouds. Talya is alone, leaving the familiar to go home and postponing university for life education. The step before jumping might be more nerve racking than the sky diving below. I climb into the childish mindset I store for selective occasions. All of a sudden, everything is beyond overwhelming. I feel small inside my shell, distant and standoffish. Sensitive to the world, I present a tap dancing princess playing in her mother’s wardrobe. My unproductive mode shifts into place and baby me longs for empowered Talya. Curious eyebrows ask me why Aliyah. Baby Talya responds from her array of available answer cards: it’s home, it’s my Jewish San Diego, it’s available and accessible to me in this generation like never before, and it’s the only place that for thousands of years is constantly changing and yet equally familiar.
Standing up for my choice dismantles my shell little by little. Merely the ringing of my aliyah date arriving makes me relate to the face wash commercials, waking up with the rush of a tingling sensation across my skin. I am about to claim my spot in Jewish history, unleash my potential, and face my fears. I am going not only alter my identity, but the ones who come from me. I will assert my commitment and struggle along the way. And there I watch the jumping board emerging.