After making aliyah two and a half years ago, I was on my way for my first visit back to Melbourne, Australia. Everyone knows the feeling we all have as the plane slowly pulls away from the Ben Gurion gate and heads for the runway. It’s a unique sadness. To be honest, I was excited to have a holiday. I definitely wasn’t happy to leave Israel, but I was happy to visit the place I had grown up in until I was 14. I didn’t think much of it because unlike previous times on that runway, I could just said to myself, “I live in Israel, I’ll be back soon. No biggy!”
As the plane took off, I looked down at my home. Our home. As we ascended quickly into the sky, further and further away, I started to get that feeling, but it wasn’t that full painful feeling. It hadn’t hit me, I guess you could say. Two hours later, after dinner, I heard a soft, “Rabotay Nevarech” from the row in front of me and a bunch of Israelis screaming at each other about GD knows what, so it still felt like Israel, not to mention the ELAL announcements in Hebrew.
In the morning I got my tefillin, and went to the back of the plane to ask if it was ok to daven there, but before I could ask, the flight attendant asked me in Hebrew if I needed to daven at the back. And of course as the sun got brighter, more people joined me at the back. This wasn’t a surprise; it was nice, a bit normal and somewhat expected.
Then, we landed in Hong Kong. One step off the plane, and everything was foreign. No screaming Israelis, no kippot, no Hebrew. Nothing. I was missing that sense of family and that feeling as though everyone around me was there to help me if needed. That’s when it hit me. I was not in Israel, and knowing I would be away for a few weeks was harder then I expected.
A few hours later, I boarded the next leg to Australia, and it was time for me to daven shacharit on the Australian airline. I had to ask the hostess if I could pray at the back, and I obviously got looks from passengers and staff like I was insane.
This same theme continued throughout my trip. When I lived in Australia, it was normal for me to be the only Jew on a tram, or walking down the street, and it always felt good sometimes seeing another jew. But that was life over there. I didn’t think anything of it. Then I made aliyah, and I got very used to society, where everyone is Jewish, every restaurant is kosher, and every street corner has nine men looking for a tenth to daven mincha or ma’ariv. It was when I visited, that my eyes truly opened, and I suddenly realised how lucky I really am to be living in the center of the Jewish world. In Australia, I stood out. I was proud to walk with my kippa and tzitzit, but I stood out. In Israel, I feel an extreme sense of belonging.
Israelis are very lucky to have been born in Israel because they would obviously not have the challenges that Olim face, but Olim have something extremely important that Israelis mostly don’t. That is the true understanding of how much of a blessing it is to live in the Jewish homeland. Israelis don’t feel the excitement that Olim feel when they see another Jew or kosher restaurant on a street because that’s all they know.
Ultimately, what I’m trying to say is that everyone knows that they will miss Israel after a holiday, and the fact that everyone is one big family over here, but once you have moved and made it your home and the whole lifestyle becomes the norm, then just like anything else in life we take for granted, once we don’t have it and we leave Israel, no words can describe the feeling of wanting to be back.
When people say stuff like “make aliyah, it’s our homeland”, they aren’t just saying it, it actually means something. (This isn’t an article to harass you to make aliyah. As an Oleh, I know exactly how difficult it is, and no one should be judged if they don’t or be harassed to make Aliyah). To be a be part of Am Yisrael, specifically in Eretz Yisrael, can really only be truly appreciated, once you are a part of it.
As much as aliyah was difficult for me for the obvious reasons, and for some not so obvious reason, I couldn’t be more grateful that my family took the opportunity and made Aliyah. It’s the concept of “Kol Dodi Dofek,” when Hashem was knocking on the door of Am Yisrael, and they kept putting off answering it, and when they finally did, he was gone. There are so many reasons not do things, but if opportunity arises, consider taking it because you don’t know if it will come again, and you don’t know what you might miss out on, and believe me, as someone who went through a very challenging aliyah, there is no greater feeling in the world then coming out on top after facing the challenges, but that story is for another time. And don’t get me wrong, there are still a lot of challenges ahead but I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel and it’s a light like no other, it’s the light of living in Eretz Yisrael. There are challenges that I have had to overcome, and challenges that cant be overcome. for example, missing Australia. Australia was my home for fourteen years. I grew up there with a certain way of life which was amazing. I left my friends and family, and my sports which was a big part of my life, and just the way of life. It’s very difficult, but look at what I got after leaving my beautiful home.
I mean, just think about this. I’ll go to school one day and learn about Avraham Avinu, and how he set off from Yerushalayim to Chevron. I’ll learn about Rachel who passed away on the way to Chevron, and was buried in Beit Lechem, and how Sarah passed away and Avraham bought a cave to bury her near Chevron. Then I’ll go to the bus stop, which looks directly at Yad Vashem, the memorial for one of the history’s most horrific tragedies. I then drive past a view of the Old City before driving past massive buildings and malls. I then drive past Beit Lechem, where Rachel Imeinu is buried. I continue down a road which is parallel to the exact path that our forefathers took from Yerushalayim to Chevron. I get off the bus about twenty minutes down the road from Ma’arat Hamachpela, and then I get home, which is right by the path, Derech Ha’avot, and is directly in between Yerushalayim and Chevron. This is my journey home from school every day. So, now I ask you, do you think it would have been worth it for me to give up when things got too tough, and just want to move back? Absolutely not. I mean have you ever heard of anything as insane and crazy as what I have just described!? I don’t think I need to say anymore. This is light at the end of the tunnel. The tunnel may be very dark, full of obstacles and you may continuously trip and fall, but once you reach the light, there’s nothing better in the world.
I don’t take it for granted. Moving to Israel was the biggest challenge I ever faced, but the best thing that ever happened to me. I feel like the luckiest guy in the world.