As I celebrate my one-year aliyah anniversary, I look back on this amazing whirlwind of a year.
For the Jewish people, this week is a celebration of miracles.
I suppose it’s fitting, then, that as I celebrate my one-year aliyah anniversary, that I’m celebrating a certain miracle of my own.
I arrived in Israel with Nefesh B’Nefesh almost exactly a year ago. Despite the uncertainty that surrounded my Aliyah given Israel’s ever-fluctuating COVID regulations, I knew making aliyah during Hanukkah was right for me.
I have visited Israel for the last few years, during the festival of lights. This time of year has always been an auspicious time for me. Seeing menorahs lit from every window and town square, lighting up every corner of the city, and watching Jerusalem glow has always created a sense of optimism and opportunity. That is exactly how I wanted to mark my official start as a citizen of Israel.
Life, of course, has surprises of its own because a few weeks after my Aliyah, I met my fiancé on Shabbat Hanukkah at Hanukkah party. We’re set to get married later this month.
We come from very different backgrounds. He is a baal teshuva (a Jew from a secular background who becomes religious), while I was raised Modern Orthodox. I’m American, while he’s British. If we had not both made aliyah, I’m not sure how we would have crossed paths.
G-d of course, had this planned all along. Making aliyah during COVID-19 has not always been a walk in the park but doing so has brought us together and for that I’ll always be grateful.
In addition to meeting my future husband, I was also lucky enough to have a strong community of Anglos who guided and supported me throughout this year. My family members, neighbors, and new friends who have made aliyah helped me find a job, ensured I had invitations to Shabbat meals, and acted as a sounding board helping me navigate life here.
As I reflect on the past year, I acknowledge not everything came easy. Adjusting to life here can certainly be a struggle. While I continue to acclimate to my new life, I know that being here is the best decision for me. I know that Israel is my home.
To those contemplating making aliyah and experiencing whatever miracles Israel has in store for them, I would like to offer a few pieces of practical advice. I would encourage you to do research beforehand, including touring prospective communities, talking to residents, and getting a sense of where you want to live before you touch down. There are so many different kinds of communities and finding the right one for you can make all the difference. Potential Olim should also come with a plan – it doesn’t have to be anything set in stone, but they should at least have a sense of how they envision the first year of their life in Israel. And last but not least, I’d recommend doing some soul searching before finally coming home.
As my first year of aliyah comes to an end, I’ll always treasure taking in the holy city of Jerusalem, being proposed to by overlooking the Kotel (my favorite place!) and knowing that wherever I go, Judaism is all around me.
In the next year, I look forward to exploring more of this glorious country and befriending more native Israelis, so I can truly immerse myself in life here. Most importantly, I am so excited to celebrate our wedding in a few weeks. Sadly, due to the new restrictions, many of our friends and family from the US and the UK will not be able to attend in person, but we know Israel is the right place for us to get married. It is our homeland and it brought us together.
In the next few weeks, as we prepare for the wedding, we are taking in all the miracles around us, big and small— including all the delicious sufganiyot in every storefront. That alone is a reason to make aliyah – Chag Sameach!