Shira M. Frishman

Aliyah: A Definition

Having just recently made Aliyah, I wanted to share my perspective on what it means to choose to leave everything behind and move to Israel. Everyone who comes on Aliyah has a unique outlook on this journey. I believe that making Aliyah is one of the most difficult choices that a Jew must contemplate.

Making Aliyah means immigrating to a country and building yourself from the bottom. It means losing an argument only because you couldn’t find the correct words in Hebrew to win. It’s having to convince the bank that you are in fact worthy of them holding on to your money. It’s being laughed at when you confuse similar sounding phrases with drastically different meanings. It’s being yelled at by bus drivers for no apparent reason. It’s googling “most relaxing countries” and wondering if you should seek asylum in Jamaica.

Making Aliyah is dealing with every inefficient government ministry and truly wondering how this country continues to exist. It’s being told by the overworked, underpaid clerk at the office of immigration that, in dire frustration of your complete lack of comprehension of Israeli law, she would like to now kill herself. And while you’re about to burst into tears at such a hurtful statement, you realize, that given her foreign accent, she was once upon a time probably told the same thing. It’s forgoing customer service for the foreseeable future and it’s hoping that while your children’s hearts be Israeli, their manners American.

Making Aliyah is being in a job interview while 10 people interrupt and pondering how anything is ever accomplished. It’s being at the doctor’s office and realizing that privacy here is not really a concept. It’s being completely taken aback by unsolicited advice from almost everyone. It’s holding your shoulders a little higher when an Israeli tells you that had their parents not made Aliyah, they’re not so sure they would have.

It’s hoping that suspicious forgotten bag at the bus stop is nothing more than just a child’s neglected lunch.

Making Aliyah is saying goodbye to those you love most and it’s wondering if a trip home is worth it for the journey back may be too painful. It’s wishing that you could stop the aging process on those parents and grandparents that you’ll leave behind. It’s your heart breaking at the realization that you’ll miss out on so many family milestones. It’s being brave because this is your choice.

Living in Israel is being in a tremp and being invited for Shabbos by your completely random drivers. It’s watching a Chayelet davening fervently on a bus and finding yourself silently praying for her safety. It’s overhearing a man on the phone telling his friend that he is going to Kever Rachel to pray for Am Yisrael. It’s passing a hunched over grandfather on the street and wondering how many battles he had to fight to ensure this state’s existence. It’s walking past Har Hertzel and promising that the sacrifices for Eretz Yisrael will never be in vain. It’s enjoying produce of the Land and appreciating that such a small action was a tremendous dream for our ancestors. It’s witnessing the fulfillment of ancient prophecies; the everyday occurrence of “bonei Yerushalayim” It’s wondering how a giant cold stone wall could be so comforting.

Living in Israel is feeling lonely but never alone. It’s being so far from everyone you love but being in the only place where you’ll ever truly feel at home.

And when the going gets really tough, you can always vacation in Jamaica.

About the Author
Shira is from Minneapolis, Minnesota. She moved to Israel after college and is currently doing an internship at a day care center for elderly people with Alzheimer's disease.