Aliyah: One Year an Israeli

Last month I hit the one year mark, the famous Aliyah-versary date that Olim tend to celebrate. It’s the big goal post that marks how long you have survived (thrived? enjoyed?) in Israel, the crazy, dysfunctional, family-oriented, loving, advice-giving-without-being-asked country that we call Home.

אין לי ארץ אחרת.

I’m not sure what I expected on that date, June 25th. Perhaps excitement, joy, accomplishment at having achieved something I’ve never done before (never having lived outside of Detroit, this meant a lot)… but I didn’t feel any of those things. What I did feel was an unidentifiable, nebulous sadness.

Not sadness for having moved. Not sadness for living in the land of the Jews. Not sadness for providing my children with a positive life surrounded by Jewish culture, language, and beliefs. Sadness because…

Even today I can’t put it into words. I sat at my in-laws’ house, saying farewell to their daughter who was moving to the States, and crying because I was upset. I think I was even a little upset because I couldn’t figure out why I was sad.

I can’t recall who it was that weekend, but someone said something very helpful. The reason I was upset was because, on anniversaries, we tend to look backward rather than forward. I look back over the past year and, as much as I didn’t see it as I was experiencing it, it’s been a rough go. We moved two years after my mom passed away suddenly, in the midst of my second pregnancy; I gave birth in a foreign country, started sending my older child to a Gan for the first time, started a new job, received and unpacked our lives (after reducing like crazy before we left), stayed home with the new baby and nursed him like crazy, all while trying to settle in and make friends.


My husband saw what I didn’t: I needed someone to talk to. He kicked me out of the house and got me therapy (twice a week, no less). My therapist is great, helps me get a fresh perspective on things. My favorite item? When I told him that my Aliyah-versary was bittersweet, he asked me one question.

Why bitter?

I had all sorts of fluffy answers. I miss my family, I miss parts of Michigan, I miss friends. Yea so…? Why bitter? You’re going to miss things. But aren’t things good here for you?

Why bitter?

Change is always difficult, and, oh boy, I’ve made some major changes this past year. But I speak to my family and friends regularly, I’ve been able to duplicate my favorite greek salad dressing that I’ve been craving, and I’ve even had a couple brothers (+ family) visit me here. I’ve met great new people and have added them to my life. I started taking Zumba, went back to Ulpan, and have friends in different cities all over Israel.

I’ve visited Jerusalem, met with ridiculously fantastic ladies I previously only knew via Glide, and seen the art installations around Yafo Street. I’ve gone back to my writing, my artwork and photography, am pushing my boundaries with them, and even started making money off of it — ALL things that I don’t think I would have done in the States.

So why bitter?

Part of me wants to say that I was sad (and am still a little sad) because reality has finally sunk in; that this is it. I moved with my amazing husband to start a new chapter in our lives with our boys. There’s no going back. Oh sure, you can tell me that we can always return to the States, but I don’t believe in moving backward… especially not for the sake of our children.

I’ve been thinking for a month now about why this Aliyah-versary was bittersweet and the truth is… maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it isn’t bitter. If I don’t believe in moving backward, I shouldn’t dwell on the past. If I want to move forward, I need to straighten my shoulders, pick up my head, and walk confidently into our future.

It doesn’t mean I’m not going to keep close ties with my loved friends and family in the States, nor does it mean I’m not going to miss them like crazy while we’re 6,000 miles apart (and bug them to save up their money to come and visit). It doesn’t mean I’m not going to cry every so often, like I am right now.

What it does mean is that my Aliyah isn’t bitter.

I have a husband and two small boys who are truly blossoming in this land. My Hebrew language skills are better than they’ve ever been. I had a second interview today in Azrieli Center and got to take the elevator to the 49th floor and take in the breathtaking 360 degree view of Tel Aviv and the Mediterranean Sea. I’m close to my in-laws. I just had my husband’s cousin over for a dinner in our own apartment. We’re going up north in a few weekends to see other Michigan friends who made Aliyah and to tour the beautiful north.

Bitter? Nah, not bitter… just sweet.

Sweet like milk and honey.

About the Author
Talya Woolf is a four-year Olah, an American-licensed attorney, handgun instructor, amateur photographer, and artist. She is politically conservative, Modern Orthodox, and ardent Zionist. She enjoys spending time with family, friends, running, photography, and reading about highly contagious diseases and WWII.
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