Finding my Israel: My story of Aliyah

I didn’t grow up as a Zionist.

Eretz Yisroel was something we always talked about but the aspiration of one day living in Israel wasn’t built in or transfused into my blood. I didn’t grow up singing hatikva and my parents didn’t hang an Israeli flag, bring me to the Israeli day parade or teach me the important history of Israel. They loved Israel and understood its significance…but for many very understandable reasons, my deep attachment for Israel didn’t stem from my parent’s education. But it also didn’t come from my schooling.

I went to a very religious elementary school, which was founded and run by Rav Sheinberg’s zt”l daughter, where Israel was only discussed in the context of scripture from the Torah and it was also where wealthy students went for the holidays- lucky them! Although my High School was modern orthodox, it wasn’t known to be a “Zionistic” school.

Within the first few weeks of 9th grade I made a best friend, who remains my best friend until today. She had lived in Israel for 6 years, spoke fluent Hebrew like an Israeli and had an Israeli aroma to her that I was very pulled towards. Her stories of living in Israel and helping me study for Ivrit tests reflected a certain yearning she had for Israel and although she was content, she had a constant longing to go back. Two of her brothers were in the army at the time and I thought that was the most incredible concept!

That summer, before entering 10th grade, Israel had just experienced a year from hell…the beginning of second intifada. I was in sleepaway camp and from the hundreds of campers, I was drawn to (almost magnetically) the three Israeli girls who were in the same camp division as me. Two of them were from Efrat and went to school in Kiryat Arba (Chevron) and one was from Shilo and went to a school called: Kfar Pines (pernounced penus; you could only imagine the girly-laughs we got out of that!) I wanted to get to know them in a way I never experienced wanting to know anybody and I was thirsty for their stories and first hand encounters with the horrific experiences they had the previous year.

While I had been preoccupied with movies, nail polish colors and the occasional “OMG, did he just wave to me?” butterfly feelings of a US teen, these girls had been so close to death, had numerous classmates whose relatives were killed, they had attended countless friends and neighbors funerals that year and more than anyone I ever met, they understood the power of murder.

The contrast was mind boggling and without them ever dropping a hint that I should feel this way, I began to feel tremendously guilty. We were all the same age, all Jewish, so why did they endure so much pain and suffering simply because they lived in Israel, while I lived a spoiled fear-free life in suburban NY? It didn’t just bother me, it tugged at my heart and soul.

Many times that summer I thought about my two grandmothers. One was a Holocaust survivor from Poland who went through the hells of this earth and lost her parents and five brothers and sisters before she was 9 years old. My other grandmother, who grew up wealthy, well dressed, well educated and fed, was raised in Queens, NY. They were similar in age yet lived worlds apart. What made my Grandma Lois be born to a privileged family in Kew Gardens while the other was born into the warning signs of a pending War in Poland? Similarly, I thought, what made these friends grow up in a world of terrorism and me in a world of Dunkin Doughnuts and Blockbuster?

I spent the month in camp absorbing their stories, their trauma, their deep maturity, their built in wisdom and I took it all in. That summer I refused to wear any of my clothes, only borrowing their Israeli style clothes. When it came to Color War and our teams were divided by cities, I refused to join NY and insisted in being on the “Israeli” team. At the end of July, I said goodbye to them knowing I had new friends for life. We were 14, and now we are 32, and I’m still very very close with two of them and in touch with the third.

I went home that summer singing Adi Ran’s song “Atah Kadosh, Vishimcha Kadosh” which I later identified as the theme song of that summer. I stayed in touch with these new friends throughout the next few years of high school and although I didn’t see them often (they visited NY a few times) I became increasingly in love with their merit of living in Israel.

Ironically, yet divinely, second half of that same summer I was a Junior Counselor in a day camp in my hometown and the counselor I was given to work with was…Israeli! She had come to NY just for the summer and had a broken English and a big big heart! I couldn’t believe my luck– the Israeli spirit would continue until the end of August. Only a few days into camp, on August 9th 2001, 15 lives were taken suddenly at the Sbarros bombing in Jerusalem. I will never forget hearing the news and watching this counselor I was working with, three years older than me, break down and cry like she was 5. Only after seeing the footage and pictures did I begin to feel the pain she felt instinctively after hearing about what happened. The reality was raw: people went for pizza on a summer day and never went home. Children. Parents. A pregnant young woman. I went for pizza all the time and didn’t think twice if I would ever walk out alive. Taking my life for granted was no longer an option. As my connection with Israel deepened, however, it dawned on me that the spark of loving Israel really didn’t begin that summer; it began when I was 12.

Seeds are planted

My parents, after becoming Baalei Teshuva and getting married in the Holy Land, had every intention of living in Israel. However, that was not what destiny ordered and instead they found themselves in Winnipeg, Canada, where I was born two years later in 1986. Two of each of their siblings lived in Israel (and still do, with 34 first cousins stemming from these four families!) and when I was a baby, too young to remember, we visited Israel. I have pictures of me, looking truly Israeli, walking in tall grass and on big rocks getting to know my homeland.

I did not experience Israel again until I was 10 and in 5th grade. I went for a week with my parents and I saw the Kotel, briefly met my cousins and ate a lot of pizza with olives- which was served on cardboard rectangles! That trip carries only good memories of awe and aspiration. However, the true love for Israel’s seeds were planted when I was 12. My parents knew they had to spend a summer (10 weeks minimum) in a children’s hospital called Kennedy Krieger in Baltimore for my special needs sister, and instead of bringing me along, they sent me to Israel for my Bat Mitzvah present. That summer, I experienced a feast of phenomenons in Israel.

I spent time with my ultra litvish cousins in Neve Yaakov, my super down to earth charedei cousins who lived in Telz Stone at the time (and who brought me camping by the Kineret for a week!), my hippy yet hard core Chasidish Amshonover cousins in Sanhedria Merchevet and my reform super relaxed and loving cousins in Haifa. The contrast was completely wild.

That was the summer of 1998 and I experienced another world I never knew existed! A world where I could travel myself on buses, go shopping at my cousins makolet and come back with bags filled with food by simply providing a ‘family number’. I traveled a bit as a tourist, but mostly just joined my cousin’s families as an additional child (10 children plus me in a 2 bedroom apartment!) and simply lived the life of an Israeli. I ate things I never dreamed of eating, connected with my spirituality in a way I never encountered and at the ripe old age of 12, I realized that Israeli children were more mature, more independent, and more free than I would ever be! It was a summer where I saw how different my upbringing was from my cousins but how much I adored and respected each of their chosen life styles and simply- how much I loved Israel! The language, food, culture, history, people, energy…all of it. The seeds were planted.

Ironically, I don’t see that summer as the transformative summer of me knowing, deep deep down, that Israel was the only place I could ever live. It was the beginning, yes, but it was the summer of meeting my friends in camp after 9th grade (2001) that the seeds began to bloom and blossom. Walking into tenth grade I knew, I just knew, Israel was the only home for the Jewish people and more specifically, for me.

“I seems to me, you did too Platypus!”

Throughout high school I yearned to visit Israel, but didn’t get there. I did become a devoted Israeli-want-to-be and awaited my day of aliyah. I bought myself an Israeli flag, wore Israeli clothes, wrote essays about making aliyah for the school newspaper, learned Israeli history and marched in the Israeli day parade with pride. Most importantly, I kept up with my friends who were in the Gush and Chevron and shared their struggles and did whatever I could to convey they were not alone; a girl their age in NY understood their struggles, even if she didn’t experience it herself. Between 2001-2004, while I was in high school, there were 127 suicide bombings- that is not including other kinds of terrorist attacks. My friends in Israel lived it and I lived it vicariously through them. The e-mails- oh the countless emails- that transpired between me and one of these dear friends! We poured out feelings and thoughts into these emails and I understood, through her raw words and feelings, that she was going to have lived a hundred lives by the time we graduated.

In 12th grade I finally had a Zionist class. The teacher was the famous R’ Chaim Wasserman. On the first day of class I went up to him and said that I would do the work assigned but that I didn’t intend on allowing any of his teachings to penetrate me at all. He asked why and I said, with chutzpah, “Because Rabbi- you’re a hypocrite. You sit here and preach about the importance of Israel while living in NJ!!”

After that conversation he called me platypus (I still don’t know why) and over the course of the year in his classroom I became the hypocrite because I soaked in his every word. After months of sitting in class with him I realized I respected him more than almost any other teacher I had. He understood why he had to live in NJ (he had a good reason!) but he yearned every single minute that he could live in Israel and didn’t live a day without praying he would get there soon. He eventually did make it and I found out years later by bumping into him at the shuk, literally. “Rabbi! You made it!” I yelled! He smiled, looked at me and said words I will never forget: “It seems to me, you did too platypus”.

In 12th grade, we had a GO Shabbaton and Saturday night we had a big dance party. At about 1 AM, 9th-11th grade students were told to go back to their rooms, but 12th grade was allowed to stay up. We sat around our beloved Rabbi and teacher, Rabbi Joe Oratz, and he played his guitar and told us stories. We were graduating in only a few months and he ended the night stating he had one very important message to give across. This was it. His last speech, his parting words — what did he want to give over? To respect one another? Not to get too attached to the internet? To stay in touch with teachers? No. His parting message that he told us was to hold dear in our hearts forever that we are all meant to be in Israel. “Try very very hard to live there…” were his words. I don’t know how many people from my 12th grade remember this talk, but I remember it like it was yesterday. It was if he was talking just to me, and in so many ways, I think I felt he was. After almost every terrorist attack in Israel in those four years of high school, while many of my classmates (not all) would continue their mundane days and go to volleyball practice, I would sit in his office and cry hot tears of pain and judge my classmates for not feeling the pain of Israel. He witnessed those tears and he believed me when I said: After seminary I am never coming back.

Gush Katif and Sem

And so it was, I left to seminary knowing I wasn’t going to come back home to live. I had planned to attend a Zionistic seminary, but once again- G-d knew better and conducted a few interesting and almost ironic situations that placed me in a seminary, not 100% by choice, that was not ultra-orthodox, but far from Zionistic. A few weeks before seminary started, I flew to Israel, the first time returning after 7 years. It was the summer before the expulsion of Gush Katif and the hostile energy was already in the air. My best friend from high school’s brother was marrying a girl from Netzer Chazani and I, having become very close with the family over my 4 years of high school, was treated like a sibling in the family. We spent days in Gush Katif getting to know the bride’s family and I remember the crabs on the beach, the green houses of peppers and most of all I remember thinking- it can’t be that this place will be shredded to dust. I stepped out of a world of “Gush Katif will live forever” fervor with dusty toes from my Israeli Naot sandals and stepped into a seminary that told me to put on socks. Seminary was a funny space to be in because I really did love my classes, and I made a very close friend for life, yet, I felt there was such a gap between my ideas and their teachings.

The few instances that stick out from that year was first, when I went to the principal of the school and said “If you don’t get a rabbi to get up there and talk to these girls about Gush Katif, then I will!”. He had Rabbi Zev Leff come in the next day to discuss the issues at length because G-d forbid I should be teaching the girls my hashkafas around the issue! I also remember being incredibly independent – like no one else in the school- as if I had always lived in Israel and knew I always would. I tremped (hitch-hiked) to Gush Etzion (to spend endless Shabbatot with my friends from camp and their families!), Gush Katif, up to Tzfat, down South, and continued wearing my Israeli garb (while maintaining their rules for dress on campus). To many of my sem-mates, I embodied Israeliness and when it got to Purim time, many of them asked to borrow my clothes so they can dress ‘Israeli’ for Purim.

Perhaps the most intense Israeli moment I felt all year was actually in Krakow, Poland. The school had brought the entire seminary (about 100 girls) to Poland for the Siyum Hashaas in Yeshivat Chachmei Lublin, and to Rabbi Elimelech of Lizhensk and Sarah Shneirer’s Kevarim (graves) in honor of both of their Yertzeits. However, it was the camps that struck me. I became silent for most of the trip and spent most of the 10 day journey in my own head and journaling. Witnessing the Holocaust up close and personal, standing in the gas chambers, walking through the barracks of Auschwitz, and seeing pieces of bones in the huge pile of ash at Majdanek, changed me forever. To say that it was a benchmark in my life would be an understatement. More than sadness, the main feeling I felt was pure unadulterated anger. I believed, and still do, there is no better revenge than to settle in Israel and raise a family on our Holy Land. I read and heard the stories of people who sat in the camps dreaming to reach Zion- and only three year later—THREE YEARS LATER— Israel became an independent state. That thought took over my whole body, brain, and soul and I thought: If that is not a sign from G-d then I don’t know what is. I left Poland knowing that if it could happen once, it could happen again. I knew right then and there I could never live anywhere beside Eretz Yisroel.

I had planned my year after seminary with every fine detail including getting the most incredible position for Sherut Leumi (national service) and of course…Aliyah. But man plans and G-d rolls over hysterically cracking up because that’s not what happened. For several important and non-negotiable reasons, I returned home that summer and told the Sherut Leumi position I would not be able to make it. After that summer, I returned to Israel for 6 months studying in Neve Yerushalayim and acquiring credits in Touro Israel but I left before I reached my ‘18 months within two years’ quota that would nullify my Israeli benefits for when I did make aliyah the following year. I knew I had to go home, and it was a choice to return to NY for a year and a half, but from the moment I got back, I started planning my Aliyah. I finished my BA with such calculation that when I found out I would be one credit short of graduating, which would push off my Aliyah, I signed up in a community college for the only 4 credit course I could find which was in Spanish (after taking French for three years in high school) and by miracles, I graduated in time. I also spent much needed time with my family and walked through some very difficult situations in that time including, but sadly not limited to, losing my beloved grandfather and helping my special needs sister adjust to a new group home.

I made aliyah August 2nd, 2007, aged 21, young, naive, broke, innocent, idealistic and very sure I was doing the right thing.

Young, brunet and broke

I came to Israel with a BA, very little in my bank account from my jobs in NY but with a lot of passion. I was greeted by my friends from camp and many other strangers who were my national family! I went to Ulpan, worked in a special needs nursery and got an apartment with girls I didn’t know. I made new friends, soaked up the Israeli culture, and soon began to date. I went out with one hippy, after the next hippy, after artist, after musician and even though I had the “hippy” thing going on, I couldn’t connect. I loved the teachings of my Rabbanit Yehudis Golshevsky, a Breslover whose classes I would attend weekly in Meah Shearim. Although I certainly wasn’t Charedei in my looks or behaviors, I felt connected to Breslov teachings.

I was soon set up with a Baal Teshuva from LA who was studying in a “Breslov-ish” Yeshiva, and only after realizing I had been set up with him twice before and both times turned him down because he was “too Chasidish”, I said yes. After all, it was just a date!

Here is where I will cut the story short and leave out many chapters. This part of the story is not only mine, it is his too, so I cannot tell it without his permission. What I will say is this: I would only date someone who wanted to live in Israel forever- and he told me he did.

Only ten months after I made Aliyah, I got married and less than a year after the wedding, I had a baby boy. We lived in Nachlaot, I was still hippy-ish, and he was Chasidish-ish, but for the most part, it worked. A few circumstances and months later, my husband told me he thought we should move back to the USA. I was shocked! He knew my attachment to Israel and he knew I would have never agreed to marry him if he hadn’t promised me our life would be in Israel! He tried to convince me it was the right thing and after many hours of him persuading me I told him I would only go back if a certain Rabbi told me I had to. I did not believe for a minute that once this rabbi, who I admired and respected, heard my story, would ever advise me to leave my beloved Israel. But I was wrong. He did advise me to go back and that was that. We sold our stuff, backed our bags, and I returned to my mother’s home with a husband and a 9 month old. I was broken. I was embarrassed because everyone knew my beliefs around living in Israel- and it had been such a big deal when I made Aliyah, that to come back less than two years later was the epitome of shame for me. However, I had no choice. Again cutting out much of the story, we ended up living in Monsey for a year and a half, about two miles from my my mother’s home, and another year in Far Rockaway. While I was in NY I had three amazing jobs and I got my Masters in Special-Ed from Pace University. The entire time we were in NY, with a membership to Costco, a new leased car, family nearby and good paying jobs, I yearned to go home.

One day, I couldn’t take it anymore. I told my husband that I felt like since we left Israel I had taken a deep breath and that I had been holding in my breath for a year and a half. I needed to go back home. He agreed after getting accepted to an MBA program in Bar Ilon, and pregnant with my second, we returned to Israel.

For the next two years, I became part of a Breslov community. My husband became full fledged Chasidush, Shtreimel and all, and I being a “faithful” wife, went along with it. I had another boy and we lived in Maalot Dafna for a short time, then Arzei Habira for two years and then Beis Yisroel, on the edge of Meah Shearim. My love for Israel was still on fire, but I truly felt trapped in a world I knew I didn’t belong in. One day I woke up in our apartment on the streets of Beis Yisrael, surrounded by women who wore burkas, and a sign on every door saying that anyone who had the internet didn’t have shechinah (G-d’s holiness) in their home, and I realized: I wasn’t where I wanted to be. My 4 year old at the time had thick Chasidish payot and was going to a Yiddish school, I felt alienated from my friends and family, and although I was so happy to have returned to Israel, this was not the part of the country I felt connected with and these weren’t the people I felt comfortable around.

Obviously, this is not the only narrative of my ultimate divorce, but it did play a part in the story. My oldest was 4, and my youngest was 8 months, when we seperated. In May 2014, I got my get, soon after I had moved to Ramot with my kids. For a year and half, I recreated myself and began the journey of finding who I had lost.

Identity

For so many years I had identified as an Israeli-want-to-be, then I became Israeli, and for so long I felt strongly connected to the Dati Leumi sector, but G-d had walked me down a different path and when I exited the world of Chasidim, I wanted to re-enter my old life. I never went “beneath” where I had started, but I did return to where I had began. To many, that seemed like I was going backwards. To me and G-d, I was just returning to myself. I had to suddenly make decisions where to live, where to send my kids to school, what they should wear, how should I dress and I had to do all of this while maintaining some sort of non-traumatic equilibrium to my children’s live. In Ramot, I found myself living in what can only be seen as a shaped enclave of a G-d orchestrated community. I chose Ramot to be near my cousins and ¾ Shabbatot, we ate by them. I found an apartment that was in a Charedei community, but within it, there were about 100 families within two major blocks that were entirely Dati Leumi. These families had been there for years and at the center of these two roads that were designed as a circle (Nerot Shabbat and Daf Yomi) was a dwindling yet Dati Leumi Shul. In Israel it is almost impossible to find a place where the Charedei and Dati Leumi worlds meet, face to face, a few feet away from each other– especially in Jerusalem. But G-d had found me this apartment, and placed me there without my having done much research, and suddenly I found myself in a Charedei community with a Dati Leumi nucleus. It was perfect. I became very close with my next door neighbors who looked like they belonged in the Gush- and over the next year and a half I found myself.

It is a known story that when Michelangelo was asked how he made David he said: David was there all along, I had to just chip away what was not David. That is how I would describe those two years. I still had a burning desire to live in Israel but without money, without my family and with a lot of heartache, I could have easily gone back to my mother and raised my kids with her help. There, I would have support. There, I would get a good job. There, I would live a good life. But as I sculpted away what wasn’t Sarah and re-found the person that was there all along, I realized, I needed to stay. After healing in Ramot for almost two years and thinking about what the next right move was for me and the kids- something amazing happened.

I had a friend that I had made on a divorce Facebook group. Her name was also Sara and she was getting remarried! I knew she lived in Alon Shvut and I had seen her backyard in pictures and always felt very jealous of her ability to live in the Gush. I had numerous friends in the Gush area and my two friends back from those camp years lived in the Gush with their husbands and children. She said: “Sarah, take my apartment when I get married”. I said: “Sara, I can’t just move to Alon Shvut.”

Well, with the blessing and guidance from some people I admire most in my life, I made the decision to buy a second hand car and move to Alon Shvut- not knowing anyone in the neighborhood itself. My younger son was placed in a Dati Leumi Gan, and my older son, because he was coming from a Chassidish school (I had kept him there for consistency until I knew what the next right step was), I put him in the Bat Ayin Talmud Torah which had a Chasidish-ish feeling to it- although by no means Charedei.

In the Gush, and more specifically in Alon Shvut, I have found my Israel. I have found my place that I feel I belong. I love the scenery, the people, and mostly I love the balance of Hashkafas that fit me so strongly.

My Turn

In my year and a half since I have lived here, I have literally burst into tears- at the most random times and random places- from different scenes in the community. I am part of the most incredible neighborhood where I have made some incredible friends I love deeply. I have received help from Rabbanim, friends, the City Counsel and so many other “shlichim” (messengers) from different organizations in the area. I have read books such as, “Like Dreamers” and “Prime Ministers” and “Out of the Depth” which has only deepened my love for this land- especially the Gush. I live 20 minutes away from Maarat Hamachpela and 15 minutes away from Kever Rochel- a place I try to get to often. I stand each morning by the bus stop of Tzomet Hagush where many terrorist attacks have taken place. My backyard has the fence of the Yeshuv and I look out onto an Arab field. My landlord, whom I have come to love dearly, lost her daughter and son in law in a terrorist attack in 1996 when they were shot dead as they were driving home from Beit Shemesh in their car. The young couple left two infants (who now in their 20’s have built me a Sukkah two years in a row) and who were raised by my landlord and her late husband, who was tragically killed in a car accident in 2011.

Last year, only a few months after I moved here, there was a terrorist attack on the Armon Hanatziv Promenade in Jerusalem. Four soldiers were killed and 16 were injured when a terrorist plowed a truck into a group of soldiers. One of those killed was Erez Orbach Hy’d from Alon Shvut.

The Friday after the murder, I went to my neighbor whom I did not know, to pay a Shiva call for her son. I thought: So many years I watched my friends in the Gush attend their neighbor’s funerals and shivas and now that I am here, I will do the same. I walked in trembling and saw many officials and dignitaries sitting with the bereaved mother. I stood on the side and watched, and just when I was wondering if should go up to her or leave, I saw a woman, who is in her 70’s, that I had recently taken a 2 month workshop with. She had driven me home a few times and I kept minimally in touch with her after the course had finished. She and her husband were elderly and they lived in Rechavia. I saw her standing there on the side, and I walked up to her and said, “Mimi- what on earth are you doing here?” With eyes filled with tears she looked at me and said, “Erez is my grandson”. What would have been a 10 minute shiva call turned into over an hour and I sat with her and cried and cried.

I no longer yearn from afar. I am here. I don’t have to live vicariously through my friends, because I am their neighbors. I don’t need to judge anyone for not feeling the way I do when there is a terrorist attack, because everyone around me feels the same way. I do not have to be envious of Costco, American salaries or even my friends owned homes and minivans in America. Not only can I get Kirkland products at Osher Ad, I also make a fine salary (albeit Israeli standards), I have a car and I am perfectly fine renting my small apartment. The point is- I live in Israel. I look outside each morning and breath in the air of the “Etzion Bloc” as Gush Etzion was once called, and I thank G-d, from the depth of my heart, for the privilege and honor of living in this holy holy land. I feel nothing but privilege and honor.

Looking back

I lived in 9 different places in Israel since I made Aliyah: Rechavia, Shaarei Chesed, Talbia, Nachlaot, Maalot Dafna, Arzei Habira, Beis Yisroel, Ramot and Alon Shvut…. But home is anywhere in Israel. I have worked in a myriad of jobs working with all kinds of different people- culturally and religiously. I’ve seen all sides of Israeli shapes, sizes, colors, and types…from the inside view. I’ve seen Israel at its worse regarding politics, bureaucracy and of course, the horrible reality of terrorism. I have fought for myself, my children and my nation in public and private all (well, mostly) in Hebrew. I have had to stand in court rooms, ministries, interviews, and forums and answer the question: Why are you here? So many times, and in very difficult times, I was asked, questioned, or semi convinced I was doing the wrong thing by staying here. But I ask you, what was my choice? To live someone else’s life in America while slowly dying from holding in my breath? Or live my life in my own country?

I will end this saga with one story. I am a strong believer in G-d talking to us. To anyone who states that G-d does not converse with His people, and articulately too, I laugh.

Minutes after receiving my get, I was told to wait outside of the courtroom for a few moments and wait for the official document, ironically called a Ketubah. I walked outside and not wanting to make eye contact with anyone around me, I looked at my phone and I had one message from “Gett” and the message stated: “Got Gett? Great!” The message was from the Gett Taxi app but clearly, that was a text message from G-d and Him congratulating me in what was ultimately the right decision and one of the best decisions I ever made. The same goes for living in the Gush. I met two young ladies at age 14 in camp and through so many years of emails and phone calls, they slowly slowly dripped an IV into my system– an IV of “Israel– drip drip–only Israel- drip drip”. Although I am forever indebted to these friends, and of course when I’m having a hard day due to the crazyisms of this country, I always have the liberty to blame them that it’s all their fault that I am here…I truly believe they were shlichim from G-d. G-d spoke to me through these friends. He spoke to me through their emails, through their stories and he kept speaking to me through their mouths. I know that I live here because G-d wanted me to and because He told me so- for year and years! When I look back on those emails- which I have printed and still have- I see G-d speaking to me like the text from Gett.

I have no doubt that there are people who can’t live here for whatever reasons. I also know that many people who make Aliyah have a very difficult time making it here. I am not saying everyone feels the clarity I have and for some, they really do believe the right thing is to not be here. I used to believe everyone should live in Israel, that everyone should pick up and move today! Yesterday! Now, I have matured and see things differently. But there is one thing I know for sure: there is no excuse in the world, no reason in the universe, that a person shouldn’t yearn to be here with all their heart every day. This is our home. If you can’t be here- I understand. G-d understands. But don’t ever stop wanting to be here- even if it doesn’t feel 100% authentic. Sometimes the act of wanting can create magic.

What I am writing today is my story of Aliyah and finding myself in Israel. This is not a discourse on the halachot and hashkafot of living in Israel- I will leave that to the big people who have given many Drashot and have written many books describing the importance of living in the Holy Land. But I will say this: as scary as you might think it is here, it is a lot scarier to be anywhere else. And as hard as the challenges might be here, the merit is just that much more greater. And to anyone who feels they can’t, they just can’t, remember: Eretz Yisroel is your eternal home and when you can, if you can, when you can, I, along with your nation, will stand with hands wide open ready to hug you upon your arrival. Just let us know your date of Aliyah so we can be ready to greet you!


My backyard


My kids riding horses next to Alon Shvut.

About the Author
Sarah Nathan made Aliyah in 2007 from NY- single and passionate. She has two kids and lives in Jerusalem.
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