To Make Aliyah or Not to Make Aliyah

Those who really know me know that I’ve wanted to make Aliyah since I was a teenager, yet, for one reason or another, something always got in the way.  After spending a gap year in Israel, I wanted to pursue my degree in Israel, but my parents, at that time, wanted me to complete my degree in America.  I was not financially able to make Aliyah at that point, despite having been accepted into Hebrew University.  Without my parents’ financial backing, Aliyah was not a possibility.  Those were the days before Nefesh b’Nefesh. Following college, I got married, had kids, and became ensconced within American life.  My husband has never wanted to make Aliyah.  One of my children does not want to make Aliyah.  My parents do not want to make Aliyah, and they are getting older.  My brother made Aliyah as a single man and met his wife in Israel.  They began their married life in Israel.  Hindsight is always 20/20–I probably should have made Aliyah when he did, except by that point, I had already married and had my first child.  So I’ve been stuck in America for over 30 years.

In the beginning, I consoled myself by telling myself that building a good, Jewish home was just as important as making Aliyah; and my husband and I were committed to raising our children to be responsible, compassionate, and committed Jews.  I consoled myself by thinking that I would instill a love for Israel in my children so that they would one day make Aliyah, even if I could not.  I consoled myself by telling myself that great tzaddikim like Rav Moshe Feinstein and the Lubavicher Rebbe never made Aliyah.  I consoled myself by inviting as many Israelis into my home as possible, hosting shlichim (emissaries), Israeli tourists, and missions from Israel so that my children would be exposed to Israelis and Hebrew.  I’ve befriended most of the Israeli ex-pats in town and try to speak Hebrew to them as much as is humanly possible, given my crazy schedule.  However, no matter what I tell myself or what I do to make my failure to move to Israel more palatable, it is not enough.  My heart is there.  My body should be too.

So here I am, trying my best to make Aliyah plans without my husband, who doesn’t want to go and couldn’t go, even if he wanted to, because he is tied to the NYC Board of Education until he receives his pension.  I’m making Aliyah plans, despite one of my children not wanting to live in Israel.  I’m making Aliyah plans, despite the fact that I’m the only child who is living near her parents, and those parents are getting older with an increasing number of medical issues.  And I have to wonder, for all of my efforts to learn as much about Israel, Hebrew, and Aliyah as possible, will I actually be able to turn my plans into a reality this time around?  My plans are not for now–they are for 3.5 years from now, when my daughter graduates from high school.  She will want to spend a gap year in Israel, like her friends, and I hope to finally make Aliyah then.  I’d be going without my husband, who would only be able to visit during his school breaks and the summer.  I don’t know if my sons will be living in Israel by that point.  I don’t know if my parents will be healthy enough to live on their own without my presence (as B”H they are at present).  I don’t know if I’ll even have the money necessary to make Aliyah, because despite all the propaganda about making Aliyah and “living one’s dream,” Aliyah takes a LOT of money.  I have to worry about selling my home, finding a place for my husband (and possibly my sons) to live, ensuring my parents are safe and healthy, and finding a job in Israel.  I have to worry about finding an oncologist in Israel who will follow me, as well as an orthopedist and a gastroenterologist who will help me with my own medical issues.  I will need to deal with the entire slew of Aliyah-related bureaucratic difficulties myself.  Yes, I have a good support system in Israel–between my brother and his family and my huge number of friends and family members who are already there– but when push comes to shove, no one can really help with these sorts of things–not even Nefesh b’Nefesh.

I’m scared.  I want to be in Israel more than anything, because I believe it is a mitzvah d’oraita (Torah explicit commandment) to make Aliyah.  I love Israel with all my heart and soul.  I love being among my own nation and not being a minority.  I love not having to explain to people why I dress the way I dress; why I behave the way I behave; why I’m so different from the non-Jews who surround me.  But I’m still scared.  I am scared of not being able to deal with the heat of Israeli summers.  I’m scared that my health issues will not be taken care of properly.  I’m scared that I won’t be able to deal effectively with finding a home and a job and making ends meet.  I’m scared of leaving my husband and my kids and my community and my parents.  I’m scared of the whole process of Aliyah that, despite what anyone says, is rather overwhelming, even for someone like myself.  I’m scared my Hebrew is not up to snuff, although I am fairly fluent in conversational Hebrew.  I’m scared I won’t be able to understand people when they speak to me in Hebrew a mile a minute.  I’m scared of not knowing where to find the best deals on groceries and household items.  I’m scared of not being able to cook/bake healthily because I’m not familiar with the ingredients available in Israel, which are so different from those here in America.  There are so many little, seemingly trivial issues of which I’m scared.  Yet, I still want to make Aliyah, and I’m still making plans.  I trust that G-d will help me do the right thing at the right time.  He, at least, does not make mistakes.

May it be G-d’s will that I settle in Eretz Yisrael, my home, in happiness and health; with success and abundance; with safety and security; and finally, with love and the confidence I need to make Aliyah a reality.

About the Author
Jessica Savitt is a member of the Orthodox Jewish community in Elizabeth, NJ. She is a secular studies teacher in a Jewish high school and has been so for the last 18 years. She teaches English, biology, or chemistry, depending on the needs of the school and the year. She is also a cancer survivor who has learned what is truly important in life, as well as the value of time. She has wanted to make aliyah since she was a teenager, and is still in the process of making plans to finally come, but I also know how many difficulties there are that prevent an American Jew from taking that step to come to Israel. Her brother and many other family members already live in Israel, and she has hosted shlichim many times here. We make it a point to host as many Israelis as possible. She has many friends in Israel, and her son is currently completing his high school studies in the Naaleh program at Sha'alvim. She tries to travel to Israel at least once a year, as finances permit. While she is an American Jew by birth, Jessica's home has always been Israel.
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