Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Making The Jump

Well before I was born, my father, a couple of years removed from his many years at Telshe Yeshiva and Ner Israel Rabbinical College, spent some time on a kibbutz picking oranges. A few years later, he and my mother went on a short pilot trip to Israel to see about making aliyah, but determined it was not feasible at that time. At around the same time, both of my father's siblings made aliyah - his sister and her husband packed up their three kids and ended up in Petach Tikva, and his brother and his wife packed up their three kids and ended up in Sanhedriya Murchevet in Jerusalem.

Over the years, it seemed as if all of my parents' friends, relatives, and mentors would make aliyah or lived in Israel. R' Schubert Spero was the rav of the Young Israel of Cleveland, and made the move around 1980, if I'm not mistaken; he was joined by countless other Clevelanders who ended up in places such as Harnof, Efrat, and many other areas throughout the country. Cousins of ours made the move: Romberg, Rock, Weisberg, Weisberg, Weisberg... Friends: Sukenik, Zivotofsky, Reich, Jacobson, Becker, May, Neustadter, Spero... the list was endless. When I got to Israel, I had over 40 places I could feel comfortable calling up and asking to come visit, and surely many more that I could have if I'd wished.

My two years in Israel were amazing ones for me, but hard ones for the country. It was 2001-2003, and the intifada was at its worst. But even with all of that, there was *something* about being there that was indescribably incredible, and partway through my first year there, I told my parents I'd be staying a second year. I still remember the flight back to the United States at the end of that first year - I found myself literally shaking at the prospect of leaving the country, tempered only by the knowledge that two months or so later I would be returning. In the middle of my second year there, I started speaking to a lot of the friends and relatives there about the idea of attending Bar-Ilan instead of returning to the United States. After a little investigation and understanding the feasibility of it, it was still suggested to me - unanimously, I should add - by all of the people who had made aliyah that I should first get my degree, get married, and work a number of years in the US while saving up money before doing so. That if I wanted to make aliyah and stay, the best path for me was to actually spend some time away from Israel. That the hardships involved were something I'd be far better prepared to handle - even with all the advice and assistance I could get from all of them - a little further down the road. Oh, and make sure to marry someone who is serious about moving as well, or it won't happen. So far, we're doing pretty well on that plan.

But it's because of all of that that I couldn't help but really love and appreciate this post by the Apple.
Living in Jerusalem for those two weeks was the closest I've ever come to truly feeling like Israel could be a permanent home for me in all the time I had spent in Jerusalem thus far. One day, while I was walking down King George towards home, a chill ran through me and gave me goosebumps that were quite unconnected to the blazing heat of the day. My goosebumps were the result of the awesome, spine-tingling, tearfully exciting feeling that I experienced at that moment of a simple and incredible love of the place I was standing in. I need to be here, I thought to myself. I love this city. I love this country. This will be my home.

I do have concerns, though. I know that day-to-day survival in Israel is based on more than an overwhelming and abiding love of the land. I am not afraid of the bureaucracy that everyone loves to hate, or going food shopping, or speaking in Hebrew every day. What I am afraid of is not finding a job that gives me enough satisfaction so that I won't regret having left family and better job opportunities (and with that, more ways to support and build a family) in America. I'm afraid of the loneliness that will come from moving away from all my family and most of my friends. Those things aren't small concerns - they're big ones, and for that reason, making aliyah after graduation isn't a cut-and-dried plan just yet. There are lots and lots of details to consider and people to talk to and network with before I can really, truly commit to this.
Read the whole thing.