Sunday, July 16, 2017

My Friend Made Aliyah

I couldn't think of a flashier title, because the one I chose is so full of emotion, I didn't want to mess with it. Last week, a close friend of mine names Ariella made Aliyah, and it was just about the most exciting thing I could imagine. As I celebrated 3 years here on July 1, I thought of the changes in my life that have happened in that time. Nothing huge. No wedding, no babies, not elected to Knesset (yet). And as of today, I'm still Jordana IN Jerusalem! So what, really, is the big deal about 3 years here? 

Everything.

At three years, I have watched my ulpan and Aliyah friends decide that Israel wasn't for them, and leave. I have seen more people come to Israel to try and make it their home too. I have seen holidays and festivals, birthday parties and smachot. I have been to concerts and funerals, I have seen babies born here, and witnessed pretty much every Jewish life cycle event after that. Three years in the scheme of a lifetime is short, but it is enough time to outgrow my Aliyah "honeymoon phase" and the sparkly title of "olah chadasha" (new immigrant.) 

Although I probably still am a new immigrant, most days I feel completely at home, in a way I never did living in New York for decades. I walk the streets here or traverse the country in the knowledge that these are my streets and this landscape is my own. I never feel like I'm visiting, like this is a stop on my journey. I consider myself unendingly blessed to feel that this was truly my destination.

So when I tell you that my friend making Aliyah was one of the most exciting things to happen, it's not hyperbole. Let's not kid ourselves, life is hard sometimes and moving to a whole new country and culture will be tough (we've talked about this here and here) but the only consistent bummer is being away from family and close friends. I pray regularly that my family will join me here, but it doesn't seem to be on the horizon. And although sporadic visits from family members and my yearly pilgrimage back to NYC are great, they will never be a substitute for living near family. So when a close friend like Ariella told me a few months back that she was going to make Aliyah, I was elated!

Not to get into the back-and-forth about how Aliyah should be EVERY Jew's ultimate goal (because I don't want to argue with you) but the idea that someone I love, in a similar social situation, with a similar background and the same attachment to her family was making Aliyah just like I did was extremely validating and exciting. She would ask logistical questions and always preface or end conversations with "sorry to bother" and I would respond "this is no bother! I wish I could have this conversation with every one of my friends! I'm so proud of you!"
Some Israelis riding the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv bus!

So when she finally made Aliyah last week, it hit me harder than I thought. It was my friend, taking a huge step and hopefully succeeding in building an amazing new life in Israel, of course. But it was also seeing someone else, realizing a 3,000 year long dream, leaving the diaspora to come home and showing everyone back in America that this is the goal we should ALL have, we should ALL strive to achieve. 

This is what 3 years has taught me. It has been HARD and it has been wonderful. It has been LONG and it has gone by in a blink. It has been LONELY at times, but I have made new soul connections. It has been DIFFERENT to what I expected and so much more. And it has showed me, an American from New York with a tiny bit of jappiness, that there is more to life than Target and Bagels and Co. and that a new goal in my life is to help my friends and family come home- to Israel.

And when that time comes, I will tell you everything you'll need to know. I'll stay on the phone with you as long as you want, answer all your questions. I'll calm you down and build you up. I'll sit with you in Misrad Hapnim and give you the name of a great manicurist/real estate agent/pediatrician/handyman. I will do whatever it takes to have you here with me and Ariella and the rest of your Jewish brothers and sisters. 

I promise!