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Sitting in 2nd Ave Deli with Seth and Erin the night before my Nefesh B’ Nefesh flight, my brother asks me if I am “nervous about anything.” Sitting in defiance to my outward excitement, my savings account of tears gets the best of me. The emotional outpouring of my insecurities flood onto the restaurant table. The comfort of my family hugs my soul with love and soon enough I am at the El Al check in counter, surrounded by three hundred future Israeli citizens about to board the 50th NBN aliyah flight.
Next is the sending off ceremony jittering next to Emma who articulates the perfect advice- ask for help, Talya. The swarm of Olim (immigrants) creates a bubble bee buzz that lifts me off my feet and twirls me in a breeze of a surreal reality. I am not there in my body in JFK, I am still at the beach in San Diego, still with my Grandma two nights earlier, still in Jerusalem at seminary; still dazed that the fragile possibility that I have been caressing is indeed transforming into the reality of my Israeli identity. The nine hour flight of excitement and story sharing, of unity and song singing, of nerves and socializing; culminates in my head during my Shacharit conversation with Hashem. I pray for everyone on the flight; to overcome challenges and receive some divine assistance. I look around at the those that are helping each other put on tefillin, embracing the mitzvah within the larger mitzvah and I smile out at the sunrise glistening through the windows.
The pilot’s announcement welcomes us Olim Chadashim home and my private press photographer Ofir captures the Led Zeppelin moment walking down the stairs. Unreal only captures the feeling to an extent, but what I can break down of my sleepy nervousness offers me a distant understanding of what occurred. I recognize in awe the tremendous support I felt from my Midreshet people, my friends and my family greeting me at the welcoming ceremony. The dreamlike connection to the excitement of being home falls buried under the stones of anxiety raining down in anticipation of the next 3 days of my entirely Hebrew seminar and the isolation of not joining the IDF with all 125 heroes my age. My body trembles in doubts and aches of the unknown waving hello.
But the scariest thing about making Aliyah is when it all just works out. When I drag my bags over to a group of Israelis and introduce myself to be greeted with amazement and when my jet lagged brain can translate the world, it just makes me take a step back. When I stare at the Israeli identification card and open my Israeli bank account and find myself with my health insurance card and make my way over to Sherut Leumi office, capable of all the tangible achievements; I find myself confused of the ease of it all. I don’t deserve for all the Israelis I live with to be so incredibly embracing, for my job in Sherut Leumi to make me feel high with fulfillment and for all the puzzle pieces to fit together so perfectly.
Taking my three steps back before entering one-on-one time with Hashem centers me in front of the king that has given me so much attention. My fear of not appreciating the gifts to the extent that they deserve strikes me as the answering of my tefillah in my initial isolation from the normative Aliyah path on my flight. I now realize that the attention I asked for scares me more that the situation that beckoned the request.
Strutting around Yerushalayim (Jerusalem) with the announcement that I live in Israel playing on repeat in my head, my surroundings emulate my new found possession of my land. In America, I didn’t realize the extent of how much I missed the land and oh, the hills… Transfixed staring out the window, like a partner mesmerized by a lover, I can’t tear myself away.
During the Sherut Leumi seminar, a presentation included a moment about aliyah, probably something about Ethiopian Olim, but a few girls sitting next to me gave me that look that brought tears to my exhausted eyes. I’m here. I’ve made it. Later that day our teacher for the group of us entering a year of special education expresses the significance of our service as a representative of Am Yisrael. I am not here simply as Talya, but Talya of Am Yisrael, serving my people in the large scale of my nation, training me to become an active member of the community that I am blessed to be born into.
I sit at the Hebrew speaking Shabbat table, unable to understand the general conversation but somehow I feel at home. Lucky Talya wakes up with a support system of the other banot sherut (girls doing national service with me) and stand in mutual admiration of the other’s life. They might call me brave but I strive to emulate them. Slowly my Hebrew vocabulary fills that little blue notebook of new words I come across, and the normality of my life in Israel fits me way too naturally.
I take those three steps back and think about what more to request. Dumbfounded, I cry that the mazel (luck) bestowed upon me reaches out to others. I quiver in trepidation, humbled by the phenomenons of the past month and stand freaked out in the most wonderful way.