I’ve submitted my Nefesh B’Nefesh application about thirty seconds ago. Things just got real.
I decided to start a blog where I go through everything about my aliyah: the good, the bad, and the ugly. And I’m sure there will be a whole lot of all three.
First, I want you to learn a bit about me. I’m 25, single, and finishing graduate school in May. My goal is to make aliyah within three months of finishing grad school. There is presently nothing tying me down – no spouse, no kids, no job, no debt. I would have to start a life from scratch anyway, so it might as well be in the country my heart feels a pull towards. If I never try, I’ll never know. So “carpe diem” is the operative phrase here.
1. My heart made aliyah first
Before I submitted my application, I wanted to make sure it was really for me. For the past year or so, my heart had already withdrawn from Canada and the U.S. I felt more in tune with the Israeli people than my own, in a way that nobody really understood. The more I found out about Zionism and the justice behind it, the more my resolve to live in my people’s homeland strengthened. And besides, it’s not like I’m signing a contract – I could go home whenever I want if I end up deciding this wasn’t for me.
2. Went on an organized trip, then explored on my own
In July 2015, I wanted to see what I would be getting myself into. I went on Birthright. I wanted to learn more about this beautiful country, and see every part of it that I could. I visited Zichron Yaakov, Pki’in, Carmiel, the Jordan River, Tel Aviv, the Judean Desert, Masada, Ein Gedi, Netanya, Jerusalem, Kiryat Shmona, Tel Dan, Tzefat, Herzilya and Modi’in. I visited suburbs, cities, rural areas, desert, and everything in between. But the most important part of my trip was my extension, when I backpacked Israel by myself. That’s when I truly realized that I was among family, even if I had no blood relatives in Israel.
3. Got a proxy position at an Israeli company
In August, I accepted a part time position working for an Israeli company that may or may not pan out next year in Israel when I move. The part-time offer is almost guaranteed if the company has the funds, but I want full time work, so I might turn it down if I can’t find another part-time position that would allow me to make ends meet.
4. Pilot trip: Live like an Israeli and Network, Network, Network!
In January, I came back. I went through some employee training at my company, and made sure to truly live the life of an Israeli. I stayed with 6 Israeli families: A Tzabar who is a third generation Israeli, a disabled IDF veteran and my best friend, in Tel Aviv; another Tzabar novelist, socialite, and beauty queen who lives and works as a teacher in Herzilya; a woman who made Aliyah with nothing 30 years ago from Los Angeles and has since married and raised kids in Modi’in; a new olah in her early thirties who showed me a night on the town in urban Jerusalem, and a couple that moved here a year and a half ago, just welcomed a new baby, and lives in Modi’in. I stayed with Israelis of varying levels of religiosity, social classes, immigrant status, urban/suburban/rural, and marital status. It truly was a blessing to see Israel in its diversity. I tried my way around living as an Israeli, using public transportation, speaking Hebrew, and just generally getting by despite a lot of things not going as I had planned. I also networked with some amazing people in my field. I had passed the test, and decided to seriously consider Aliyah when I graduate this year.
5. Join a Facebook Group for New Olim
In February, I joined a little group on Facebook called KeepOlim. The goal of this group is to provide a support network for immigrants to Israel from abroad. You see every kind of story – people who think it’s the Garden of Eden and people who think it’s a garbage dump, and everyone in between. To be honest, I held off submitting my application when I first saw that group, as there were many people there who were utterly miserable. People who called it a “third world country,” said it was “filthy and riddled with dog poop,” that the people were “rude and disrespectful.” I still think I’m a bit out of my mind for still submitting after reading some of the horror stories on that site, but I also realized that there are people like that in New York too, and that asshats will be asshats whether they live in New York or Tel Aviv or Rishon Le’Tzion. Through this group, I made a ton of friends, men and women around my age who were in the same boat a year or two ago, who offered to take me under their wing. The amount of kindness and openness I saw in this group, despite the negativity from some people, affirmed my decision to make aliyah. People who make aliyah at my age tend to be a certain kind of crazy: my kind of crazy.
So here I am. I bit the bullet, and submitted the application. And you get to see what happens next!
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