With Pesach just around the corner, I remember having an epiphany four years ago that has forever changed the course of my life. At the end of the seder, we always say “Next year in Jerusalem!” But on that night, I began to wonder why we often say this phrase without any real intent. Almost as if the chances of it happening are the same as opening the door and Eliyahu is standing there waiting to be invited inside. Is living in Israel really such a crazy idea? Before I would have answered this question with a resounding YES. It’s on the other side of the world. It’s in the Middle East. I could barely speak any Hebrew. It’s expensive to move. It’s expensive to live there. It’s a different culture. I didn’t have any family, or even any friends living there. Then of course there’s the propensity of the media to portray Israel as being in a constant state of war with terror attacks happening left and right. In short, it was a great unknown, one with a lot of risk and next to no support system in place. For these reasons I never even considered Aliyah until after my first year of college.
So what had made this night, in this year different from all other nights? A couple of months prior, my family had watched the JerusalemU documentary “Beneath the Helmet” (https://beneaththehelmet.jerusalemu.org/). After viewing it, my brother decided he wanted to join the IDF as a lone soldier or chayal boded. At first we thought he was just going through a phase, and he would decide to do something else after graduating high school. When we realized he was serious, we immediately started to panic about everything ranging from from his safety to where would he do his laundry. This prompted a lot of research online and reaching out to others who had also served in the IDF to hear about their experiences. With all of this going on, the natural progression then inevitably led to the realization that it’s not impossible nor is it crazy to move to Israel (well okay, you may have to be a little crazy).
Then my best friend from high school returned to Dallas after having spent a year in Israel studying in seminary. After catching up, she told me she had decided she wanted to make Aliyah. I couldn’t believe it, we were both coming to the same conclusion about where we wanted to live out our lives. She returned to Israel as soon as she was approved. I decided to wait until after I finished university, and as a result I was able to learn from her experience. So now I had someone living in Israel that I knew, a brother about to join the army, and familiarity with the Aliyah process. I decided it was also time for me to prepare to make Aliyah, to make the dream MY reality. The next step would be to visit Israel and see it for myself….