When did you make Aliyah?
I made Aliyah in 2019. I have distant family in Israel, but I had no immediate family when I made Aliyah. Now my brother is in his second year of yeshiva here, and it’s been great having him close!
What made you decide to make Aliyah?
There was no other place I could see myself living long-term. I wasn’t raised to live in the U.S. long-term. My family is originally from Panama, and I always felt more connected to Panama and Israel than I did living in the United States. My decision to make Aliyah now was more gradual. There wasn’t really a specific moment when I decided that I would make Aliyah. I would visit Israel on different trips and look outside the bus window, and I would feel this strong pull seeing the land. I would try to live life here as a day-to-day Israeli instead of just as a tourist. I would take public transport, go grocery shopping at the local store, anything I could to learn the culture here. The more I did this, the more I fell in love with Israel and the thought of being an Israeli.
How was making Aliyah by yourself?
Making Aliyah alone is definitely hard and not for everyone. After COVID hit, I questioned myself if I would have still made Aliyah then. I made Aliyah thinking I could go back and visit my family whenever I want. It makes whenever I do see them that much more meaningful.
Did you do Sherut Leumi?
I’m now in my second year of Sherut Leumi. It’s great; it really helped me learn Hebrew and integrate into Israeli society. In my first year, I worked in Shaarei Tzedek in an oral surgery department as a bat sherut. During my second year, I work for Gush Etzion Tourism, an amuta (non-profit). Here I assist with organizing tours, taking charge of project development, and marketing campaigns.
How did you decide in which community to live?
During Sherut Leumi, you live where you work. Living in Gush Etzion this year has made me really love living in Yehuda & Shomron. Everyone is so nice and friendly. I’ll be going to Ariel University after I complete my service. After that, I’d like to live somewhere with a suburban feel like Efrat.
What will you study at Ariel University?
I’ll be doing a dual major studying Political Science and Middle Eastern Studies. I had to get a letter from Misrad Hachinuch (Ministry of Education) granting me permission to use my High school credits, so I don’t have to do the bagrut (high school matriculation exam). Some universities require psychometry, and others allow you to take the SAT or ACT.
How is your Aliyah experience going so far?
So far, it’s going pretty well. There’s definitely stuff that hits you at different times. Things you have to deal with at different stages of life. For example, now I have some exceptions for being Sherut Leumi. I don’t have to look for a place to live, and I get discounts on some things. After Sherut Leumi ends, there will be more responsibility. It’s a journey. Your struggles don’t end after the plane. It gets easier the longer you’re here. It’s hard with the pandemic, but I’m so grateful to be in Israel during this time.
How did you make friends after making Aliyah?
I had a lot of friends in Israel already. I also made a lot of friends through mutual friends and through Sherut Leumi. During my first year, my apartment building was full of other olim. Now, I mainly live with Israelis. I have a nice mix of Anglo and Israeli friends who are very supportive.
Do you have any tips for someone who is considering making Aliyah?
Make sure you have as much integration as possible. Surround yourself with Hebrew, and find your place in Israeli culture so that you don’t feel like a foreigner. This can also help you make friends and have more support, feel more connected to the land. The more integrated you are, the more likely you’ll have a successful Aliyah.
You can follow Frieda’s blog at https://lonestarneshama.wordpress.com/