Tomorrow, I make aliyah. The next day, I become an Israeli citizen. And the day after that, I begin my life in Israel.
Nervous? Definitely. Excited? To say the least. Ready? As much as I’ll ever be!
It took two whole weeks to pack. I began by piling all my belongings onto my ping-pong table; and when everything I owned was stacked into a pile, I stopped, stood in front of it all, and stared.
This was the sum total of my things in one large mass, everything physical that defines my life. It was difficult to transfer everything into the suitcases, knowing it all would soon be leaving my home in which I grew up—the home in which I took my first steps, learned to read, put on plays with my brother, celebrated holidays, dressed up for high school dances, and the home to which I returned during college breaks
After finally stuffing everything in, I glanced at my packed-to-the-brim suitcases and wondered if I had packed the right things—I had my clothes, electronics, kitchenware, toiletries, and probably a million Ziploc bags. I had researched and researched (and researched) what to bring with me and even found many checklists of things to bring. I ran through the checklist once more, and yes, I had everything.
I turned toward the mirror to look at the last thing moving to Israel—me. I wondered, “My suitcases are ready. Am I ready?” There were no checklists to determine if I had the right intangibles necessary to be successful in Israel. Like my luggage, I was also leaving my home and family. But unlike my suitcases, I am filled with things like experience, education, and fortunately a lot of support from my friends and family. “But will it be enough?” I wondered.
That momentary “Oh my God, what am I doing?” thought shot through me like a shock wave and landed in the pit of my stomach. I shook my head and reminded myself of why I am doing this.
In Israel, more than anywhere else in the world, I am filled with a sense of wonder, community, and purpose. That pure bliss you feel when you learn something amazing, fall in love, or accomplish something of significance is how I often feel in Israel. It’s a natural high, and it feels right. Perhaps everyone has a place like that, and I know that for many Jews like myself, that place is Israel. What pulls us there isn’t easily explainable, but it’s a powerful feeling. And if I didn’t follow that feeling, that’s when I should really be asking myself, “Oh my God, what am I doing?” After all, isn’t life about following those gut feelings?
Moving to Israel will be extremely, incredibly challenging, but we learn from challenge. We grow from challenge. And in Israel, there are lots of them: constant chance of war, required army service, high living costs, high taxes, and scarce natural resources. For an immigrant, we can also add to that list acclimating to a new culture, learning a difficult language, navigating a foreign bureaucracy, and living apart from family and friends. So let’s hope the extreme challenges do indeed translate into extreme learning!
As I leave for Israel tomorrow, I know that if there is any “thing” I am missing, I can acquire it in Israel. Most important is the self-confidence that I will be able to acclimate and succeed, nurtured by the incredible support networks back home, and reinforced by the people of Israel who will be at the airport to greet me with open arms.
L’hitraot, until next week,
Eliana Rudee is a fellow with the Salomon Center for American Jewish Thought and the author of the “Aliyah Annotated” column for JNS.org, which chronicles her experiences as a new immigrant in Israel. She is a graduate of Scripps College, where she studied International Relations and Jewish Studies. She published her thesis in Perceptions and Strategic Concerns of Gender in Terrorism. Follow her on Twitter @ellierudee.
Editor’s note: This column was written a day before the author made aliyah, and that time element has gone unaltered in the first paragraph to maintain the character of the piece.