I met many incredible people this week who were embarking on their journey to their new lives in Israel. No matter what their story, whether or not they had family living in Israel, could speak Hebrew or knew how they were going to make a living in their new country, they all seemed so dedicated to making their new lives work.
And to think, there I was uptight about spending a week in Israel by myself. Would I be able to master the buses, find hotels and restaurants and generally find my way to the important sights?
Boy does that sound trivial or what?
Compare my concerns to those of a 70-year-old woman from Colorado who has been living with her daughter’s family for the past three years before deciding she was too young to just wait around there until the end her life.
She visited Israel twice in recent years and felt if she was going to enjoy her “maybe 20 years left,” Israel was the place she wanted to be.
She is going over there very happily but with few plans. She will spend her first few months in a Hebrew-immersion program before hopefully landing a volunteer position in the Old City.
She spent the last few months at her computer, trying to carve out this new life. She found a rental place to live and the harp player even corresponded with a harp company, who told her that after she learned Hebrew to get in touch and they will try and work something out.
She credits Nefesh B’Nefesh with helping her dream come true, noting they answered her every phone call, every question no matter that she kept calling from Colorado and forgetting to calculate what time it was in Israel.
She wasn’t even the oldest person moving to Israel. On this week’s charter flight tightly packed with 231 people making aliyah was a 78-year-old New Jersey resident.
He and his wife are going to join two of their children already living in Israel and leaving one behind in America, hopefully not forever, said his wife.
They decided to make aliyah a few years ago, but waited until their 18-year-old son was adjusted and happy in Israel. It was a bit touch and go for a while, admitted his mother.
I also spoke with Nirel Kakon, a 17-year-old Skokie, Ill. resident who has enrolled in Technion Israel Institute of Technology and then will join the IDF.
Waiting to board the plane to his new homeland, he held his guitar and snacked on a small box of cereal.
“I was born in Israel. My parents are Israeli,” he said. His father brought the family to the United States for work. “We were only here on a very extended stay of 13 years. It was supposed to be two,” he laughed.
“Our parents raised us knowing our real home is in Israel,” he said, adding that although he is traveling alone, he has family in Israel. He is hopeful his siblings will soon follow his lead.
Arev of Voorhees, N.J. decided to become a lone solider right out of high school and soon found herself as a combat soldier in the Karakal battalion. Her parents are Israelis. “I am 100 percent American, but it’s where my roots are, she said of her new country.
While making aliyah wasn’t even a consideration when she signed up for the IDF, she soon “realized it’s where I want to be.”
Also making aliyah is Rabbi Jeremy Stern, director of the Organization for the Resolution of the Agunot. He plans to open up a new ORA branch in Israel but still commute frequently to New York and work at the main office.
Living in Israel has been a dream “since we got married and before,” he said of himself and his wife, Aviva.
They are excited about bringing up their three children, ranging in age from 11 months to 4 years, in Israel and especially enrolling them in Israel’s free schools.
During the past school year, he paid a total of $24,000 in tuition for half day schooling for his children.
And if they can all master a new country, its language and ways, surely I can relax and enjoy my short time here.