Making Aliyah

North American aliyah is different from that of most other countries, because it's so easily reversible. In addition, many North American Jews still feel grateful for the opportunities their parents, grandparents, great-grandparents or themselves were given by living there.

Batya Medad,

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Of all the 613 G-d-given mitzvot, commandments, the most controversial is probably aliyah l'aretz, moving to our Holy Land. It's a mitzvah for all of us, but even many rabbis refuse, with all sorts of excuses, to obey it. In addition, they're expert at rationalizing to their congregants why they shouldn't obey it, either.

As many of you already know, my husband and I made aliyah two months after our wedding. Coming to Israel so young was very easy. We also came with an attitude of "that's it; we're here forever." It really wasn't complicated; we were young and accepting.

Some of our friends also made aliyah soon after getting married or as singles, and we all grew up and old together in Israel. But others were always waiting until.... Many of those still haven't finished all their pre-aliyah requirements, a list that keeps on growing and getting more and more complicated.

Since Nefesh B'Nefesh (NBN) came on the scene, potential olim, immigrants, are having an easier time. Basically, NBN is doing what the Jewish Agency should have done all the decades it has been in existence.

Nefesh B'Nefesh provides pre-aliyah counseling to help the potential oleh, immigrant, make plans that will facilitate an "easy landing" and adjustment to living in a new country. Any move is traumatic, whether it's to the other side of town, to another city and state, and certainly to another country and language. Each family member has his or her needs that must be taken into account.

North American aliyah is different from that of most other countries, because it's so easily reversible. In addition, many North American Jews still feel grateful for the opportunities their parents, grandparents, great-grandparents or themselves were given by living there. Many Jewish families arrived in North America totally destitute and desperate. It makes it much more difficult to accept that Jews should be living someplace else.

Therefore, the decision to make aliyah is a great one and the immigrant needs support. This support is now gotten from Nefesh B'Nefesh.

In two weeks, I'm going to be one of the privileged few Israelis on a Nefesh B'Nefesh flight to Israel. I hope to get to speak to as many immigrants as possible.

Thirty-five years after sailing to Israel on aliyah, I'll be flying to Israel with a few hundred olim. Then, I was a young bride; now, I'm an old grandmother. But one thing has stayed the same. I firmly believe that there's a place for every Jew in Israel. Aliyah excites me as much today as it did then. There are more opportunities today than thirty-five years ago. Today, the standard of living is similar in both places. When we came to Israel, you couldn't get "American conveniences" even if you had lots of money. Today, everything is available in Israel, and Israelis are in the forefront of technology.

In another sense, aliyah is harder today than it used to be. The very same things that make living in Israel easy make it easier to return to chutz la'aretz. Years ago, communication overseas was by mail, snail mail; and if we wanted the letter to arrive in "just a week or so", we had to get airmail stamps. They cost extra money. Overseas calls were very expensive and many people didn't have their own phone lines, so they had to go to the central post office to make calls. A ticket to New York and back cost more than my New York monthly salary. You thought hard before coming and much harder to go back to the States. We didn't go on "pilot trips" to scout out the land. Many friends arrived in Israel the first time when they made aliyah. And we're still here.

Today's easy traveling makes Jews very comfortable as tourists, and they have major problems wondering how they could trade in their hotel suites for Israeli homes. For the past couple of decades, foreign student programs in Israel have been little "English speaking ghettos" rather than total immersion Hebrew-Israeli cultural experiences. This also makes it harder for North Americans to switch gears and look at Israel as a home.

For that reason, I admire those making aliyah today. I'm sure that if my husband and I had listened to our families and stayed "just a few years to finish our educations and earn some more money," aliyah wouldn't have had been so easy. Maybe we would never have come. I hate to think of it.

Baruch HaShem, we're here, and we've been here since 1970. I welcome all the newcomers and am glad that Nefesh B'Nefesh is part of the welcoming committee.




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