May 21, 2024
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Aliyah: More Than Just a Plane Ride

I am blessed to be living in Israel for 13 years. While there are many reasons for this reality, I need to share one of the best lessons I learned along this journey.

While I was dating Chani, the girl who would ultimately become my wife, we had a serious conversation. She had made aliyah the year before I did and faced a tough realization. She was just 20 years old and had fulfilled her biggest dream in life—moving to Israel. Now what?

Chani had known she wanted to make aliyah since she was a young girl. She grew up in a Zionist home, went to Modern Orthodox schools and was active in both NCSY and Bnei Akiva. From a young age she learned Hebrew on a high level to make her acclamation to life in Israel easier.

Then, at the end of the summer of 2007, she did it. Chani got on that Nefesh B’Nefesh aliyah flight. She landed and was surrounded by friends and family along with complete strangers who were celebrating her achievement. In the early months, she was busy handling all of the bureaucratic tasks a new Israeli citizen needs to do. She got health insurance, a cell phone, a bank account and of course her Israeli ID card (Teudat Zehut). Chani began studying at Bar Ilan University and was becoming an Israeli. Life was challenging but exhilarating as she was living her dream.

By the time we met it was over a year later. The initial buzz of aliyah had worn off. She had achieved her greatest goal in life; so now what?

I made aliyah in the summer of 2008 and joined the IDF that November. We met on my first Shabbat after starting my army service, and quickly started dating. About a month into our dating life, she shared with me her problem.

For me everything was still new and exciting, but for Chani it was now mundane. She had her routine, but the excitement was gone. It is scary to think that you are still not of legal drinking age in the U.S., but have already accomplished your biggest life goal.

This is when we had the “aha!” moment. Aliyah is not just the plane ride to Israel; it isn’t just about the Nefesh B’Nefesh celebration at Ben Gurion Airport. Getting off the plane and kissing the tarmac is a beautiful moment, but it doesn’t stop there. The goal of aliyah stretches well beyond these initial moments. Aliyah is about building a life in Israel. Now that over a year had passed since her aliyah, Chani shifted gears and began to focus on how to build her foundation and establish roots in Israel. It was after this great realization that she was able to move forward.

This is analogous to a marriage. The wedding itself is an amazing event; all of your family and friends come together to celebrate your happiness. They are rejoicing in the fact that you have found your soulmate. However, the wedding is just one night of partying; it is followed by years of building a home. This has its ups and downs. If anyone enters a marriage just for the wedding, they are making a grave mistake.

For those who are interested in making aliyah, remember the end goal: You are in it for the long run. After thousands of years of exile, you are the one who will fulfill the promise of returning to Israel. Your goal is to build a life in Israel. Sure, the plane ride and fanfare are amazing, but that is only the beginning of your journey.

David Weiss is native of New York and has lived in Israel since 2008. He served in the IDF from 2008-2010 and lives in Karnei Shomron with his wife and three sons.

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