Have you ever looked forward to something that you figured would happen one day, playing and replaying the potential scenes in your head? This morning, at Ben Gurion Airport, I was lucky enough to watch these wonderful, movie-like scenes turn into reality in front of my very own eyes. I had a front row ticket to watch the best decision 232 people ever made in their entire life. I made the trip down from Kiryat Shmona, as there wasn’t a doubt in my mind that I’d be in attendance at this event.
As a ten year old making Aliyah with my family, I remember the welcome ceremony being such a highlight that even now, when I think of it, I think of walking down those stairs and seeing the crazy scene in front of me. Ever since, I’ve tried to make it to an arrival or two a year, to get that burst of Zionist enthusiasm and welcome these lucky people. There is nothing in the world more emotional than singing Hatikva in a room full of Olim Chadashim, who are singing the national anthem for the first time as citizens.
However, nothing compares to the emotions I felt today. You see, my best friend from Detroit, Max Kresch, made Aliyah this morning. Completely on his own, he decided that he wanted to live in the Jewish State. If that wasn’t enough, he is making Aliyah and enlisting into the army. Think about that for a second. He’ll proudly wear the olive-green uniform, sweating his butt off, giving his all in order to protect us and a country he hasn’t yet lived in. The connection between the Jewish Nation and our Jewish land is powerful beyond measure, how else can you explain 59 “kids” deciding to put their lives on the line for a country they didn’t grow up in?
Max and I have always been close, best friends dating back to nursery. We kept in touch throughout the years, even since I made Aliyah, the highlight for me being his year in Israel.
I will never forget the moment he told me he was making Aliyah. We were driving around Modi’in, about an hour before Shabbat, and he dropped the bomb. “I’m making Aliyah,” he said. Three simple words; for 2000 years, Jews have dreamed of being able to say these three simple words. He said it on a street a few blocks away from the Maccabees’ shul, and a short distance from where the battles they fought during the Chanukah Miracle took place. And I couldn’t wait for the day to arrive. Just nine years before I had threatened my parents that I would stay in Detroit, not make Aliyah, just to be with Max, and here he was, taking that crazy leap of faith, following my lead, and getting the tremendous Zchut of living in Eretz Yisrael.
I will never forget his glowing smile when he got off that bus, the ever-lasting hug we had when he finally reached me, and how proud I am of him for making this decision for himself. It’s not always going to be easy buddy, but we’re here for you with anything you need.
I woke up at 6 AM today, glowing with happiness – for him and a little selfishly for myself, too. I got my best friend back, full-time, and I can’t wait for the experiences we’ll share together here in the Holy Land. Max, you and 59 other kids our age gave me a lot of strength and motivation to join the Israel Defense Forces this coming March. Love you buddy, and ברוכים באים הבייתה!