Journalist David Horovitz wrote an interesting book in 2000, A Little Too Close to God. He retells a fascinating encounter in which an Israeli soldier, born in Russia, asked him why he made Aliyah. Paraphrasing, Horovitz explained that Aliyah was the realization of a lifelong dream of the Jewish people returning to their ancient homeland, to which he received no reaction from the soldier.
He cited the bringing of Western values to the Middle East, reviving the Hebrew language – no reaction. He argued that he chose to live here to be in a Jewish country, feeling like majority, raising kids with the guttural resh rolling out of their mouth – no reaction. Finally he succumbs and says, “The weather!” In England it was dark and gloomy and here in Israel it is sunny and warm for 9 months of the year – the soldier nodded his head and said he understood.
Everyone who makes Aliyah gets asked this question – whether from a neighbor, co-worker, the Shaliach in their Jewish Agency interview, or a taxi driver. Sometimes it can be hard to share an answer because it is often wrapped up in so many emotions and ideas. Can I really summarize in one sentence the sentiment that propelled me to move across the world?
Personally, I came to Israel because of the “now” – a deep feeling that whenever I was in Israel, I was very present. I know some professionals discuss Spencer Johnson’s Who Moved My Cheese as a metaphor for dealing with change in the work place; I prefer his book The Precious Present. Spoiler Alert: it discusses that the most important commodity in life is appreciating the present.
In Israel, I think there is a greater context of surrounding meaning, which pervades the everyday; this is because of the past and the clouds of Jewish history that hover about. The streets here are what really sing to me – and I literally mean the street names. Over the years here I have lived on Eliyahu Lankin St, Kaf Tet B’November, Eliezer HaGadol, and Mihakel HaMayim streets. Think of the name of the street that you live on – what does it tell you about your personal identity?
I have happy memories from my pre-Aliyah days in Washington, DC and New Jersey, and continue to have wonderful visits when I travel for work or personal reasons. When I am in Israel, watching the people and reading the street signs, I feel a great confirmation of those debates during my late teens and early twenties about defining the meaning in our life and making important choices that reflect personal and communal values. It wasn’t until I was 25 that I made the move. Others might book their Aliyah flight earlier or later in life – but I think that one of the many things that all Olim have in common is a great feeling of being where they really wanted to be, today!