Nikki Goldberg grew up in Hillside, New Jersey and made Aliyah in August 2016 at the age of 20. Nikki currently lives in Jerusalem and spent the 2015-2016 year doing Sherut Leumi at Nefesh B’Nefesh. Below is a blog post she wrote before making Aliyah.
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I had never spent more than two days away from my family, I never went to sleep-away camp, and I barely even liked sleeping at a friend’s house for more than one night… That is, until my summer camp experience in Israel and then my shocking decision to spend an entire year away from my family – away from my home – to attend seminary in Israel!
At the end of my senior year of high school, when everyone was talking about their plans for the next year, I thought mine was set. I was going to be pre-med in college and then go to medical school. I barely gave any thought to attending seminary, even though my dream was to be in Israel.
However, my friends seemed so excited to be spending a year in Israel that I began to second guess myself. Out of curiosity, I began asking around about seminaries and where I’d fit in best. A resounding number of people recommended one specific place for me, so I did more research.
In the end, I decided that I didn’t want to miss this opportunity to spend a year learning and growing in Israel – the place where I ultimately wanted to live – and boom, the decision was made, and off to Israel I went! That year not only educated me about Torah, it educated me about myself! It helped shape my future. While learning and being in Israel, I felt more comfortable with myself and figuring out the unknown became easier. Israel became my home.
I must admit, I was afraid of many things. I was afraid of being here alone. I was afraid of not making any friends. Most of all, I was afraid of making decisions on my own. I am very close with my mom and she usually helps me with all of that. In seminary, thousands of miles away from my parents, with a seven hour time difference, I was forced to overcome it all. I realized I wasn’t alone! I had all of my teachers and my friends. For me, the hardest part of ending seminary was having to make the decision of what to do the next year. By this point I knew I was staying in Israel but I didn’t really have an answer to the other questions on my mind, like, “What would I do? Would I go straight to university? Eventually go to medical school? Or actually experience being a 19 year old in Israel?” I spoke to my madricha, who really had an impact on me deciding to do Sherut Leumi.
I was interested in doing Sherut Leumi (national service volunteering) because of all the giving involved. I knew I wanted to be part of something big and important, and I wanted to do what Israelis do after they finish high school. Yes, it meant pushing off college for another year, but I realized that college wasn’t going anywhere. Sherut Leumi was clearly the place for me.
In retrospect, looking back on my year as a Bat Sherut, I feel as though I have gained so much more than I have given. I met incredible people who will be life-long role models and friends, experienced a feeling of accomplishment and priority – more than I knew I was capable of, and I gained real skills in a professional workplace. In addition, I have become independent and self-reliant. I have learned so much about myself and what I can do, and, as an added bonus, I already feel acclimated into Israeli society.
Progressing from not wanting to leave my home to spending the last two years in Israel, including one year of service to my country, was an experience that is difficult to put into words. Considering where I came from, the craziest part is how natural it was to me to stay here. I hardly cared that my plans kept changing. The mentality here is first to serve in some way and then continue on your path. I adapted to this lifestyle, where changing plans is always acceptable.
As for next year….I plan to be a madricha at a seminary and attend Mechina (a prep year) at Hebrew University. Don’t worry, I still don’t have ALL of my plans set in stone, and they change constantly just like everyone else’s in this country! Call me in a few weeks and my plans might be different – just kidding!
My love for Israel, the country and its people has truly developed. Though I have always loved Israel, now I really know this is the place I want to and need to be. This has never been clearer to me. While I am definitely looking forward to going back to America for a brief vacation, and seeing my parents and siblings, my true excitement lies with my upcoming Aliyah flight back to Israel!