Gaby Novick originally from West Hempstead, New York, made Aliyah on the August 2016 charter flight. A graduate of Yeshiva University, Gaby actualized his lifelong Aliyah dream and writes below on the factors that influenced his decision. He is working as a madrich at Yeshivat HaKotel.
I’m often asked when I made the decision to make Aliyah, but I don’t really know how to answer that question. I grew up in a Zionist home, going to Zionist schools, but I never actually imagined I would one day live here. That changed when I came to study in Israel for two years. With the help of a good friend, I realized that Israel and Aliyah were possible and practical. Israel wasn’t a Third World country or just a vacation destination. It could be home. And Aliyah wasn’t just a dream, an ideal or value. It could be reality and it could be life. With time and help, I came to realize that Herzl’s famous quote is not to be translated “if you will it, it is no dream” but rather “if you will it, it is not only a dream.” Because the thousands of successful Olim throughout the years testify again and again that you can live your dreams.
Returning to America after the two years I spent in Israel clarified a lot for me; I knew Israel was where I wanted to be and where I really could be. But I also knew that life is crazy. Things happen that throw us off our course, like strong tides pulling us in different directions. We have family obligations, job opportunities and financial constraints all serving as possible distractions to our goals and dreams. I knew that if I wanted to keep this dream afloat I needed two things: constant reminders and a plan.
In my rooms, both at college and at my parents’ house, Israeli flags were hung prominently. Following one of my trips to Israel, I decided to keep shekalim (Israeli currency) in my wallet. Both were there to remind me that despite the craziness of life my dream was to be in Israel. But I also needed something practical, a plan. Now it’s impossible to fully plan life. As the saying goes, man plans and God laughs. Often unexpected things happen and plans have to be flexible enough to accommodate change, but without a plan we are simply swept away by the strong current. We ultimately find ourselves asking that painful question, how did we get here? And so I began, very early on, speaking both with friends in Israel and with Nefesh B’Nefesh.
I researched Aliyah, discovering things like government benefits, and determine for myself when would be the best time to go. Even during college, when I knew I would be staying in New York until graduation a couple of years later, I attended Nefesh B’Nefesh events, learning what I could and planning for the future.
At a recent event a friend of mine asked what I thought was a great question. He asked if someone knows they won’t be making Aliyah for some time, what can they do now to prepare. I was so impressed by the question because it showed that he understood this point; He understood that it is hard to keep your focus on Aliyah and that you have to work, even years in advance to make sure it is kept on the radar.
I am not one for sports analogies but to relate an easy one, if the team sees the game as already won, they won’t play their best and will ultimately lose. Alternatively, if they view the other team as worthy opponents they will play their best and hopefully win. For those thinking about it, Aliyah can’t be seen as “in the bag.” One needs to realize he is playing against very strong forces pulling him in every direction other than Israel. With constant reminders and a practical but flexible plan one can emerge with the medal they have always wanted, their very own Teudat Zehut (Israeli identification card).
A good friend commented to me in the days following my Aliyah, “I don’t know why, but somehow it just sunk in – the enormity of the fact that you just picked up, left, and made Aliyah.” I responded to him that I don’t like using the word “enormous.” Enormous sounds scary. It sounds impossible. Aliyah is so possible. It’s so doable and practical. You just have to view it that way.
If you would like to view it as “enormous” just think of the positives. Think of the enormous impact Aliyah has had, and continues to have, on the history of the Jewish people. Think of the enormous difference you can make by being here and how much everything you do here matters and helps. Think of the enormous blessing that Israel is and your ability to take advantage of it by living in this glorious land. Think of how enormously your life will be changed for good and for the better when you declare Israel to be not just your homeland but your home.