Looking back at my Aliyah journey, I never could have imagined the life I have built for myself in Israel.
I grew up in an ultra-Orthodox community in New York. I never quite fit in, not really feeling like a part of the intensity that comes with living in that kind of community. Immediately following high-school, I came to Israel on a journey of self discovery, desperate to find a place where I belonged.
Initially, I was severely homesick and confused by my surroundings in Israel. I didn’t understand the language or the culture and I wanted to simply feel at home.
I began to tour the country with my gap year program, meeting people from all across the religious spectrum, learning the culture, noting the acceptance between people in different cities across the tiny expanse of land that has played home to the Jewish people for thousands of years.
The diversity is what stuck with me when I returned to New York to begin college. I was again homesick – only this time for Israel – for the open-minded people, for the diverse culture and for the incredible falafel. I felt lost and confused and longed to return to a place where I felt I was accepted for who I am.
Following a full year in school back in America I decided the time had come to return to the holy land. I packed up my bags and returned for a year of study abroad, after which I decided I could never give up living in Israel.
With the help of Nefesh B’Nefesh I filled out my paperwork and set out on a new journey and an entirely new path in life.
I made Aliyah to Givat Shmuel, a diverse community that plays home to over 1,000 new Olim, and started at Bar-Ilan University studying Political Science, Economics and Sociology in the International Program.
Determined to learn Hebrew and the Israeli culture despite taking my courses in English, I joined several clubs on campus and found some patient Israelis who readily took me under their wings. The Israelis at school were ready and willing to help me with anything I needed – be it help with the University administration or a place to stay for Shabbat or the Chaggim.
I quickly got involved in the Israeli political scene, realizing that while politics hadn’t much interested me in America, the ability of one person to impact politics in Israel was greater; Israeli Knesset members are far more accessible and the political parties are a lot more active and vocal.
I learned Hebrew by joining political rallies, by attending events held on and off campus, and by meeting like-minded Israelis who loved hearing why I made Aliyah despite the challenges it brings.
Making Aliyah with an open mind was the most important factor for me. Realizing that while life may not be the same as it was in my home country, life in Israel is never boring.
My determination to fit into Israeli culture brought me to new places and gave me new experiences and ultimately led me to meet my fiance – an Israeli from birth.
Today, I am still involved in the political scene in Israel. I am heavily involved in public diplomacy efforts working in conjunction with several organizations. I am a Breaking News Editor and the Managing Blog Editor for the Jerusalem Post and I am excitedly planning my wedding while looking forward to building my own home and family in the Jewish homeland.