The Feeling Of A Nation

Last night I had my first military tekes. (A tekes is a ceremony, the army has LOTS of those.) It was a ceremony in honor of yom hazikaron: Remembrance Day, where we remember all the soldiers killed in battle or in accidents, as well as civilians who were killed by acts of terror. As a freshly drafted soldier who still doesn’t turn around when people yell “Chayal!” It was very moving, as I’m sure it will continue to be. Hearing the siren last night and this morning while standing at attention made me realize how real this is.
As a nation, we don’t necessarily all agree. We very rarely do. But on this day, it is incredibly difficult not to. In Israel, everyone has either lost someone important to them or knows somebody who has. During the siren, the country grinds to a halt.
People stop and think.
They remember the people who’ve made the ultimate sacrifice for our country and our people.
I don’t think that I’ve had a more emotional moment since I arrived in Israel almost a year ago.
I am honored to wear the same uniform as these heroes.
May their memory live on.

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Protesting Against The Protest

It has been a while since I posted, mostly because I’ve been immersed in army prep and other things. I am taking the time, however, to post today because of something that really ticked me off.
Today, there was a gathering of thousands upon thousands of chareidi Jews (ultra Orthodox Jews who currently do not get drafted into the IDF) to protest the new draft bill which would require that they draft just like the average Israeli. The new bill also provides harsher individual punishments for draft dodgers.
I do not agree with the protestors at all. In fact, I am INCREDIBLY angered by this. Six months ago, I made Aliyah and moved to this wonderful country. It was hard for me to leave everything I had: family, friends, and a familiar environment, but I did it because this is what I believe is the right thing for me to do as an individual and as a Jew.
The fact is that I volunteered to guard and protect every citizen of this country at the potential price of my life itself. If need be, I will go to war to protect my people.
But when people refuse to serve? When they refuse to be a part of a society that watches out for each other? That cheapens the sacrifice that thousands of soldiers over the years have made.
Today, they have demonstrated that they can be good soldiers. The rabbis called, and they showed up when and where they were told.
I don’t believe that “being more pious” can prevent you from being a soldier.
If the pious kings of Israel went to war to defend the nation, certainly someone who is nowhere near that pious can do so.
I don’t believe that this group should be excused from serving the country that they live in and maintaining the security that they enjoy without a second thought.
Allow me to ask this, is it fair that a mother in tel aviv and a mother in mea shea’arim to enjoy the same security, but only one had to sacrifice her sons’ time, hard work, and perhaps their lives to attain that security?
The answer is a resounding, absolute no.

Israel, My Home.

Well, I did it. I made aliyah. I probably should have written this a long time ago but things pile up…. You get the point. So let’s start with where we left off: the airport.

On the morning of august 12th, I left my house with all my worldly possessions and we all packed up into the family car and headed to John F Kennedy airport. En route, my mother and I were interviewed by the Jewish radio show, JM in the AM. We got to the airport without an issue, and once we found the counter, we joined the line. Imagine 330 olim and their families, plus myself and my family, waiting for our boarding passes and various papers before checking our luggage. After that, we went to the synagogue area to get ready for the farewell ceremony.

While waiting, I was interviewed by several reporters, including reporters from Arutz Sheva and Ynet. The attention may or may not be due to the fact that I was wearing an Israeli flag as a cape. It definitely makes me easy to pick out in photos, which is a bonus.

At the farewell ceremony, there were several speeches and then they sang Hatikva. I cried, knowing that this would be the last time singing my nations anthem before arriving to our homeland. From there, we went to go through security before boarding the plane. After plenty of teary goodbyes, I waved to my family before I went to begin my life as an independent adult in the land of our forefathers.

Boarding was surreal. I couldn’t believe I was actually doing it! I couldn’t get enough of speaking to everybody and hearing different reasons why they had arrived at the same decision as I did.

The flight was for the most part uneventful, until the last hour.

The final hour on that plane made me put any doubts I may have had aside. I have never felt like I was doing something so right ever in my life, until that final hour. People singing, music playing, the excitement was tangible. I had an incredible urge to just get out of my seat and run around the plane yelling “were almost home, were almost home” but I stayed put, mesmerized by the other 330 olim chadashim waiting to come home.

On our final approach, the excitement in the air thickened. We had almost finished our journey! Never have I felt so happy and so nervous and so many other sensations all at the same time in ginormous quantities. And then: WE LANDED.

IT WAS INCREDIBLE!!!!! We had finally reached home. The land that our forefathers have fought for, have bled for, and have died for. AND WE STOOD THERE, ON THE TARMAC, OUR NATIONS NEWEST IMIGRANTS. It was one of my proudest moments. I got off the plane and instantly kneeled to the ground and kissed the ground of the holy land. MY land. I cried and yelled out the “shehechianu” blessing, which translated goes “Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the
Universe, who has granted us life, sustained us and
enabled us to reach this occasion”, which is said by Jews on special occasions, thanking god for allowing us to reach a special point in our lives.

We boarded busses to take us to terminal one, where thousands were waiting to welcome us. I was on the first bus to go to the reception. I stepped off, and the noise was deafening, there was a man there with a shofar, trumpeting in celebration as in times of old, there was two lines of soldiers smiling and waving Israeli flags, and behind the gates, among the throngs, I saw my cousin! I headed into the building and met my aunt, my great aunt, and several cousins, I was so happy! There were so many smiling faces and sounds of joy, I was almost overwhelmed. Thankfully, there were refreshments aplenty, so that was one thing taken care of. Then there was more speeches, which by that point I was quite tired of, as were many others. Just shut up and give us our citizenship already was very much my feeling at that point.

After the ceremony, we went to the offices to wait for our documents. It took a while but I got it done. It was a relief walking out of the airport with my family, knowing I had a fresh start in a new country.

Now, its two and half months later. What am I doing now? You may ask.

Well, I’m on an ulpan program learning Hebrew and working alternate days. I’m really enjoying it! I am trying to see as much of this country as I can, seeing as I am now a part of it.

From Israel, with love.

The little zionist

IM GOING HOME

I’ve just booked my Aliyah flight!! August 12th will be the start of something new and wonderful, 18 years in the making. Words cannot describe this feeling I have knowing I’m out in 2 months. I’ve started packing already that’s how excited I am!!

These next 2 months will be incredibly suspenseful. I just cannot wait!!

THIS year in Jerusalem!

AND WE HAVE LIFTOFF

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Yesterday went really well!! I went to the New York office of the world Zionist organization to meet with Asher Israeli, my Aliyah shaliach. (pictured on left together with myself, photo credit H. Milner) At the meeting, I filled out my Aliyah visa application and turned in alllllll the required documents. It really paid off being organized.

So, now I have a slightly new plan. Again. If all works out, I will be flying out early-mid August and in late August I will be going to a five month kibbutz ulpan program. I’m so excited!

Now that it’s only a matter of weeks before I head out, there’s lots of stuff to do. Mostly thinking of all the stuff I may or may not need for the next few years. No biggie. If anybody thinks they could set me up with a packing list that would be mighty helpful. I feel like my list is missing something.

Sometimes, you never know what will happen till it happens. And guess what? ITS HAPPENING!

PLANS CHANGE

Hey everyone! I know it’s been a while since I posted but that is because a lot has happened. As of now, I am not making Aliyah with Garin Tzabar. Ever since I was told this there has been so much flying through my head. So, after much thought, I have decided on which course of action I will be taking.

Hopefully somewhere around September I will be going to Israel for a gap year/ Mechina-style program, to help me integrate better in to Israeli society when I finally make Aliyah. With regard to my army service, I think I will do Machal, which is a program for foreigners who want to serve in the IDF.

I’ve realized that yes, Aliyah is what I want, but it may not be so wise to just go without being 1000% sure that it’s the right thing for me.

I think it’s a fitting day for this post. Yom Ha’azmaut, Israel’s Independence Day. A tiny nation of hope in a region of darkness, the candle kept burning for these wonderful 65 years because of people like you and me.

 AM YISRAEL CHAI!