“Why do they think I made Aliyah?”
Not only did the form want my birthdate; it also requested the date I’d immigrated to Israel. My friend, who was helping with me the countless documents I needed for my children’s education, had a ready answer.
“More than half the Israelis weren’t born here.”
That statistic was true in 1986 and it’s probably just as true today. So true, that the Knesset has declared a special Aliyah Day today recognizing the contributions of its many immigrants. I’m proud to be among them. There is not a day in the past thirty-five years that I don’t thank the Almighty for the privilege of being here. Still, Aliyah wasn’t always easy and there were a number of angels to whom I owe a big thanks.
It was Yossi who first extended kindness to me. As the manager of the supermarket on the Absorption Center where we first lived, he dealt with new immigrants constantly. Translating labels, explaining products, and even calling to his wife to have her clarify how to use a specific food were just a sample of how he was supportive.
Next was the National Service girl. Once a new immigrant herself, she understood our children so well. Already an acclimated teenager, her homework help and emotional support were priceless. Then there was my ulpan instructor. Along with Hebrew she taught social norms AND was often a sympathetic shoulder to cry on, going far beyond her job description.
Sadly, not all of the absorption center staff was so sympathetic, but we managed despite their lack of help. After eight months we found a home in a friendly, little village where we met many more Aliyah angels. The neighbors who sang and danced in greeting when my husband was first called to the Torah. The grocery store owner who not only sold food but helped us with our Hebrew. The school principal and teachers who made sure to have someone who could translate for us during conferences. The doctor and nurse who spoke to us in easy Hebrew. The Israelis who invited us into their homes and encouraged their children to befriend ours. And, of course, the Americans who had come before us who understood, ever more than we did, what we needed. Once again, not everything was positive, but we tried to concentrate on what was good.
Through the years I have seen many make Aliyah. Some people come after a pilot trip and know exactly where they want to live, work, and educate their children. Some come with only a vague dream. Some are fleeing from their past. Some are running to their future. Some stay and make good lives. Some never acclimate. And some return to where they came from.
Although I have never done a study, I believe the secret to a successful Aliyah is to look for the Aliyah angels. Once you find them, appreciate them, thank them, grow from them, and pass it forward. Israel is a beautiful country. It’s our country. Come and join us. We’re here to help you.