A Pioneer Of Israel
By Robert Ben Or
When I was 17 years old, I met an Oleh Chadash (someone who made Aliyah to Israel) for the first time. Sure, I had grown up with a semblance of a Jewish community, but living in St. Louis, Missouri isn’t like living in New Jersey; I had no concrete connection to Israel. Every time I bumped into this guy, I would put his feet to the coals. Interrogating him about anything and everything Israel. I eventually became entranced with the idea of making Aliyah.
I didn’t drop everything and pack right away as I’m a proud barbequing, beer drinking, baseball watching Midwesterner, and the idea of learning a new language and moving so far away from home seemed insane. But ideas don’t go away. You can’t erase a thought once its broken into your conscious, or subconscious for that matter, and over the years this simple idea became more and more entrenched in my mind: Aliyah.
In my early twenties I finally took a trip to Israel; no programs, no tour guides. I spent ten days wandering around, and trying to absorb as much language, culture and history as I could. The day after I arrived home I went straight to the Jewish agency. I’d like to say that the day I made Aliyah is one I’ll never forget, but honestly, I hardly remember a thing about it.
My first few months were like that, so much culture shock, and so much work. Hebrew courses half of the day and work the other half and of course finishing up with some more homework at the end of the night. Those first few months were a labor of love, but still a labor.
I won’t speak for anyone else, but the day I was drafted into the army was the proudest day of my life. I felt I had something to prove, so at the age of 24 I joined the paratroopers as a combat soldier in the IDF. It’s something that still sends prideful chills down my body. Every time I hear Hatikva or see the Israeli flag, I know that I’m literally a part of them. I earned my place here and that’s something that no human being on the face of this planet can take away from me.
I hear Olim (people who made Aliyah to Israel) speak about the early pioneers of the First Aliyah, the Palmach, the “originals”, as if they are things of the past. I feel radically different; in my heart I see myself as one of these people. I still see Olim as pioneers, hoping to add to the hard work that was put in before them. Part of building a country and nursing a society is nurturing and protecting all those in it.
To me, being a “pioneer” in Israel is about self-sacrifice, making decisions based on the future and what is best for the community and its members. The long tradition of Tikkun Olam in the Jewish world touched me while I was an active duty Lone Soldier.
As I consider myself a “pioneer” I believe it is my duty to pay it forward and not only contribute to the building of this land but to help others the way I was helped when I was a lone soldier.
It is for this reason that I have chosen to ride in the ALYN Wheels of Love charity ride. The mission of ALYN (All the Love You Need) hospital and rehabilitation center in Jerusalem, is to provide a nurturing environment in which children with different disabilities and their families learn to heal, overcome and become active and thriving members of society.