By Akiva Gersh
Making aliyah is for sure the best thing I ever did in my life.
How could it not, right? Moving to the ancient land of my ancestors, the center of the Jewish universe. The place where, in ancient times, the Jewish people formed into a people and, in modern times, returned to being a nation among nations. The main place in this great big world of ours that my soul feels completely at home!
But making aliyah is also…the craziest, wackiest, funniest, most overwhelming, most emotional, most inspiring, frustrating and humbling thing I’ve ever done as well!!
For those who have made aliyah to the great land of Israel, you know what I’m talking about.
It’s the spiritual uplift you get taking your little kids to the Kotel.
It’s the tears that begin to form when you see young Israeli teenagers in their brand new army uniforms.
It’s the humiliation when you make a really embarrassing mistake in Hebrew.
It’s the confusion you experience when a stranger hands you their baby at the supermarket so they could run and get one more thing.
It’s the laughter that comes out of you when the gas station attendant hands you a challah for filling up your tank on a Friday.
It’s the frustration you feel when you get a late fee for a bill you never paid, because you didn’t understand what the original bill was about.
It’s the smile that comes to your face when you see Israeli Arabs eating matza during Pesach.
It’s the sense of accomplishment when you actually understand everything the guy standing next to you at the post office just said to you.
It’s the anger when someone cuts you on line only to take the last available seat on the bus.
It’s the tears you hold back when you see your children singing Hebrew songs with that beautiful Israeli accent.
It’s the sense of being home and being part of a family when the bus driver veers from his route to drop off an elderly man right in front of his apartment building.
These are the moments that make aliyah the unique and powerful and incredible experience that it is.
It’s these kinds of moments that I have been obsessed with (in a positive and healthy way) ever since I made aliyah in 2004. And it is these kinds of moments that I wanted to capture and put into a book. To share with others. To tell the unique and multifaceted story of Jews coming home to the Jewish state and what it’s like to be an immigrant in your own homeland.
So I did. I searched and I read and I selected over 50 blogs and essays written by a diversity of English-speaking olim (immigrants to Israel) that together share those hysterical, emotional, inspiring and challenging moments we all encounter throughout our aliyah process.
This book, “Becoming Israeli”, takes you on an adventure into the sometimes hidden world aliyah. It is a record and a testament to what inspires olim to move their lives and their futures across the globe and gives voice to the challenges they face along the way and why, despite them all, they continue to choose Israel as their home.
- What inspires American Jews to make aliyah? What do you think they feel that Israel offers them that America does not or cannot?
- What do you feel makes Israel unique and different than America?
- What are the unique challenges that American Jews face when they make aliyah to Israel?
- How do olim (immigrants to Israel) deal with these challenges?
- If you don’t live in Israel, what would be the hardest challenges for you? How would you deal with them?
- Do you think these challenges would make aliyah too difficult for most American Jews?
- Do you think aliyah is incumbent upon all Jews? Should aliyah be seen as an obligation or as a choice?
- David Ben Gurion, Israel’s first Prime Minister, believed that Israel is the ideal place for all Jews to live. Do you agree with him? Why or why not?
- Compare Jewish life in Israel to Jewish life in America. What are the similarities and differences? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each place?
- Which essay/blog in the book did you most relate to? Why?
- How do you think a massive wave of aliyah from America would affect Israel?
Akiva Gersh teaches Jewish history and Israel studies at the Alexander Muss High School in Israel. He blogs at The Times of Israel and, in 2010, created Holy Land Spirit, a musical and spiritual program for Christian groups visiting Israel. Akiva made aliyah with his wife Tamar in 2004 and they live in Pardes Hanna with their four children.