The Miracle of Return

My ulpan classes ended yesterday, and tonight they are holding a party at the absorption center to celebrate.  It will mostly be a time for those living in the absorption center to say their goodbyes.  I’ve been asked to share a few words in front of everyone about my personal journey.

Here’s what I have to say (translated from Hebrew presented in):

My aliyah began right at this time, four years ago.  I finished my university studies early, and I decided to go travel in Israel with Birthright in order to take a little break.  Like a co-worker at a summer internship said, it’s a free trip!  I’d go anywhere for free!  Really, the idea was nothing more than that.  But, I thought that maybe I’d stay to get to know the place for longer than two weeks.  I hate to travel places just for a little bit of time.  With a program run by The Jewish Agency, I lived in an absorption center in Ra’anana and went to ulpan every morning before my internship in Tel Aviv.  But for me, this was just a fun experience, not real life.  I would soon go back to the U.S.  To what?  I wasn’t sure.

Without family or a home or work in Israel, I wasn’t ready to stay here, even though I wanted to rip up my return ticket.  I almost did it, but I returned to the United States and got a great job at the website for a well-known newspaper in Washington, D.C.  Life went on.  I found a nice apartment and new friends.  The path to success seemed straight once again.

I kept up my connection with the Jewish community and would go to Shabbatonim.  I began to learn more and more about Judaism and after a year, I felt that I needed to keep the Jewish law and mitzvot, but I didn’t know how to begin.  It became clear that an opportunity had come to set aside some time to dedicate to Jewish learning that I might never have again, and it was clear that the place to do so was Israel.  But, I was very skeptical.  I did not want to change my life and the world I knew.

After a lot of investigation, I decided on an Israeli seminary that I didn’t know a lot about, but just had a good feeling about.  Once again, I was very happy to be in Israel, and even though my trip wasn’t designed to be a move to Israel, I found that my inner truth was here.  I feared that if I returned again to the U.S. that I would not have another opportunity to live in Israel.  With time, it becomes harder and harder to make big changes in your life.

In the bible, the prophet Zechariah speaks of his visions, which took place over eight days, and he describes what will happen at the end of the great exile, which is the exile we are still in.  In his book, it says (8: 4-8):

Thus said the Lord of Hosts: There shall yet be old men and women in the squares of Jerusalem, each with staff in hand because of their great age.  And the squares of the city shall be crowded with boys and girls playing in the squares.  Thus said the Lord of Hosts: Though it will seem impossible to the remnant of this people in those days, shall it also be impossible to Me? – declares the Lord of Hosts.  Thus said the Lord of Hosts: I will rescue My people from the lands of the east and from the lands of the west, and I will bring them home to dwell in Jerusalem.  They shall be My people, and I will be their God – in truth and sincerity.

Kibbutz galuyot, the ingathering of the exiles, is not just the name of a street in the Baka neighborhood of Jerusalem.  Through my window, around the corner, I hear the shouts of children and teenagers singing and old people walking with canes.

The holiday and miracle of Hanukkah, which like the vision of Zechariah lasted eight days, is a time to recognize miracles.  The return of Jews to the land of Israel and the establishment of the State of Israel is no less than a miracle.

Aliyah is a journey to a foreign place, but it is also a return after a long journey of kilometers and of spirit.  I am happy to have shared a piece of the journey with you.  Best of luck with the rest.


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Ilene Rosenblum is a writer and marketing professional living in Jerusalem.

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