Aliyah From the Other Side

I woke up at 5:30 a.m. today to catch a Nefesh B’ Nefesh-sponsored bus to Ben Gurion Airport to welcome the newest batch of olim, immigrants to Israel.  Unlike most of the others on the bus, I didn’t know anyone in particular who was arriving, but I figured it would be a nice experience anyways.  I arrived at the same old terminal, walking down the gangplank and on to a bus to the screaming, waving crowds, on July 8 last year.

new olim

New arrivals. For more photos see the Nefesh B' Nefesh.

This time around, it was much less intense, but moving nonetheless.  It’s important to me to do these things from time to time for chizuk, to remind myself why I took the plunge to move here.  I was reminded of what a privilege it is to live here, something that Jews for generations have cried and longed for.

On the bus ride to the airport, I picked up נציצות, “Sparks,” a book that a friend gave me in Israel last June right before I returned to the United States to pack up my things and prepare for aliyah.  The book of excerpts from the writings of HaRav Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook זצ’ל , the founder of the Religious Zionist movement, made little sense to me a year ago, when I tried to read it on the airplane.  Today I can safely say that I understood about 95%, at least the basic meaning anyways.

An excerpt that seems particularly appropriate:

ארץ ישראל – הגוף של עם ישראל

ארץ ישראל אינה רק שטח אדמה,
שאפשר ליישב בו יהודים,
ואפילו לא קרקע שאפשר לקעעם בה מצוות.
ארץ ישראל קשורה בקשר של חיים,
אל עם ישראל,
היא ה’גוף’ של עם ישראל.
ארץ ישראל היא בעלת ‘תכונות’,
שמתאימות דווקא לאומה הישראלית.

על פי אורות ארץ ישראל א-

The Land of Israel – The Body of the Nation of Israel (the Jewish People)

The Land of Israel is not just a piece of land,
That Jews can settle,
Nor is it [just] land that you can perform mitzvot in.
The Land of Israel is connected with a lifeforce attachment,
To the People of Israel,
It is the “body” of the People of Israel.
The Land of Israel has ‘attributes’
That are apply exactly to the Israeli Nation. (Free translation)

And that is but one “spark,” for the tie of the Jewish People to Israel is an inextricable one.  In fact, the shiur that I missed at Nishmat in order to attend the ceremony is on different sections in the Talmud that deal with the Kedusha, holiness, of Eretz Yisrael and Jerusalem.

The ceremony was mostly a major lovefest for The Jewish Agency for Israel, which I thought ironic, since if this body, which is responsible for the aliyah of Jews the world over, could actually functionally perform this task, there would be no need for Nefesh B’Nefesh.  As I understand it, NBN was founded because potential olim (in the United States, U.K., and England at least) found the process to be just too darn difficult.  All of my experiences with the Jewish Agency were rife with bureaucracy, inefficiency, and outdated equipment and measures, and in fact when Jewish Agency reps discussed the “difficulties” that come along with aliyah, it brought back what now seem like distant memories of jumping through paperwork hoops.  Nefesh B’Nefesh on the other hand is modern, responsive, and organized (and they have a great website, which scores major points with me).  They also speak English well – employees dealing with the public are Anglo olim themselves, while the Jewish Agency has been known to host events entirely in Hebrew — not so good for reaching out to folks outside of Israel, where Hebrew is not known to be widely spoken.

The co-founder of NBN, Rabbi Yehoshua Fass, said that on his 42nd flight bringing over olim, he had begun to run out of material for the ceremony.  But, in the week leading up to the first charter flight of the summer season, he received an e-mail that I’m really glad he shared.  I will summarize: An Israeli wrote in saying that he was proud to be a tenth-generation Israeli, raising an eleventh in Jerusalem.  But he didn’t do anything to receive that honor — didn’t have to learn a new language, a new culture.  He didn’t have the privilege of being the first, even with the difficulties that come along with it.  Two-hundred years from now, he said, your children’s children will also say, “I am a tenth-generation Israeli, raising an eleventh in Jerusalem.”  While the math assumes early procreation by today’s standards, I never quite thought of it like that before.  The result of the equation is one I can agree with.


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

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