Last updated August 20th 2015
“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.” – T.S. Elliot
Today marks 6 years since I became an Israeli citizen and made Aliyah. Looking back on the past 6 years, I can confidently say that making Aliyah was one of the best decisions of my life.
My leaving America to make Aliyah by myself was a risk. In the past, many people who made Aliyah came with their families, but there are a growing number of young Jews who are making Aliyah alone. Every person has his or her own reasons for making Aliyah. My reasons for making Aliyah were very much shaped by my personal experiences growing up.
I was born in Memphis, Tennessee and raised in a suburb called Germantown. My elementary school years were wonderful. I was one of the few Jewish students in my grade, but I never felt different than the other students. We were taught to be very tolerate of others, and our elementary school was the only one in the area where Special Education children took part in some of our classes and activities. The elementary school used to go all the way through 8th grade, but when I was in 3rd or 4th grade they started building a middle school since more and more families were moving to the area. The middle school combined the student populations of the two local elementary schools and at the end of 5th grade, we all started 6th grade at the new school.
The transition to the middle school was very difficult for me. I had two best friends from 4th and 5th grade and one of them went to another middle school (not in Germantown). The other girl that I had been very close with was one of my few friends. In the 7th grade, we got into an argument over something. She ended up writing me a note where she told me that I was the way I was because I was a Jew and that I was going to Hell. I was completely shocked and confused. I brought the note home and showed my parents who were equally shocked. This was a girl who a year or two before had been one of my best friends; I had slept over at her house on many occasions and vice-versa. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, this event would have a lasting impact upon me.
Another event that greatly impacted me was the fist time I came to Israel when I was 18. I came to Israel in January 2004 in the middle of the Second Intifada. When I arrived in Israel, I kissed the tarmac at the airport. Israel was a place I had learned about at the Memphis Jewish Community Center as a young child; it was a place that I had always longed to learn more about and visit. When I came to Israel during the Second Intifada, I was amazed at the spirit of Israelis. I remember meeting with several Israelis, and I asked them if they were afraid of the suicide bombings. They said that the bombings were scary, but that they would not allow terrorists to control their lives. They described how when a restaurant was bombed, the very next day all of the stores and shops were filled with people. When I returned back to UT Austin at the end of my trip, I immediately got involved in our pro-Israel group Texans for Israel (TFI); I wanted to do everything I could to help Israel and Israelis.
My decision to move to Israel at the age of 22 and make Aliyah at 24 was a natural progression. I had already “left home” at the age of 18 to go to a university out of state, and I decided that my true home was not in Germantown where I had grown up or Austin where I had gone to school, but that I felt the most comfortable and happy in Israel. I was not unhappy in the States by any means, but I felt that I could truly be myself in Israel.
Even when I visit my family in the States, I can’t wait to get back home to Israel. I am a very passionate person and Israel is one of my greatest passions. I want to continue building my life here, and I want my children to be Israeli. I don’t want them to grow up feeling “different” because they are Jewish, as I did.
Israel is not a perfect country by any means, but it is a country and place that I love with all of my heart.