“Civilians! When we go through this we need all the help and comfort you can give!” reads the poster that hangs in the doorway of my parents’ home in Jerusalem. It’s almost like an unsaid caution sign: “American Zionists are here!” The soldier in the poster is holding up his hand very blatantly into the faces of all who enter.
Other American-Jewish fighters with guns surround the central soldier and the Star of David looms in the middle of the poster helping to create an understanding between the American-looking soldiers and the Jewishness of the poster. “The Jewish Welfare Bo…” The poster cuts off as a small piece of the historical poster has been torn away.
My uncle gave the antique poster to my parents after my family returned to Israel a year ago. The Jewish Welfare Board of America originally printed the poster sometime after 1917. The organization was in charge of the health and spiritual wellbeing of Jewish soldiers serving in the US military during World War I. To me, it’s a constant reminder of the journey we’ve chosen in returning to our land.
I stared at that poster as I made my way thru the door with all my bags. I was just getting back from a couple of days in Tel Aviv and a night out with my girlfriends. We always go out on August 26th every year—it was the first time we met, three years ago—it was the day that all of our lives changed dramatically on a bus to basic training. Mostly scared and having no clue what to expect, we bonded quickly and unexpectedly. Reminiscing over that moment, our evening (like every year) was filled with laughter, tears, and memories as the last three years of our lives unfolded. We all went through basic training together, and then went our separate ways as the army called different people to different positions.
While chatting, eating, and enjoying good wine, my friend said something that stuck with me. “It takes so much courage to come here as a Diaspora Jew,” she said as we all agreed and began laughing at our various Hebrew mistakes over the years, the stigma of being American, the army and the difficulties we had to overcome within Israeli society. We all reminisced and asked each other if we regretted it. Never!
On my way back from our evening together, I began to think about my family and all those young people beginning to make Aliyah. Recently we’ve been seeing an influx of Messianic Jews making Aliyah over the past couple of years, and I cannot help but think it is a prophetic return.
Courage with an Accent
“It takes courage,” rings through my mind as I think of my friends still in the army, and the service that we went through together. I think about my two younger siblings currently serving in the IDF. Not only dealing with adjusting to a new culture, language, and country, but taking on army responsibilities on top of that. They are both in very intense positions; they come home tired and worn out; they come home confused from speaking both English and Hebrew. Every few Shabbats, they come, eat, sleep, and then head out for another three weeks on base.
It takes courage to put yourself out there, to be uncomfortable with society, to learn a new culture. It takes courage to speak in Hebrew, not to mention that amount of courage it takes to speak with an accent. It takes courage to send your kids off to the army. It takes a lot of courage to even consider Aliyah, to uproot one’s life and to leave family.
“Civilians! When we go through this we need all the help and comfort you can give!”
The poster comes back to my mind. “It’s been a battle,” I thought to myself. The struggle of Aliyah is a real one. But I would never change it. I would never run from it, and I would do it over again in a second. I’ve been in Israel for three years now and they say that after three years you finally start feeling at home. It’s true.
For new American immigrants the adjustment process is often the hardest. We are used to the ease and comforts of having everything at our fingertips. Skype doesn’t seem to ease the homesickness and the French fries just aren’t the same. The motion sickness on all the buses is a killer and the heat is just exhausting. But yet, we come. We dive right in, and we come.
This past summer I was asked more questions about the Aliyah process than ever before. There seems to be an uprising in the spirit of us Jews to return to our homeland. I say to you: “Come! Come with every bit of gusto and courage you have.”
Every frustrating moment is worth every rewarding moment. Walking through the Old City, learning the language of our people, having the privilege to understand, vote, and help build a Jewish homeland far outweighs the length of the grocery store line. Having the honor to say: “I too, came and built,” outweighs the homesickness. Aliyah is a journey, an incredible and beautiful journey filled with lots and lots of courage.