Tuesday, September 9, 2014
Aliyah flight actually landed yesterday, but 09/09/09 is just easier to remember.) It's a day I think about constantly - more of a landmark than my birthday is. Every year on this day, I take a look back at my life. It starts in 2009. Before that, I was me, but not the version of me that you may know. I was searching for myself, trying to find my place. My world was full of boxes, and I tried to twist myself into them, but was perpetually finding myself outside.
I was 17 when I first came here. I was lost and confused and unsure of who I wanted to be. I started that year attempting to "frum out" in seminary, and ended it doing an ulpan program on a kibbutz - where most participants were secular. At the end of the year, I still didn't know who I was, but I knew what I was not. I was not ever going to do the seminary "frum out", and I was not going to be the kibbutz secular. I still didn't have a box. However, for the first time, that didn't scare me. It didn't make me feel alone or like I didn't fit in. Because I had learned that in Israel, while the boxes do exist, they have glass walls and tunnels for visiting. There were so many possibilities - so many things that I could be - and I wanted to be them.
Israel made me happy. Israel made me feel safe. Israel made me feel like I could just be me, and that was good enough. I didn't want to leave. And with no plans, no money, and no idea what I was doing - I made aliyah.
The past 6 years have been so full, so dynamic, so alive. When I look back at the 17 year old version of myself, I know that the best thing I've done for her is let her make that rash, irrational decision to stay here. She wouldn't have turned into me, if she'd gone back to America. The confidence and self-assurance I have in myself, in my religious beliefs, in my life, were only - and still are - brought about through the challenges and rewards of living here.
I've climbed mountains, jumped off cliffs. I've camped out at Gan Sacher and the Tel Aviv beach, and eaten chummus so full of sand it crunches in your teeth. I've been up North and down South, and spend too much time in the Center. I've herded sheep and ridden camels and discovered how much I love ice coffee. I've gone to the Kotel at 2 am in the pouring rain and stayed there all night until the sun came up. I've organized Shabbatonim and tiyulim, and somehow found the courage to speak in front of people and share my love of this country. And then, I got married here, had my wedding here, got an apartment here, started real life here - and I know that my experiences until now are a blip on the timeline of my future in Israel.
I really want to say thank you. Thank you to the beautiful, frustrating, invigorating, and challenging Land of Israel, for creating and shaping me into the person I didn't know I wanted to be. Thank you to all of those who have been my support group along the way - my family, my friends, and now my husband. Thank you to God, who saw me from the beginning until this moment, and is probably laughing because He sees how much more I still have to do.
Every year, on this day, I look back on my life. So far, so good.