Tuesday, July 14, 2015

In Tribute to a Friend

       About a year ago, I wrote a blog post about how one of the toughest parts of making Aliyah alone, away from most of your family and friends, is not being present for the happy occasions. The weddings and bar mitzvahs, milestone birthdays and births. There will of course be the ones where you absolutely have to fly in and be there, but by and large you will miss some of the happiest days in your loved ones' lives. And that's a pain that exists separate from the happiness and contentment you have from living life in Israel. But those are the happy times. This is a world away from the deeper, more intense pain an Oleh will feel missing the sad stuff. Because life goes on back where you left it, and there's little you can do when you're six thousand miles away.
       Why am I bringing this up now anyway? Last night a very close family friend lost her valiant battle against illness. Michelle was just 31 years old, a mother of two and pregnant with her third. She felt ill and was diagnosed with a brain tumor. As her friends and family waited for further news, we all held our collective breaths. Not Michelle, this light in our lives who had already lost her father and brother in her short time here on Earth. Not Michelle, who was a living embodiment of goodness and kindness, beloved by everyone she ever met. And then came the verdict- a malignant brain tumor, the worst possible outcome. Michelle was put under and gave birth to a premature but healthy baby girl. 
        And the inhabitants of our world were galvanized- prayers and charity, hospital visits and more prayers. A miracle was needed, we all knew, and if anyone in the world deserved it, it was Michelle. But the miracle never came, and 3 beautiful little girls lost their mother. It is a sickening feeling to wake up to the news of someone so unbelievably good passing away so young and so unfairly. It is awful knowing that I can't be there at her funeral, can't pay a shiva call personally to her family and can't sit with my sister, one of Michelle's best friends for fifteen years, as she cries and mourns. These are things you can not do when you live so far away, and losses will invariably continue to happen in my life here. All I can do is be there for whomever, pay a shiva call by phone, and use this blog to pay tribute to one of the most special people I've ever known.
       In tribute to Michelle, who cared about everyone she ever met more than she ever did herself. Who would do whatever she could to make you smile, make you happy, make you feel good. To Michelle who was loyal and fun, committed to her family, friends and G-d, and never judged anyone. To Michelle, who this world was blessed to have and will be forever dimmed by her loss. And to Michelle, who was a true gift to anyone lucky enough to know her, to be in her presence and to have known her goodness for the short time she was here. May her memory be for a blessing and may her soul have the highest possible Aliyah. 

Thursday, July 2, 2015


            I was just talking to a friend about getting older (as one does when they get older). When you're looking back on the previous years, do you really remember the differences between one year and the next? Was there something significant about the year I turned 23 to distinguish it from the year I turned 27? Not particularly. Maybe I made some new friends, maybe I switched cars or apartments. But fundamentally, each year that passed living in New York was by and large similar to the one before it. That all changed exactly a year ago.
           Today is my one year aliyaversary, the anniversary of when I made Aliyah! This also marks the end of the most significant and impactful year of my adult life thus far. It also marks a little over one year since I started this blog, inviting you all on this crazy journey, one post at a time. Over the course of twelve months and over 50 posts, I have tried to convey the good, the wild, the infuriating, the confusing and the awesomeness that is moving to Israel, as a single American girl. 
          Moving here seems like madness. You leave your family, your language, your neighborhood Target, your customer service, your SUV and essentially everything you have known, to chase a dream you think you have. And you hear it will be tough, but you feel like you're tougher. You hear you will lose out of material happiness, which you gladly trade for the promise of spiritual richness. You hear that you will miss your family and friends, but you intend to make new friends that will become your family. You hear that the Hebrew will trip you up, but luckily everyone here wants to practice their English. You hear that the way of life here is so different, so you do your best to infuse a little of your American personality into the prickly Sabra atmosphere. And you try and find your place here in Israel- to become the best Israeli version of yourself that you can.
         When I look back in the milestones of this past year, I am, quite frankly, kinda shocked. I started and completed ulpan, lived through a war my first month here, published my blog in 2 online newspapers, switched over my license, found and furnished my apartment, voted in a national election, spent a month on unemployment, started 2 jobs and am now employed in another one I truly enjoy, visited NYC for Passover, made new friends and connected with old ones, improved my Hebrew (kacha kacha), and only cried over the bureaucracy 5 times, tops! That's probably more than I accomplished in the past 5 years in New York combined! 

         Is all this because I'm super special? No, not at all! It's because I truly believe that this is where I'm meant to be for the rest of my life. I am still asked regularly if I plan on moving back one day. Honestly, I didn't even realize that was an option! Only being here and meeting and hearing about people who go back to their native countries did I even know that Aliyah wasn't a permanent choice for everyone who does it. I'm not casting any blame on anyone. There are a million valid reasons someone who moves to Israel realizes it's not the place they're meant to be in the long run. I'm not in anyone else's shoes, and I realize everyone is different. From my perspective, however, my plan is that this is my forever home (bli ayin hara!). It's exciting to be the little branch who broke off my European/American family tree and hopped over the ocean to plant new roots in Israel. And I'm lucky that I have an incredible family who supports me in living my dream here (as hard as it is for them that I'm far away.) I also pray regularly that my friends and family will get sick of the freedom, luxury and comfort of America and decide to move here with me! It's not looking good, but miracles happen!
          I want to thank some people for making this year what it was. My family in America for loving me long distance, and my friends in America for cheering me on. My new friends in Israel for easing the bouts of loneliness one can't help but have here, and joining me for 5 shekel Goldstars on a Thursday night. My teachers in ulpan for fighting valiantly to infuse some much needed Hebrew into my insanely Anglo-centric life. The bus drivers, goverment employees, phone company workers, bank tellers and countless other Israeli-born individuals who have toughened me up and made me a much stronger person, mentally and emotionally. I had a head- start being from New York, but nothing prepares you for a bus driver literally closing the door on your fingers as you ask if this bus goes to town. Thank you to those who applaud and support my decision to move here and thank you even more so to those who ridicule and question it- who force me to qualify all the million reasons this crazy, difficult, wonderful life in Israel is the life I am blessed to have. Thank you to the people of Israel who make me proud to be amongst you, and grateful to live in our eternal Homeland. And thank you to the readers of this blog- both people I know and those I have never met. Your feedback, both complimentary and critical, has been invaluable, and I hope to continue on this journey with you for years to come. 
           And thank you to HaShem, "Who has granted us life and sustained us and enabled us to reach this occasion- Shehecheyanu Lazman Hazeh." See you next time, in Jerusalem.