About six weeks before making Aliyah, I attended an Aliyah Expo in Johannesburg. It was the end of May 2009 and I had been for my interview with Ofer Dahan, the then director of the Israel Center, only a few weeks before. I knew the next Aliyah flight was coming up on July 4 and many people were trying to convince me to be on it, but I was still not sure about making the move so soon. Everything was moving way too fast.
I was well aware of all the options for those making Aliyah because I had been asked by Ofer to put together the Aliyah Expo Magazine, which I had completed in time for the Cape Town expo a week before. Doing the research for this project gave me insight into these options which most potential olim don’t get. I knew about the Mercaz Klita (Absorption Center), which exists in every major city around the country. I was aware of the Bayit Rishon B’Moledet (First Home in the Homeland) Kibbutz Ulpan program. I knew there was the option of taking an apartment and attending ulpan in any of the cities without the help of the Jewish Agency’s official programs, although certain of the smaller, developing cities were offering olim extra benefits if you chose them. Now I just had to decide which option would be best for me – whenever I chose to make the move.
I got different advice from everyone. Obviously, the person pushing the Bayit Rishon program wanted me there. The developing cities were desperately pushing their programs. One person told me not to rely on the Sal Klita (Absorption Basket/Subsidy) provided by the government and to make sure I came with at least R10 000 (NIS5 000) as back-up until I’d settled, and another told me he knew of someone who came with R500 (NIS250) and ended up doing very well. I was being pulled left, right and centre, told different things by different people and feeling very pressured.
One person gave me really sound advice, and although he wasn't the only one, his advice made sense. Jonny Katz, who works for the Jewish Agency in Jerusalem, told me to ignore what everyone was saying and “go with my gut”. He actually asked me: “What is your gut telling you?” So I listened to him. I chose the Bayit Rishon program. Six months on a kibbutz learning Hebrew. This was sound advice. Good advice. Although I didn’t think it was in the first three or four months of my stay. It turned out to be a very different experience from what I expected, and you can read about the details in my personal blog. But in the end, I spent 14 months on Kibbutz Mashabei Sade – or will have by the time I leave at the end of August.
Once I’d decided the kibbutz was where I was headed, the most common comment (besides the fact that I was insane to choose a kibbutz in the desert) was: “When you make Aliyah to a kibbutz, moving to a city is like making Aliyah all over again!”
Well, that time has come and this statement is echoing in my brain constantly. I’m starting to feel withdrawal, thinking of all the friends I’ll miss, thinking of the children I won’t be able to hug whenever I feel like it, thinking of the peace and quiet and the ease of living on a kibbutz. I’ve become accustomed to life in the desert and it is more than a comfort zone for me now. It’s almost like home and all I can think about is what I am leaving behind.
I’m also feeling insecure about what lies ahead. I’m not afraid of the unknown – never have been – but I’m constantly worried about what ifs… what if I don’t have enough work, what if I don’t have enough money, what if I never learn Hebrew, what if I hate the city (after living in a city most of my life), what if…
And I have to keep reminding myself of my own favorite quote: “It’ll be ok in the end, and if it’s not ok, it’s not the end.” I know it will be a challenge, but I also know it’ll be exciting and new and different and…
The interesting part is that I have many friends in Tel Aviv and now I’ll be able to spend more time with them. Friends I’ve seen only a few times in over a year because I’ve been living in the desert! I’ll be able to socialize more, network more, go to different places and experience different things.
I won’t have to rush to catch a 9pm bus or train back to Be’er Sheva because the last bus to the kibbutz is at 11pm. I won’t have to sleep on friends’ couches or floors and feel like I’m encroaching on their space (even though they didn’t mind). I’ll have my own place, my own spaces and buses that run most of the night. Yes, it will be a new and exciting experience.
And yes, it may be like “making Aliyah” again, but this time, I have more contacts and more knowledge and more experience – and I know the place in which I’ll be living. I know my way around Tel Aviv now – more or less – and I won’t have to feel lost and lonely and frustrated. This is the next step for me and I hope and pray things will fall into place soon and life in the city will feel like home in no time.
I have been in the wilderness, the desert for long enough now. And even though the desert is the Promised Land, I need to experience the promise of a different variety now.
And I’m looking forward to the challenge.
Darryl, another Aliyahero