Messianic believers in the land also have inspiring and even miraculous stories to tell about moving here. Hence we are delighted to present a new feature in Kehila News, “Why I Chose to Make Israel My Home.”
I will never forget the day I made Aliyah. As I left the Interior Ministry, my face broke into a smile the moment I saw my friend waiting for me holding a box of goodies. God had made it possible for me to become an Israeli citizen.
Just six years earlier I had celebrated my Bat Mitzvah. My Jewish mother became a believer when she was in college, and so, consequently, we attended a regular church. Sadly, at that time, my sense of Jewish identity ran no deeper than the knowledge that I had been given a Jewish name.
I taught myself to read as a five-year-old, and by ten, I was reading the classics. Every couple weeks, my mom would come home from work with a stack of new library books, and I would stare at them as though they were chocolates truffles, and I was deciding which to eat first.
One of the books she brought was called The All-of-a-Kind Family, a story about a Jewish family of five girls, growing up in the early 20th century on Brooklyn’s Lower East Side. This book was the match which lit my desire to really learn more about my Jewishness. As I began to understand the meaning of my heritage, the twelve-year-old, who had never been to Israel, decided right then and there that one day I would make Aliyah.
The next couple of years I spent much of my free time researching Israel, Judaism, and Jewish history, and the summer before my junior year of high school, a newly married family friend invited me to come stay with her and her husband in Israel. Needless to say, I was over the moon.
At fifteen, I’d never been away from my family for more than a few nights, and I’d certainly never flown alone before. We found a direct flight from San Francisco, and my mom and I drove the eight hours from Oregon in our old Land Cruiser. She kissed me goodbye and handed me the passport I’d need to travel, but it wasn’t until I arrived in Tel Aviv that I suddenly realized that the passport that my mom had given me was not mine, but hers. Here I was in Israel, and I might not even be allowed through passport control. I freaked out.
The airport staff brought me into the office of the head of airport security, who called the woman with whom I would be staying. Fortunately, our stories lined up. The security officer asked me if I had any other form of identification on me, and I gave her my Driver’s Permit. So my first entry visa to Israel was on the number of a little piece of plastic that doesn’t really even mean anything. Looking back, this is just one of the many miracles that confirmed that I was meant to be here.
Walking through arrivals, I remember almost being in a daze just to be in Israel!
For the first time in my life, I met people who were, like me, other Messianic Jewish young people, and I felt as if I belonged. I told some of my new friends that I wanted to make Aliyah, and they encouraged me not only to make Aliyah but also to serve in the IDF.
I went home after six weeks of ulpan (Hebrew lessons), happy, full of purpose, determined to finish the last two years of high school. As it turned out, however, I finished in only one year, and graduated early with the class of 2018.
Three weeks after I walked across the stage in my cap and gown to receive my diploma, I was on another plane back to Israel, this time with the correct passport. I was headed for a one-year program at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University that I hoped would allow me to advance from my few choppy sentences in Hebrew, to fluency. Throughout that year, I experienced what Israel was like – not as a tourist, but as a resident. It was a whole different can of worms, but my sense of belonging and purpose to be in the Land remained. During that year, I began the Aliyah process, gathering documents and meeting with my immigration advisor.
I cannot say that the journey was easy. Unlike others who had the support of friends or family here, my family was on the other side of the world. Although I would not have the same experience of those who celebrated with others, I, nonetheless, would text my family who would wake up to the news that I was an Israeli citizen, albeit, minus the fanfare.
So when I walked out of the Interior Ministry office to see my friend sitting on the sidewalk, waiting to surprise me with chocolate, it meant the world to me. The guards at draft office congratulated me, and it was then that I realized that while my family might be on the other side of the world, I’m not really alone.
To me, that’s the beauty of being a citizen of the world’s one and only Jewish state. We’re all in this together, and that brings me to the overarching question of why I came to Israel at age 16. It is my fervent belief that God brought me here. That’s obvious. But life gives back what we invest into it, and so it is my desire to give my all. My all is here, in Eretz Israel. I will soon be inducted into the IDF, and then, after that, I want to go to law school.
I’m here to live, to serve, to love, to lead in the land for which my people have yearned for thousands of years. I think that a better question is, “Why would I not be here?”