Aliyah is defined as “the immigration of Jews to Israel.” This definition, though technically correct, fails to include the internal conflict that accompanies making the decision to move to Israel. If someone has grown up in America and planned to spend his or her entire life there, it is difficult to pick up and move across the world to a place where they may not know anyone.
Many people advocate for making Aliyah. Whether for religious, economic or political reasons, there are many benefits to living in Israel. According to Nefesh B’Nefesh, an organization that seeks to make the Aliyah process easier, living in Israel offers a “holistic Jewish life, vibrant communities and job opportunities.” In fact, making Aliyah has become more popular, with the Jewish Agency for Israel seeing a five percent increase of immigrants to Israel in the past year.
When I was in Israel on my school’s senior trip, I was asked over and over: “When are you going to make Aliyah?” I would laugh off the question as a joke, but it began to nag at me. When was I going to make Aliyah? Would I ever?
Israelis would ask our group, “Do you love Israel?” When our answer was “yes, of course,” they were confused as to why we would not move there immediately. It was a complicated, loaded question. If I did love Israel, then why didn’t I want to move there? One of our teachers told us a story about the late David Ben-Gurion, the first Prime Minister of Israel, who after retiring, became an advocate for Aliyah. Our teacher said that Ben-Gurin believed that if a person truly loved Israel, then he or she will make Aliyah. And if that person doesn’t make Aliyah, then they don’t truly love Israel.
Though I understand Ben-Gurion’s thought process, I do not agree with his conclusion. I believe that it is possible to love Israel from afar, without making Aliyah. For me, making Aliyah is not in the cards; Israel is a place that will always hold a special place in my heart as the home of the Jewish people, but it is not a place where I see myself living. If I keep Israel as a place to visit and explore, then every trip will be much more meaningful to me. I can maintain my academic life and familial relationships in America while experiencing everything I want in Israel. I love Israel and America separately, equally and differently. Israel is my religious home, a place where I can be comfortable with my Jewish identity, and America is my traditional home, a place where I will pursue my academic and social life. This way, I can advocate for Israel from afar, giving my opinion when it matters. I can help Israel from abroad, simply by loving the country.
I love Israel for so many reasons. I love being able to connect to my Jewish identity in a place full of our people’s history. I love that Israel represents the strength of the Jewish people, and after so many years we have been able to not only survive but thrive in our homeland. Most of all, I love being able to visit and learn more about myself and my ancestry in a place that houses such strong spirituality. And for all of these reasons, I will continue to visit Israel and to live in America.
Sloane Warner is a senior at The Weber School in Atlanta. She is a member of Fresh Ink for Teens’ Editorial Board.