When we last spoke, it was August of 2018. I was boarding my ELAL flight from Newark to Tel Aviv, and a lot has happened since then! First, I got glutened. That’s right, I got served gluten on my Aliyah flight. I then spent the day running from my seat to the bathroom, trying not to vomit on the crazy woman next to me who kept telling me it was all in my head. She’s a psychologist after all, so she would know!
Thankfully, that horrible event wasn’t a sign of how my aliyah was going to go. I landed and made my way to Jerusalem to spend a few days in bed recovering. Then things got better. I got a job. I left a job. I got another job. I started my Masters. I went on 100 bad dates. I made friends. I lost friends. I made more friends. And it all happened thousands of miles away from my family, which was the weirdest part.
For the first time in my life, I went more than a YEAR without seeing my dad; fourteen months to be exact. I went a year and a half without seeing my grandparents, and I STILL haven’t seen my brother. I often get messages asking me if it’s hard to be away from my family, and while the answer is yes of course, the hardest part isn’t being away. The hardest part is not knowing when I’ll see them again. Saying goodbye without having a sense of how long it will be before the next hello. When I leave or a family member leaves, we often don’t know if it will be a few months of a few years before we see each other again.
Enough with the sad stuff though, I’d rather talk about the many beautiful things that have happened since I immigrated to Israel.
The Nitty Gritty:
Lets just say, things didn’t go as planned. When I made aliyah, I thought I would be going back to study in the egalitarian Yeshiva I had been at during my “test year.” I was expected to be there 4 days a week, while studying part time for my masters in Talmud. However, when I arrived in Israel, I found out that all of my friends from the year before had gone home and I was going to have to start all over again.
Within a few, I realized it wouldn’t be helpful for me to spend another year in an English speaking community of Americans who were only in Israel for the year. I needed to put down roots. I also decided that I really wanted to be immersed in an Israeli community. Thus, I left the Yeshivah and I did what all Yerushalmim do at some point or another: I got a job bartending in the shuk (the main market in Jerusalem and a popular tourist destination).
My friend Ethan helped me swing the job at a popular bar in Machane Yehudah, Hatch Brewery. I spent the next few months bartending and doing my best to avoid touching all the meat and gluten that this beer and sausage joint served. It was a really exciting job, with my days starting at five p.m. and finishing around three or four in the morning. But, once again I realized that this wasn’t the right fit for me. I was awake when all my friends were asleep and asleep when all my friends were awake. It was an incredibly lonely life.
A Piece of Life Changing Advice
A friend gave me what was probably the best advice I got in my entire aliyah process. She told me to apply for jobs, even if I was grossly unqualified. And I did. The first job I applied for was at Yad LaKashish, a small Jerusalem nonprofit that I had visited on my Birthright Israel trip all those years ago. I had absolutely no nonprofit experience and knew very little about working with the elderly, but after 2 interviews my chutzpah (translated in English slang to “balls”) landed me the job!
How? Great question!
My second interview involved a 3 hour long computer based exam. It felt a lot like the S.A.T. and tested me on all kinds of things, from matching shapes to reading comprehension, logic, and math. Funny enough, it was soooo grammatically incorrect and many of the math questions didn’t have an equation in them. Most of the test could not even be answered.
Being the outspoken person that I am, I finished what I could and walked into the Executive Director’s office to tell her I had finished. I was about to walk out, but instead I asked her, “Did you pay for this program?” She said yes. So I told her she should ask for her money back, and went on to explain all the faults with the program. She politely said thank you and I walked away, positive that there was no way I would ever hear from them again.
My mom and aunt were in town during all of this and we left from the interview to Tel Aviv on the (at the time) new train. We had just gotten off to switch trains at the airport when my phone rang, it was Yad LaKashish. I answered the phone warily, not sure what to expect. To my shock, she offered me the job and told me she was impressed by my candour. WHO KNEW?! All I had to do to land the job was be Israeli! Of course, after this we went straight to the beach with a bottle of champagne to celebrate, while we watched the sunset over the Mediterranean.
A few days later, I quit my bartending job at Hatch but stayed on as the Social Media Manager, putting my skills from running my little (at the time) food Instagram to good use. All the while, I was starting my masters too. It was a crazy few months settling in, but by December my new life was starting to take shape.
Building A New Community:
As soon as I made aliyah, I became an active member of two local egalitarian Jewish communities. I started attending events through the Jerusalem Cooking Club, signed up for the gym, and began literally sliding into peoples DM’s on Instagram that I wanted to be friends with. I was determined to branch out, make friends, and really make Israel home. It worked, and this is always the first piece of advice I give to olim (immigrants). Stepping out of your comfort zone is the key to success when you make aliyah.
While all of this was happening, I was also able to grow my Instagram page from 2,000 to now over 7,000 followers in less than a year. I started a group of bloggers called #israelifoodies. We meet for events, including a few that I have planned and hosted. I launched my website and was able to really create a brand for myself as the local gluten free guru, which is still crazy and I’ll probably never get used to it. This isn’t meant to be me complimenting myself, but rather showing you that you can really achieve great things if you are willing to put in the necessary blood, sweat, and tears!
I am almost two years into my aliyah now, and have nearly finished my masters (which was a Hebrew speaking program), held a steady “big girl job” for over a year and a half, found my Israeli family, turned my small food instagram into a community, and am continuing to endure a pandemic!
Stay tuned for PART THREE: Aliyah Tips.
Did you miss part one? Find it here!