Again, writing a letter to someone to help them out. Thought I’d share it, make the love go round:
It’s cool to hear from you, and awesome to hear your aliyah plans have started to take action… The application process should be the least of your worries… as long as you have all the paperwork (birth certificate, Rabbi’s letter, etc) in tact.
Ok, so the real stuff you need to think about is your initial 5-6 month plan for when you get there. And you need to have at least 1 or 2 plans. You have free 5-month ulpan and you want to join the army… The army is not a good plan A for two reasons: They don’t call anyone who is new up for the first 6 months – a year unless you volunteer early and even then it is not garaunteed; and since you’re a girl, there is a good chance they won’t even take you when you do volunteer (and girls don’t get called up as olim at all by default, so you have to push). I have a friend who is trying to get in as an olah; I’ll see how she goes and get back to you. But she’s been here a year.
Ulpan is a tough one. See, people need it and it’s a good way to absorb culture along with language and make a good first group of friends. It can give you a place to live (Ulpan Etzion, Kibbutz Ulpan) and it can give you something to do while adjusting to your new setting. It’s important. The reason I don’t sound more excited about it is… it kinda sucks. It’s a hard time for a lot of people. Some people get a bit depressed and frustrated: I made aliyah and I can’t speak the language! I majored in XYZ and here I am on my ass learning Hebrew! I was a teacher/doctor/lawyer in the motherland, and now I’m unemployed in class! It’s a challenge to get through but I think it’s an important first step. Your Hebrew must grow at all times… and even better if you already have a base. This is a great way to kick it off, and like I said make friends… Because aliyah – though you feel you are going ‘home’ – can be very lonely sometimes…
So let’s say you do that, Kibbutz Ulpan or Ulpan Etzion and live a Jerusalem kind of start… Hey, maybe volunteering in the afternoons, or taking classes at Pardes if that is your thing, or finding an afternoon/night job (I will warn you here: that will probably be babysitting or working at IDT/CSM which is a frustrating experience in itself). You still have to be thinking in the long term – not necessarily commiting. Like: army? university? full-time job? Think openly too. Who knows what might change when you get here? Always always be open to the plans changing – that’s also why it’s comfortable to have a plan A and plan B, etc… to know that there is more than one way to do it.
About freaking out… I totally know what you mean. So do a lot of people. You’ll find that you’re not alone in doing this, even though sometimes you’ll feel alone because your family and best friends aren’t here… It’s rough but there is a strong support system because we all did it… And you’ll start to feel like you’re a part of this chevreh you didn’t realize, Anglos/Latinos/French/etc single young people who came here alone… It’s actually fascinating…
But look, it won’t all be rosy. But that’s what makes it so REAL! Because aliyah is definitely not about being recognized for coming to Israel. This guy who made aliyah a while ago and is now in the Prime Minister’s office and married with kids once told me: “Your aliyah will be successful if you remember: Israel owes you nothing. Instead, you owe Israel something: to come and settle, to have a job, and to make a Jewish family in the homeland.” When you get here, you realize you’re part of a community, and it’s big sometimes and small sometimes, but however you see it, you’re not the only one here.
My parents were actually also supportive, and it was shocking for me. Obviously, they prefer on a practical level that I live near them… On the other hand, they are proud I am doing what I believe in. It’s hard. My parents grapple with it, but you know what? Just recently my dad told me he wants to start taking Hebrew classes in New York City, just so he can get familiar with the language… that’s huge… and my mom has never been here, so we’re working out a way she can come so she can see exactly what I’m doing… Work with them, you know? If they’re already supportive, then you’re already lucky to have them behind you… Just be understanding that they’re having a hard time too…
Also, it could be easier on you and them if you set a date – maybe 6 months, maybe 9 – that you will go back for a visit. I didn’t want to, but I promised my parents I would. You know what? It gave me a lot of perspective coming back to NY and realizing how much I belong in Israel. It really helped me become stronger.
Ah, long distance boyfriend… I could go on for pages about that but then I could also let you read my old journals… So I’ll refrain from that, to each his own when it comes to long-distance.
There are all kinds of little life lessons you’ll learn, totally new people you’ll come across… It’s a scary mix of leaving college and entering the ‘real world’ while doing so in a completely new country (because if you think you know Israel now, well, it’s very different when you have a mispar zehut…)
I could go on and on… What do you think?
P.S. make AS MUCH MONEY AS YOU CAN before you get here!!!
P.P.S. I might have made this sound kind of depressing… but it’s not, really… I’ll write happier things later!