Aliyah 2.0

January 7, 2011 by Raffe Gold
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My birth makes me part of a people who, for millennia, have been wanderers across the face of the earth. Now I am about to wander, not on a two week holiday or even across Europe on a gap year, but permanently. I am about to go on Aliyah and move my life and loyalties permanently to Israel.

Raffe Gold

There is truly something daunting about picking up your entire life and shifting it to a whole other country. I have spent the best part of the last month running frantically around Sydney trying to organise everything I will need; new shoes, new bag, accommodation, ulpan and everything else in between. I have been so stressed at trying to prepare for my aliyah that it has yet to truly hit me that I am actually making the move. However the Jewish Agency has ensured it has never been easier for a Jew to move to Israel and with the advent of social networking the bureaucratic bumpy landing that has traditionally followed aliyah is no more. Contact with family and friends in the old world is a nanosecond away; distances have shrunk through jet travel and those we once feared we’ll never see again can now come to Israel yearly on a family holiday. How different is my aliah from the wanderings of my ancestors who left an insecure past for an uncertain future, cutting off ties in the certain knowledge that the breach was permanent.

There are scores of tales, written into legend, of Jews defying the odds to reach Zion. From Moses leading the freed slaves from Egypt (wandering for 40 years…apparently the Almighty hadn’t thought it necessary to send a GPS unit) to the expulsion from Spain and Portugal, to the Haganah and various underground Zionist groups sneaking Jews into the country despite a British imposed restriction on immigration. Yet even once the State of Israel was declared there was no easy road for Olim. Many Holocaust survivors, recently liberated from the camps of Auschwitz, Treblinka and Bergen-Belsen, arrived in their new home only to be given a gun, rudimentary military training and told that they now had to defend the country that they barely knew from armies of Arab aggressors intent on annihilating them.

As Israel has beaten back wave after wave of genocidal Arab attack, 1948, 1956, 1967, 1973, and now homicidal terrorists, lived in the shadow of Iraqi Scud missiles and experienced the bloodshed of Islamist hatred vested on buses and cafes, Olim continue to come despite the troubles in the land. However once they arrive they are forced to face the fact that in many cases they arrive alone. Some Olim, like myself, are going with no family and few friends in the country whilst others come with their whole families and easily establish roots within a community. They are forced to overcome the dreaded Israeli bureaucracy, learn a whole new language, face the variety of cultural differences and attempt to find suitable employment all at the same time.

Yet despite all these hurdles it is a smoother road to Aliyah now than it has ever been; primarily due to a number of private Jewish organisations and the burgeoning world of web 2.0. Nefesh B’Nefesh, a privately funded US based organisation, was created in 2002 in order to help remove the layers of red tape between a prospective Oleh and their dream of moving to Israel. The group helps US and UK Olim (it has yet to open offices in Australia) financially, helps them find employment opportunities, overcome cultural gaps and cope with other social services. This relieves pressures from the various Israeli government agencies and ensures that many of the Olim transition comfortably into their new lives.

However it is not just established Jewish groups that are helping ease the various burdens on Olim. Social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook have allowed Israelis and diaspora Jews to connect as they never have before. Instantaneously any question that a Jew has about Israel can be answered by someone who has experienced it all. Questions about rent prices, phone plans, job opportunities or any other subject that may concern them are answered honestly and without spin or bias. Many of these Israelis and soon to be Olim have formed a virtual community which helps each other and offers sage advise. They act as confidantes, advisors, translators and tourist guides to all of the new arrivals because many of them have gone through the same experiences. At times of hardship, worry and distress these kind individuals often act less as followers and more as family

Facebook too assists younger Olim in integrating themselves successfully. Just hours after announcing my own desire to move to Israel I was inundated with friend requests from people whom I had never met yet were willing to offer me everything from advise to a couch to use if necessary. Just after I had been accepted to my Kibbutz Ulpan I was asked to join their Facebook group with the rest of the 2011 students. Prior to even meeting them a number of us have become a tight-knit group and have formed a friendship that will help many of us cope with the pain and hardships that come with saying goodbye to your loved ones.

Compared with the treacherous journey that Jews made only a few short years ago to the promised land, making Aliyah today is incredibly easy. A letter from a Rabbi, an interview and a few passport photos are all that stand between a willing Jew and his new home. The Jewish Agency has even organised for ‘Red Carpet’ events for new arrivals; these giant parties welcome the most recent Israelis in a warm, hospitable environment and allow these new citizens to get their identity cards, health insurance, even a mobile phone plan in a few short hours. This was a process that even a few months ago would have taken weeks of standing in line at various government departments. Furthermore the explosion of web 2.0 and social networking websites have allowed many Jews to form a familial bond with their homeland before they even step foot in it. It has never been easier to make Aliyah and with global anti-Semitism on the rise it is possible that many more Jews may take that leap of faith

Raffe Gold is a political science graduate who will soon emigrate to Israel. He can be reached at twitter.com/raffeg

Comments

6 Responses to “Aliyah 2.0”
  1. Raffe, all the best in your new future. Politically we view the conflict in very different ways. I do hope you get to meet people in Israel like Uri Avnery, Yonatan Shapira, Joseph Dana, Jeff Halper, Rabbi Arik Asherman, Neve Gordon, Father Elias Chacour, Amira Hass, and the like; as well as visiting communities like Neve Sahlom/Wahat al-Salam. People such as these will provide you with ample contacts to meet a differnt set of experiences within Israel and Palestine. There is an alternate view to the narrative you have learnt as a youth in Australia.

    Shalom Salam Peace

  2. Lynne Newington says:

    Raffe; being a part of people who for millennia have been wandering across the face of the earth, you still have roots and those roots have given you wings; there are many in the world today who have neither:
    Take flight and good luck.

  3. Richard Joachim says:

    # Israel, David & Raffe,

    Israel, I’m guessing from what you said that you are in my age group (60+) and perhaps David, and we know Raffe, is of a younger generation, probably young enough to be our children or grandchildren. Take away the place names and titles from your paragraph I would think you were talking of Australia. Many in our generation in Australia also served in the military, I recall getting my papers just before my 20th birthday, and got sent to a strange place where perpetual war seemed the ‘norm’. When we came back the people didn’t want to know us, your comment “It [military service] practically means nothing” is/was applicable to Australia, NZ and the US. So far as Israel becoming “very violent”, look at the stats, Oz is now one of the most violent of the Western nations and crime against the person (excluding murder) is higher here than in the US!
    Don’t discourage young people like Raffe; the world has a chance to change through their healthy idealism and energy and we love them for that. Raffe, you go for it, young man. David, don’t be too hard on us old guys, we sometimes get a little bitter after years of struggle.
    G-D Bless all you three.

  4. David Singer says:

    # Israel Barak

    What country are you living in now?

  5. Israel Barak says:

    Raffe I would like to bring you down to earth regarding your Aliyah . I came to Israel 41 years ago from Christchurch NZ . I served in the paratroops and was in a reserve combat unit until I was 45 .
    It practically means nothing ! Life in Israel is not like you think . We work long hours for low pay and most people are overdrawn in the bank . The society has become very violent . On the sreets , on the roads and most places you go to . The government wants to take as much as they can from you and give you nothing back . Mind you , Members of the Knesset and influencial people make sure they live well !!! Corruption is rife and nothing is done about it .We are supposedly democratic ! If you are coming as an idealist forget about it . You can’t change anything easily . Believe me I have tried . Most important of all don’t believe anything you have been told , otherwise you are in for a big shock .
    Happy aliya תצליח !

  6. Ilene says:

    Good luck on your journey – both spiritually and physically, Raffe. It does my heart good to know there are young people like yourself who are so devoted to Judaism and Israel.

    Safe travels.
    Ilene

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