Aliyah – 10 Years Later

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When I turned 10 years old, I remember thinking how cool it was to have a double-digit age.

That first year of double-digits made the age of 10 feel special for that reason alone. A decade, especially the first decade of one’s life, is a long time. Many memories from that first decade of life, almost all of which come from growing up in Providence, are either completely lost or are a bit fuzzy to me. But I still look back on them fondly as the initial years of my life, where I began discovering the person I am.

My aliyah feels much the same way. Moving to Israel was a re-birth of sorts. I arrived a full-blooded Jewish-American, unsure of how I would fit into Israeli society. Who would I be or become in Israel? The main difference between the first 10 years of my life and the first 10 years of my life in Israel is that I remember so much more about my years in Israel. From the flight that brought me here, to those initial hours, days, weeks, months and years.

One memory in particular has been grabbing my attention these past weeks. I first wrote about it in this newspaper about seven years ago. I was taking a taxi from one part of Jerusalem to another. The taxi driver and I struck up a conversation, and I told him how I’d been living in Israel for just a few years and how much I loved it here. He scoffed, telling me that I was seeing the country through rose-tinted glasses and that it would eventually pass. I asked him how long I’d have to stay in Israel with my rose-tinted view of Israel before he’d believe that my love of the country was genuine. He answered, “10 years.”

So now it’s 10 years of living in Israel. And do I still have that positive view of Israel that the taxi driver scoffed at? The answer is, “Yes! Most definitely! I do! I do! I do!” I write that with such enthusiasm because it’s true. At any point in the last 10 years I could have given up, packed my bags and moved back to America. There have certainly been low points that have made me ask myself whether I should stay or go. And the answer, clearly, has always been to stay.

The longer I’ve been here, the more I understand this country. And the reverse is also true – I’ve found that each year I understand America less and less. So much so that I think it would be a culture shock for me to come back.

Yes, Israel definitely has its flaws. There’s no question about that. But what country doesn’t! One way I’ve learned to appreciate daily life here is to weigh things that may frustrate me about daily life against things such as this:

Around 2002, in the middle of the second Intifada, one of my college professors in New York stated to the class, “Israel is the safest place in the world!” We all looked around, not sure if we should disagree with him since there was a lot of violence from the Intifada. While none of us believed it was as dangerous as news outlets depicted it, calling it “the safest place in the world” was a bit of a stretch. Then the professor finished his statement by saying, “For the Jews!” To that we all nodded our heads in agreement. 

Ten years is a long time. And for this long decade I’ve had the honor of calling Israel my home. I know that I’m still becoming the person that I’ll be for the rest of my life. For all of us, I don’t think the journey of discovery to figure out who we are meant to be should end until the day that we die. One thing that I know for certain is that I want to contribute as much as I can to the Jewish people and the rest of the world’s population through the land of Israel. It is my belief that the future of the Jewish people rests here, in Israel, and I want to be where that future lies.

Until now I’ve always asked myself what the coming year will bring. Now I think it’s time to start asking what the coming decade will bring. If it is anything like the first decade, then I’m certainly in for all the highs and lows that come with any life, along with discovery, adventure, and more memories.

DANIEL STIEGLITZ (dstieglitz@gmail.com), a Providence native, made aliyah in 2007. He holds a master’s degree in creative writing from Bar Ilan University; is a certified Life Coach; does freelance content writing; and lives in Jerusalem. He has had two short stories published in FictionMagazines.com publications.