Many people, both In Israel and abroad, have asked me why I made Aliyah and have chosen to serve in the Army here in Israel. Life in America was easy, they remind me and my future was relatively secure, whereas my time here and especially my time in the army will contain many challenges and unknowns.
I think the pivotal moment in my decision came a few yeas ago in 2007, when I visited the grave of the late Michael Levin, a fellow Philadelphian and lone soldier who was gunned down in Lebanon in 2006. I remember the moment distinctly because I saw a Philadelphia Eagles hat on his tombstone and asked a tour guide why it was there.
When I left Israel a few weeks later, I promised myself I would return and pick up the torch he had dropped. I would wear the same uniform as the many men and women who have served in the IDF, a promise I was unable to fulfill until years later. Now I am twenty one, here perhaps a year or two later than I would have liked but here nevertheless, in this fantastic country which has given me so much perspective and so many positive experiences in such a short period of time.
The thing that has really jumped out at me since I arrived here is the genuine care and kindness so many people have shown me. When I came here I was so uncertain, like a child almost learning how to move about on my own two feet in a world of many unknowns. Hebrew challenged me (and still does). Getting my life organized seemed like an insurmountable task, made seemingly more difficult by the bureaucracy here which seems, at times, to stifle all progress and blunt all enthusiasm. Yet my Family and friends were always ready to offer advice and support, a warm bed to sleep in, a good meal, and most important the love and care that has given me encouragement through the hard times.
Philadelphia will always be the city of my childhood. It was in my home, community and at schools like Abrams that my Judaism and Zionism were discovered. No matter where I go I will always take Sunday afternoon football games, Fourth of July Barbecues, and so many other memories of the land in which I was so privileged to spend my formative years with me.
But when I spend Shabbat dinner with my family here, or think of my upcoming service, I feel that I am also part of Israel, not simply an outsider looking in. To me that feeling has more than justified giving up the certainty and some of the comforts that came with living in the states. Aliyah has not always been easy nor do I expect my life here to be void of challenges in the future, but there has never been a moment since arriving that I have not felt that it was worth it.