Moshinsky (center) made aliyah in March 2024 with Hanoar HaOved Vehalomed, Habonim Dror’s sister movement in Israel (photo: supplied).

Published: July 4, 2024

Last updated: July 4, 2024

I made aliyah in mid-March 2024. That’s six months after October 7th, but about eight years ago since I first thought about it.

Unlike a vacation, an exchange program, or obtaining a visa, gaining citizenship and moving your life to another country is more than a reaction. Like many other oil (new immigrants) I have met who have made aliyah since October, the war was an additional obstacle, a particularly difficult one, on our mental and practical road map for the move.

A young woman I met from Germany moved because of years of anti-Semitism in Europe. A man from Argentina came for a holiday early last year and stayed because he felt at home. Two people I live with, one from New York and one from Manchester, made aliyah after feeling for a long time that they could not live as left-wing Zionists in their culture. And I, from Melbourne, came because I believe that there is not only a Jewish history in Israel, but also a Jewish future, and I want to be part of that.

“What do you think, Grandma? Do you wish I hadn’t made aliyah?” I asked my grandmother on the phone a few days ago, while I was on a noisy street in Tel Aviv, near my to ulpan (Hebrew School) “It all balances out,” she said, about her worries and how far away I am, but also about the fact that I live here and how she cares about this place too.

I miss my home very much. Especially on Friday afternoons, when I usually help cook or set the table for Shabbat with my mother, go to my community’s Kabbalat service, and then eat with my family.

But on the other hand, I also experience a greater sense of home here: I hear the Shabbat siren, I see pain on a stranger’s face and I feel like it’s probably similar to my own, I experience the collective grief on Yom Hazikaron, and I smell the aroma of the neighbors’ food as I walk up the stairs to my apartment on Friday afternoon.

I came here because I believe that in Israel there is not only a Jewish history, but also a Jewish future, and I want to be part of that.

But apart from my grandmother’s insightful answers, it has been harder than expected to look back on my last three months here. Perhaps especially because I have come to realize that I no longer experience Israel the way I did when I went on vacation or when I pod (programs) about Zionism and the Jewish future at my school or in the youth movement.

It feels like society and reality are in flux here, and for the first time I’m swimming in it, not around it. I’ve been busy navigating the rent system in Hebrew; making sure I take the light rail to Petah Tikva, not Bat Yam; arranging dinner for the protest; and hanging out with my roommates, talking about this and that. But the war – just like everyone here in social situations.

Three months later, I realize that what has consumed me is not Iranian missiles, or homesickness. It is not the moral confusion of aliyah while there are still hostages in Gaza and people suffering catastrophically, or soldiers risking their lives, or the incredibly warm hospitality that most Israelis extend to olim.

For better or for worse, my days are filled with reality, the tachlis (get to the heart of the matter) of life here, not the intense highs and lows of this turbulent country. Olim, like all Israelis, have no choice or time other than for our lives to go on – tachlis – for our survival here.

A Lanu Eretz Acheret‘ (‘we have no other country’) has become a slogan hung on buildings all over the country. This is the reality for most Israelis who generally have no second passport or any other option than to live independently and safely in our own country, speaking our own language.

But this line actually comes from another part of a poem by Ehud Manor, written after the Second Lebanon War: ‘…gam in admati buret(‘…even if my country is on fire’). This full phrase is widely used today across the Israeli political spectrum and reflects the steadfast mentality even of those who Doing having a second passport, that you don’t just pick up and leave when life gets tough, but that you stay with – especially when there’s war.

Olim also stayed. They say that when you make aliyah, it is not a decision you make once when you sign the final declaration form, but a choice you make every day when you wake up as an oleh/olah. What I have seen over the past three months is that the vast majority of olim and Sabbath (Jews born in Israel) wake up every day and get on with life. And not in a grim, rushed way, but there is a remarkable feeling: a spark when meeting a friend for coffee, a warm look at a stranger, and an overwhelming willingness to help each other despite a collective grief that grips everyone’s core.

The Jewish Agency for Israel has seen a dramatic increase in interest from Australians wanting to move to Israel in the months since October 7. It has also expanded its support services for olim.

Sadly, I know and feel that behind closed doors there are many people dealing with intense trauma, like a friend of a friend who had panic attacks because she knew over 150 people who had been murdered. But I see and feel that most of those who are able to get out of the house and live in the tachlis do so with as much spirit and generosity as they can offer.

More than ever, I hear in my circles that more people want to come, and it is possible that more people will come than if October 7 and its aftermath never happened. The Jewish Agency for Israel has seen a dramatic increase in interest from Australians wanting to move to Israel in the months following October 7, and its support services for olim have also grown.

While there is no right way to make aliyah, I do believe that an important measure of its speed is not only how many of us come (or go), but also how many stay and continue with their lives amid the intense highs and lows of Israeli existence.

And if I’m in one of those valleys, and not in the tachlis, I might not be able to drive ten minutes to my grandma’s, but I can call her… until the incessant honking of Tel Aviv and this crazy country throws my back to reality.