It's hard to believe that 18 years ago I was one of the few children who participated in planting this very tree. I remember my kindergarden group standing around the outside of our synagogue while our teacher put, what was then, only a little hand held stump in the ground for us to put a bit of earth around. It's amazing to see how each of us has grown in the past (almost) two decades. From the little 6 year old girl who looked like this:
to a young woman who is getting ready to start a whole new life in a far away country.
This brings me to my life changing Tu B'shvat miracle. Almost the second I arrived in Israel, some 7 months ago, I knew that it would be almost impossible for me to ever leave, and this feeling was solidified the more time I spent in and around Israel and the Palestinian territories. By the middle of my summer Ulpan (intensive Hebrew language study) I had made the decision to make Aliyah and permanently move my life to Israel. After telling my family members (none of whom were at all surprised by this piece of news) I began the process of gaining Israeli citizenship. Things came to a bit of a standstill during the semester in terms of my citizenship, but as soon as I was done with my last paper I was on a plane back to the USA to finish the process.
4 days after my arrival in California I went with my Zayde to Los Angeles to have my final Aliyah interview at the Jewish Agency where it would be determined if I was eligible for Aliyah to Israel. The day before going to Los Angeles I gathered all of my documentation, proof of Judaism, and took it over to my Chabad Rabbi so that he could write me a letter attesting to the fact that I am Jewish and born to a Jewish mother (this documentation is needed to prove that I am eligible for my "right of return" to the Jewish homeland). I went to my Rabbi with my mom who had worked so hard with my grandmother to find amazing documentation to prove my Judaism, including my grandmother's mother's wedding Ketuba (marriage document), and we had the best time catching up and reminiscing about the good old days of my childhood! Once we had the letter it was off to LA.
When my Zayde and I arrived at the Jewish agency I could hardly sit still I was so excited. Despite the horrific traffic that almost made me late (thank you Los Angeles), I was so well prepared and ready to tackle this final step in my citizenship process. When I got up to the room where I was to be interviewed I could tell that the interviewer could sense my excitement because she jumped right into the interrogation. I gave her all of my documents, answered questions about where I lived, what I was doing in Israel, what I planned to do, why I wanted citizenship, and so on. By the end it was clear that I wanted this more than anything and she gave me the best news anyone could give me: I was approved for Aliyah, and upon proof that I lived in the USA prior to the issuance of my passport I would start the process of getting my flight back to Israel and an Olah Chadasha (new Immigrant).
I wanted to cry I was so happy and excited, and all I could think about was getting back home to Israel. As much as I love being home in the states my heart is undoubtedly over in the Middle East to the point where I'm counting the seconds until I am back home in my beautiful Tel Aviv apartment. My heart has been pining for Israel ever since I left and in the future I'm not sure I'll ever be able to be away from that region for more than 2 weeks at a time :-). I have two more weeks to enjoy my California home, and I plan on making the most of it, but I am very ready to get back to my crazy, amazing, unpredictable, and exciting life in Israel. Thanks to God and all of his gifts this time when I return home I will be doing so as a new immigrant and citizen of beautiful Israel. I am now FINALLY legally Middle Eastern :-) YAY!
Until we meet again! Stay tuned for an interesting post on a presentation I attended regarding Sephardic Jewry and Ladino music!
Tisba7 3ala kheir ya chaverim <3,