When I was 14, I came across Leon Uris's book Exodus and my life was changed forever. I identified with the history, the struggles, and the exhilaration of the people who made their way to the Land of Israel to build the country and work to create the state. I decided then and there that I would live in Israel.
My aliyah differed significantly from that of the late 19th century halutzim , even though I was a founding member of a new kibbutz for a while. We did move some rocks and bicker over ideology but we had plenty to eat and comfortable living accommodations. The only thing that I needed from "back home" was tuna fish and chocolate chips (novelty items in Israel in the mid-'80s).
Aliyah isn't a step that everyone can take, but it's still a concept that speaks to the imagination and longing of Jews worldwide. To give youngsters a sense of the magic and feeling of wonderment that aliyah engenders, JETS uses online tools to help them develop an understanding of why so many individuals are prepared to uproot their lives in order to be a part of the Jewish country.
Throughout the year, the TALI Shutafut program has been building towards the highlight of the year – the opportunity for the Israeli and American students to join together in their celebration of Yom HaAtzmaut.
After building up to the aliyah unit with units that examined the ethnic origins of Jews around the world and the challenges facing Diaspora Jewish communities, the May Tali unit is focusing on an overview of the reasons that Jews choose to make aliyah, the challenges that they face, and the aliyah stories of different ethnic groups.
The aliyah unit encourages the American and Israeli partner-classes to join together to examine some of the reasons that Jews make aliyah, despite the difficulties. Special emphasis is placed on the impact of Ethiopian Jewish aliyah, both on Israel and on the Ethiopian Jewish olim themselves.
The students are also given the opportunity to consider the concerns that making aliyah raises such as moving to a new land with a new language that is far away from family and friends.
The unit concluded with inspiring personal aliyah stories that underscore the unique connection that Jews of all backgrounds, ethnicities, ages and religious affiliations feel for Israel.