Photo Credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90
The U.S. and Israeli flags are screened on the walls of Jerusalem's Old City on October 18, 2023.

I was that kid in seminary who stressed each week because I had no family in Israel to go to for Shabbos. My husband had the same situation.

Twenty years makes a world of a difference. When we made aliyah three years ago, we found ourselves coming home in more ways than one, as we joined not just the land for which our hearts had ached but reunited with family and friends. Both my husband’s sister and mine had since made aliyah with their families; so had some of our good friends and many cousins, congregants and acquaintances. Going to any event became a jaunt down memory lane as we saw people from various times and places of our lives; a personal Kibbutz Galuyot of sorts that we had not expected.


Many people aren’t lucky enough to arrive here with family but find that some family and friends follow them, even when not expected. In the year during and after our aliyah, most of our closest friends moved to Israel, as well as my parents who arrived this past summer. The fervent desire to come home apparently infected everyone around us too.

At 7.2 million Jews, Israel now boasts the largest Jewish population in the world, but it doesn’t take statistics to realize that the center of the Jewish world has shifted to Israel. Those of us who have been privileged to make Israel our home have been seeing Shivat Tzion unfold before us; it’s chillingly powerful to be a part of it in countless ways. This has become all the more obvious since October 7.

Back in the spring of 2020, our aliyah process found itself stalled by the closure of government offices, airlines and lifts. In an attempt to crowd-source to navigate the process to get into Israel, I started an aliyah WhatsApp group of six people. That group has now grown to a robust chat consisting of 294 members helping each other, along with two sister chats of 550 people for when “aliyahing” members arrive “at the other side.” The groups have grown since October 7 as people continue to apply and arrive, from all across the hashkafic spectrum.

As the principal of Ulpanat Orly, a high school for girls in grades 7-12 which caters to helping olot integrate smoothly into Israel, I have spoken to so many families in the process of aliyah over the past few months, that we decided to run a Zoom session on Jan. 28 to discuss the challenges of teen aliyah and how our school helps (check for details). Interestingly, when my family made aliyah with a 9th grader, we were told by many people that coming with older kids was inadvisable. Now the challenges that were once seen as insurmountable are seen as something to plan for but doable. Families are coming and we are finding ways to make it happen.

Since our aliyah, my husband, who was a pulpit rabbi in America, gets constant calls from rabbis and principals in America who are considering aliyah. Many have since arrived. Some are still figuring out how to make it work. But it seems there is scarcely a Jewish leader in America who doesn’t have aliyah in the back of his or her mind.

All signs point to an imminent wave of North American aliyah.

The numbers from Nefesh b’Nefesh and the Jewish Agency concur. It seems the October 7 massacre broke every Jewish heart but also awakened a burning connection to the Jewish state and reminded Jews across the world that the antisemitism that they thought lay dormant was actually active, furious and right at the doorsteps of some of the largest and strongest Jewish communities.

In a recent Times of Israel article on Dec 23, Nefesh b’Nefesh was quoted as pointing to “an unprecedented increase” of more than 100% in aliyah applications compared to the same time span in 2022. In the same article it was reported that the chair of the Jewish Agency recently told an Israeli news station that he expects 1 million new Jewish immigrants in the coming years.

One such applicant asked to remain anonymous but wanted to share what drove his family to make the decision:

“I always wanted to make aliyah, but not until I was older. I figured that since I’m a comfortable American, why would I give that up now? In the 19 years I’ve known my wife, we never once spoke about aliyah. Then the war happened and something inside me awoke. I found myself in tears from constant videos being sent on WhatsApp; I felt on fire but helpless. On Dec. 31 I saw a video of Hadas Lowenstern talking about her late husband Elisha, Hy”d, who was killed in Gaza. I couldn’t believe someone like this could exist in real life. She lost her world and was still rock solid in her faith. It was my wife’s reaction to this video that was the impetus that began the process of our Aliyah. ‘I may end up eating my words,’ she said, ‘but maybe it’s time we move to Israel. I want our kids to grow up in a place that produces people like Hadas.’

“Like Nachshon, here’s my chance. Am I going to wait for an easier time or am I going to jump in now? I’m not saying, ‘My fellow brothers and sisters in Eretz Yisroel, I am thinking of you in your time of need.’ Instead I’m saying, ‘My fellow brothers and sisters in Eretz Yisroel, I am joining you in your time of need.’”

This family plans to arrive this summer. With teenagers. Their inspiring story is one of many such stories.

In a time of great heartbreak, when we daven for our kidnapped and read about our valiant boys falling nearly daily in Gaza, the news of American Jews making aliyah has been heartwarming. We also understand it: we have never been prouder of our country. Why would anyone choose not to be a part of Am Yisrael in Eretz Yisrael?

In May of 1967, at the threat of the Arab onslaught, the famous joke was that there should be a sign at the airport that reads: Last one out of the country, shut the lights! These days, it seems the tables have started to turn and the lights that may be going out are in the communities of the Diaspora as American Jewry slowly makes its way back home.


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Ariela Davis is a passionate Jewish educator/writer and also served as a Rebbetzin before her aliyah in 2020. She is the Menahelet of Ulpanat Orly in Bet Shemesh.