We’ve all felt it, at one moment or another; anyone who has ever visited Israel shares the same experience of having it take one’s breath away. It may occur when one emerges from the Old City streets and takes in the magnificent panoramic view of the Kotel, or when one finds oneself on a bus with a diverse group of Jews from around the world; or when one wells up with pride at the sight of Israeli soldiers protecting our people in our land; or even when one catches an intoxicating whiff of challot while navigating the frenzied shuk on a Friday afternoon.
Who knows how or when or even why it happens? Sooner or later, we inevitably fall fast and hard for the place; we sense the tectonic plates of Jewish history shifting beneath the ground and our imaginations wander to what could be, what might be, if somehow this otherworldly place could become our actual home – the place where we live out our everyday lives.
Perhaps as soon as it came, the feeling passes. The taxi pulls up to Ben Gurion Airport, the plane’s wheels lift off the runway, and we hurtle westward, leaving behind a trail of those special moments in a plume of dust.
But why does it end there? Where does all that magic go? Why do so many of us have such a transcendent experience and leave it at that, without at least exploring the possibility of making this magnificent land their permanent dwelling place?
“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” Lao Tzu said that, and while there are literally thousands of miles of Atlantic Ocean separating North America and the Tel Aviv shore, the maxim holds true for the process of anything worthwhile, including making aliyah.
If Point A is where we are and Point B is where we want to be, the distance between them can seem endless. And the uncertainty and anxiety brought about through this realization can stop the whole process before it even starts. By definition, however, there can only be one next step at any point, on any journey. Anyone who ever achieved greatness began somewhere, taking a first step beyond the cozy confines of Point A in the general direction of Point B.
But not all steps are created equal. Everything hinges on the first. That first step means we’re no longer standing still. It wakes us from our reverie; it stirs us from our immobility. And it’s hard. Really, really hard. But it’s also everything. Because the first step is not about distance traveled. It’s about what the decision to take it means to us and what it signals to those around us.
For world Jewry, the barriers of entry to our ancient homeland are lower than they’ve been for 2,000 years. Every day, Nefesh B’Nefesh sees prospective olim take those first steps towards aliyah and helps them shatter whatever obstacles lay on their path. This is happening by the thousands every year and across demographic, geographic, and denominational lines.
From young professionals looking to advance at the height of their professional careers to empty nesters looking for a change of pace; from religious Jews moving in fulfillment of yishuv ha’aretz to secular Jews moving in fulfillment of the Zionist dream. For so many, Point B suddenly isn’t a far-flung fairy tale land – it’s a concrete strip of earth on which they are determined to stake their claim.
So here’s my challenge to you: If you’ve ever had one of those transcendent moments in Israel; if you love Israel and appreciate the beauty and importance of Jews living there; if you’ve ever daydreamed about making Israel your home – then find out what the smallest possible next step is, and take it.