JNF Wire: There's No Place Like Home
July 26, 2016
Adam H. Brill, Director of Communications
There’s No Place Like Home
By: Yocheved T. Kolchin
Yocheved Kolchin, in Nefesh B' Nefesh baseball cap, at Ben Gurion
Airport with JNF-USA staff moments after arriving in Israel.
My great-grandfather, David Asher, was born in Memel, a small German town that because of border changes is now part of Lithuania. He eventually left Germany and went to Scotland and lived there for several years before arriving in the United States. However, many years later, when he was in his late 80s, he made aliyah to Israel.
His wife, my great-grandmother, refused to leave her grown children in New York, so, alone, he boarded a boat to Israel without her.
My great-grandfather had a history of heart problems, but when he arrived in Jerusalem he threw away his heart medications, saying, “The air of Jerusalem is all the healing I need.” He lived in Israel for about a year, at which point he returned to the States to visit his wife. This time she was ready to go with him, and the two booked passage for Israel.
The day before their boat set sail, my great-grandfather passed away.
As I made aliyah on the recent July 18th Nefesh B’Nefesh charter flight, I couldn’t help but compare my aliyah experience to that of those who preceded me. There was my great-grandfather, who came on a boat that took weeks to arrive. And then my aunt and uncle, who made aliyah in 1974 and had no one to greet them at the airport besides their taxicab driver. Beyond my own family members, I thought about the many experiences of the early immigrants to Palestine before 1948, and of the early pioneers who labored hard to develop the land. Historically, aliyah has been a Jewish dream born of yearning and struggle.
In contrast, the atmosphere in JFK airport as 200 olim chadashim prepared to start a new life in Israel was celebratory and excited. Large pieces of cake were passed around, delighting the 103 children who were making aliyah with us. Family members hugged each other and promised to Skype. Young people discussed their inspiration for making aliyah and their plans for starting careers in Israel.
My own inspiration for aliyah dates back several years. I come from a very Zionistic family, and after spending a year in Israel in 2014, I was determined to come back. At a Nefesh B’Nefesh conference that November, I happened to meet a representative from Jewish National Fund (JNF), and when I heard her describe JNF’s work to develop the land of Israel and to build American Jewry’s connection to Israel, I knew I wanted to get involved. Several months later, I started working as JNF's Israel Advocacy and Education Director for New York, a position I held for the past year and a half. It was a great privilege to help students learn about and develop a commitment to Israel.
So the experience of making aliyah not only on a Nefesh B’Nefesh charter flight, but on a flight that was also sponsored by JNF, was incredibly meaningful for me. Joining us on the flight was JNF’s Chief Development Officer Rick Krosnick, who gave me an excellent piece of advice on making aliyah. “Wherever you go, make it small,” he told me, with the advice to focus on building connections with a small group of people and creating a community for myself.
We finally arrived at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv and I stepped onto the tarmac. I took my first deep breath of air as an Israeli citizen and I knew I was home. Minutes later, we were enveloped by the crowds of over 1,500 people who had come to welcome us home as new olim.
I’ve never been a “rockstar,” but at that moment, surrounded by a cheering and clapping crowd, I certainly felt like one! Several of my co-workers at JNF were there to greet me, and as I hugged them I knew that in America or in Israel, I would always be a part of the JNF-USA family.
I can’t say making aliyah has been easy for me. My Hebrew is far from perfect, the bureaucracy here can be deeply frustrating, and I don’t think I’ll ever understand the Israeli banking system. And, of course, there are people and places back home that I miss terribly. But when I think back to singing the Hatikvah for my first time as an Israeli citizen alongside 1,500 others, I felt blessed.
I know I’m living the dream of both my family and my people. I’ve finally come home.
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JEWISH NATIONAL FUND (JNF) began in 1901 as a dream and vision to reestablish a homeland in Israel for Jewish people everywhere. Jews the world over collected coins in iconic JNF Blue Boxes, purchasing land and planting trees until ultimately, their dream of a Jewish homeland was a reality. JNF gives all generations of Jews a unique voice in building a prosperous future for the land of Israel and its people.
JNF embodies both heart and action; our work is varied in scope but singular in benefit. We strive to bring an enhanced quality of life to all of Israel’s residents, and translate these advancements to the world beyond. JNF is greening the desert with millions of trees, building thousands of parks, creating new communities and cities for generations of Israelis to call home, bolstering Israel’s water supply, helping develop innovative arid-agriculture techniques, and educating both young and old about the founding and importance of Israel and Zionism.
JNF is a registered 501(c)(3) organization and United Nations NGO, which continuously earns top ratings from charity overseers.
For more information on JNF, call 888-JNF-0099 or visit www.jnf.org.
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