Making aliya is and always has been a contentious issue amongst diaspora Jewry.
'Are you crazy?'
'Really? Like really, really?'
'Don't leave me...'
...are just some of the reactions when I first intimated to my friends, colleagues and family that I would be possibly/probably/definitely moving to Israel in the summer of 2014.
'Making aliya' (in Hebrew, literally, 'to ascend', as going/returning to the Holy Land, in classical Jewish thought, is seen as 'ascending' in the world and becoming closer to G-d) is something that has been at the back and front of my mind pretty much every day for the past 5 years.
As chronicled in my just rediscovered blog here, I have previously spent two months in Israel on a kibbutz ('a hippy farm' as it is colloquially sometimes known), which was highly educational, culturally and personally. What didn't kill me (and there were many incidents of near death - infected spider bites, near drowning and drunken French men) toughened me up. I went as a clueless, NW London born and bred university graduate and returned a slightly less clueless, toughened, fatter and darker version of myself, who took slightly less shit from people and could milk a cow.
My stay on the kibbutz coincided with a time of natural endings and beginnings. It cemented my love of Israel and made me determined that one day I would return there permanently.
But life had other plans. I returned home to commence the MA I had always dreamed of, before quitting it 6 days later (to my mother's horror) and announcing my return to the kibbutz, just after I had lost all of the weight I had gained.
I returned for a further 2 months stretch, before commencing an internship in early 2010 at a well-known English daily language paper. I never looked back once. I was the happiest, most fulfilled person on the planet.
But, shortly before graduating, I had won a place on Teach First, the global teacher-training business-leadership crapola of a graduate degree, where graduates are shoved, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed into the worst schools in the inner cities, being gradually beaten and worn down while told to get on with it and teach for two years.
That experience in itself requires a whole encyclopaedia consisting of evidence, emails and rants, and in all honesty I've spent the subsequent 3 years attempting to forget as much of it as possible. But I digress.
Everyday of those two years, I battled through, knowing the light at the end of the tunnel was my aliya date - summer 2012. I began the process, carefully tying up the few loose ends I would leave behind.
But - catastrophe strikes! - A Jewish school in the good ole 'burbs were seeking - AN ENGLISH TEACHER! Encouraged by my mum to apply, to go- for the very least - a bit of interview practise, I went. I got the job. Relenting to the niggling thought in my gut that,perhaps I hadn't given teaching a fair whack, and it would really be very different teaching my own kind, I again, became locked in for another couple of years. Parts of which are best left to rot in the very recesses of my furthest memory ducts, to be extracted kicking, raving and howling by a psychotherapist when I (probably) implode at my 40th birthday party.
But I digress once more. I watched over the years as my friends an even some family made aliya. I was ecstatic for them, but felt jealous to my stomach. In the summer of 2013 (by which time I had acquired a flat, a beautiful little cat and other accoutrements and detritus of an adult's lifestyle), I figured I would just happily sneak off to Israel and never return. Screw my job.
Coming to my senses and viewing the matter rationally, I began to see that, yes it was a bad time to make aliya, however desperately I wanted it. But - if I organised myself and set a time frame, tying up various loose ends as I went, it would become a viable and real event.
I set the date for December 2013. To put a long story short (TPALSS), this didn't happen for various reasons - the time frame was too short. I had finalised my visa, started packing and then had to call it off.
I set my sights on July 2014. I quit my job. I sorted my finances. I have a visa.
I leave in July 2014. Finally.
Upon researching the common pitfalls and general aliya experience, I didn't find much. Since my pre-aliya experience has (twice) been fairly stressful in itself, I thought I'd document the entire process - from the decision to the event and beyond.