People often ask how I made my decision to make aliyah (immigrate to Israel). You might think it was easy — but, in fact, it was a decision that took me several years to make.
I grew up in Chicago and went to college in New York, but I always loved Israel. Every break I had in college I would come to Israel for two weeks and explore. I would go hiking and backpacking, meet the people, and have the most beautiful and meaningful Shabbats I had ever experienced.
But making aliyah was another story. In New York, when I met my future husband, he told me he had always intended to move to Israel. But I had to be honest. I told him I could never imagine myself moving to Israel, so if we were to be together, he would have to choose: Israel, or being married to me. The idea of leaving the country where I was born, learning a new language, and leaving all my family and friends was just too overwhelming.
He said he was willing to be in America for me. But, as happens so often in life, God had other plans for us.
Several years later, we were married and still living in New York. One day my husband came home from work and asked me the question again: We’re starting our lives together now, and I have to ask you one last time, do you want to make aliyah?
To my surprise, I said yes without hesitation. The conviction was firm in my mind. I knew that Israel was where we should plant new roots. I wanted to start life together with my husband in what I knew was the land of my soul. Two weeks later we were on an airplane to Israel, and we have never doubted the decision.
What changed? I believe that God put it in my heart. He said, “Yael, this is your time. Once you get a job and have children, it will be even harder to move to Israel. If you want to live in Israel, make the move now. Come home.”
Now, we are fully established here, with four wonderful children who don’t know any other way of life, and it is such a blessing. Since the news usually only reports on Israel during times of terror or conflict, people often ask me if it is dangerous to live here. I tell them that when I look back at history and see the many countries that have persecuted or expelled Jews, I know we are in the right place. Here, in the sovereign Jewish state, we have a government — and an army — whose sole purpose is to protect and defend us. I feel safer living here than anywhere else in the world.
When it came to Israel, God made my choice for me. And He always knows best. It is the same with so many olim (immigrants) who decide to come to the Holy Land, many of whom face challenges and difficulties far greater than those I faced — vicious anti-Semitism, crippling poverty, ongoing war and chaos. They follow God’s call and become blessed by living in this Holy Land.
“He will raise a banner for the nations and gather the exiles of Israel; he will assemble the scattered people of Judah from the four quarters of the earth” (Isaiah 11:12). What a privilege it is for all of us at The Fellowship, in partnership with our generous supporters around the world, to be part of fulfilling this biblical prophecy. Thank you, friends, for all you continue to do to bring God’s people home.
With blessings from the Holy Land,
Aliyah Freedom Flights IFCJ Israel olim The Fellowship Yael Eckstein