By Eliana Rudee, Aliyah Annotated is published every Wednesday in JNS.org
The joyous, momentous welcoming ceremony for the new immigrants at Ben Gurion Airport was only the beginning of my aliyah day. We stayed at the airport for five hours, receiving our immigration card, Israeli ID number, and other bureaucratic treats that entitle us to immigration benefits. We reunited with our suitcases and gathered into groups based on our respective destinations. Those who were going to ulpan—a five-month Hebrew class for five hours a day, five days a week—gathered onto a bus headed to sign up for the course and unpack. After unpacking, meeting new people, and unpacking some more, the sun set over the hills of Jerusalem.
The next day, I took a Hebrew test that placed me into the highest level of Aleph, meaning I know someHebrew, but don’t really know Hebrew. In the ulpan, there are people from the U.K., U.S., Canada, Australia, South Africa, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Russia, Ukraine, Scotland, Italy, and even India! Oftentimes, our most common language is Hebrew. But what unites us at ulpan is not only that we have come to learn Hebrew, but also that we are all living in Israel, leaving behind the many countries of the Diaspora, and returning to our Jewish roots in Israel. Many of us do not have family in Israel, but we feel that it is already our home because of our deep historical and spiritual ties to the land and the Israelis who already treat us as family.