Double Vision: The Joy of Aliyah in Challenging Times

There's a front and a back side, a positive and a challenging side, to every experience.  Making Aliyah and learning to live in today's terror-stricken Israel is proof of this.
Making Aliyah means jumping through a series of hoops: the decision, the bureaucratic process, and everything that follows when living in a new country.  Today this includes learning to live with terror.
For me, after 18 years of continually visiting Israel for long periods of time, the decision to make Aliyah was as simple as pulling a silk thread through the wide eye of a needle.  I didn't hesitate for a moment when I had arranged my life so I could make Aliyah.
The bureaucratic process was more complicated.  Already living in Jerusalem, I needed to obtain documents from the U.S., my previous home base.  Meetings at Misrad Hapnim, the ministry governing citizenship in Israel followed.  Eventually I jumped over the high bar and obtained my Teudat Zehut, my official identity card. The day I made Aliyah ranks among the most important days of my life. Now when people ask me, "Amerikai?" (Are you an American?), I proudly say, "Lo, ani Israeli,” (No, I'm an Israeli).
The third phase, my life as an olah hadasha, sometimes has been easy. For example, choosing an Ulpan, a school to learn Hebrew, a cost-free opportunity for new olim, was a cakewalk. Three evenings a week, I happily hasten to Ulpan Morasha where I'm making slow but steady progress.  I love every session.
More difficult has been converting my U.S. driver's license to the required Israeli one. The bureaucracy at Misrad HaRishui, the Ministry for all things driving, still has me running a marathon.
When the recent terror attacks began, upping the challenge of living here, my lifesaver has been my AAA (Aliyah Alumni Association), as I've dubbed them.  It's my team of friends who advise me on how to deal with the realities of living in Israel.   
Without help from my AAA, I could not have adjusted as quickly to the current terror. Like many Israelis, I now carry pepper spray when I walk.  And walking everywhere -- a great joy to me in the past –- has been replaced by taking taxis more often.  I’ve learned to limit the frequency of my news exposure, knowing every online post of more terror raises my personal alert level. 
I made Aliyah with many advantages.  Family and friends.  A home I'd already established in Jerusalem.  Synagogues I feel connected to.  And ReNEWed Jewish Leaders (RJL), the not-for-profit organization I founded years ago, enabled me to quickly find professional opportunities where I could work to build a stronger Israel.  I also delight in our national treasure, The Israel Museum, where I actively participate in many programs. 
The "back side," the major challenge, of my experience undoubtedly is the current rash of terror attacks.  Although I lived here during Operation Protective Edge in 2014, this terrorism in Jerusalem feels far more close and personal. 
"It's dangerous, come home," many Americans counseled me in 2014 during the declared war.  I responded with two sentences: "Thank you for your love and concern.  I am home."
Now I live with the daily stress of the current situation and continue to jump through Aliyah hoops.  I'll never have the strength of a sabra, a native-born Israeli.  I don't have the experience of my friends who made Aliyah decades ago and have lived through wars and intifadas. Many of them are my heroes, having served in the Israel Defense Forces. 
Every day, I meet more Israelis who love our Homeland as much as I do.  Even as another siren blares, I know one thing more truly than ever: in making Aliyah, in choosing to become an Israeli, I am finally home. 
My advice to those of you considering Aliyah?  Join us. Come home. We welcome you. We’ll serve as your AAA, your Aliyah Alumni Association, sharing the joys and challenges of living in our Homeland.