A few weeks ago I was sitting at work speaking with my co-worker. I just started working in this office and it was my first shift with him. We were having a casual discussion about where we are in life and what brought us to Israel. I mentioned that this was the third office I was working in that day. He looked at me, shocked, and said “why the hell do you work in 3 offices?”After explaining that I in fact, hold not 3 but 4 jobs, I told him that in order to pay my bills I needed to work a lot. Between my apartment bills and paying for my university tuition I can’t afford to work any less. “Congratulations on your loss,” he said to me and before I could ask him what that meant, he turned back to his computer and delved back into his work leaving me to ponder my life decisions. I got home at one in the morning- not because I was out with friends or at a political event or busy with some other recreational activity. I got home at one am because my shift at my third job ended at midnight. 3 jobs, 16 working hours, 6 buses, 4 cities. All in a days work. “Congratulations on your loss.” Those words keep ringing in my head. Since making aliyah I have been living with a fear that one day someone will knock on my door and revoke my citizenship. “Sorry Ro, you have failed your trial as an Israeli. Please turn over your teudat zehut and return to the States.” The idea of failure, of having to give up my dream, has made me hold on to it with all my might.I am working 4 jobs. I am failing exams for the first time in my life so that I can afford to go to school. I am spending more hours at work so that I can put food into plastic containers to eat dinner at my desk and not make use of my 30 minute unpaid break.I am failing.And in that way I am succeeding beyond my wildest dreams.I spend a ridiculous number of hours a week working in offices to support an aliyah vision which will likely never materialize. I will likely never have the money to simply go out and explore Israel, to hike the mountains, swim in the streams and explore the caves; that is the naive vision of the aliyah high. Reality looks a little different.Congratulations that the perfect vision of aliyah has disappeared and yet you still remain standing. Congratulations that you are willing to do whatever it takes to ensure the future of the Jewish people in the Jewish homeland. Congratulations that even though your picturesque aliyah is not your reality, you are still here. Congratulations on your stamina, your strength and your dedication. Congratulations on your loss, but that you are still standing in the face of that loss means you have won. Aliyah is hard. Aliyah is the hardest thing I have ever done. Aliyah is probably the hardest thing I will ever do. Aliyah is also the most rewarding, inspiring, empowering thing I have ever done.In the early aliyot sacrifice meant something else. It meant sleeping on rocks, toiling to build houses and cultivate the land. Many died of disease, many did not have the food they needed. But they stayed. It is thanks to them that we have the flourishing country called Israel. Their blood, sweat and tears is what cultivated this country to become one of the most advanced countries in the world. Sacrifice today means something else. I have sacrificed creature comforts and the ease of being surrounded with my family. I am underpaid, sleep deprived and living “in the minus,” but I still can't stand to picture my life looking any different if it means leaving this country that has held my heart since I first laid eyes on it. I don’t believe “the good life” necessarily means “the easy life.” I have learned to live without excess and I have created a different sort of family of my own. Life in Israel as an Olah Chadasha is everything but simple but I wouldn't trade it for anything. I have stepped out on my own, created an identity that is all mine, created a life that is my own, created a different future for myself. No matter how hard I have to work, I am still fulfilling my dream of living in the land of the Jewish people, walking the land of my forefathers and paving the way for generations of Sabras to come. The dream may have changed, but the idea is all the same. Dreams change, visions change; what remains the same is the driving force that brought me here in the first place. I am still “living the dream”, even if the dream looks a little different than my original vision. Congratulations on my loss indeed.
This post originally appeared on Ro's personal blog.