By Nathan Schachter
It has been my dream to make aliyah for as long as I can remember. I thought about it a lot. I drew up plans. I studied Hebrew while in day school. But I hit a roadblock when I told my parents – and in retrospect, I admit they had a point.
I was just 13 years old when I made that announcement, after all. I was pretty young to be thinking about moving away. But that’s how much Israel has always appealed to me.
Finally, when I was in college, I got my chance. I signed up to study at Hebrew University through Masa Israel Journey.
Before I knew it, I was at a Yom Hazikaron [Israel Memorial Day] event. Standing with all of my Masa peers in Jerusalem, I was profoundly moved. The entire country was observing a moment of silence for the soldiers lost while protecting the land of Israel. It hit me in a new way: I was now a college student – the same age as some of those soldiers. I felt gratitude in every fiber of my being, and I felt connected to this special nation. It was a sense of being a part of a community and belonging to something bigger than myself.
It helped that I had also been immersing myself in all things Israel. I was speaking the language and reading the newspaper, and listening to the radio. I talked with my classmates on the bus and walking to get coffee. Classes like “Diversity and Coexistence,” “Philosophy through Israeli Film” and “Jewish Experiential Education” all gave me renewed vigor in my appreciation of and love for this complicated country.
In addition, I was one of a few Masa participants who was also a part of The Nachshon Project – a fellowship for North American college juniors in Israel, giving them a taste of Jewish communal leadership by exposing them to from leaders and prominent figures in the Jewish world. Getting accepted was one of the best days of my life. My cohort became close friends, traveling together and being inspired by people that are passionate about their jobs to make the Jewish future brighter. One of my favorite components of the Fellowship was the emphasis on us, and how we’d be a part of that future.
Now, I’m finishing up at the University of Connecticut. I’m back home, but I feel like I’m still in Israel. I’m doing my follow-up projects from Nachshon – organizing a dialogue on campus between Jewish and Muslim students on campus, and putting together a leadership retreat for all of the Hillel houses in the Hartford region. I’ve also invited the famous Israeli author, Yossi Klein Halevi, to come and bring a Palestinian friend for an open and engaging discussion.
My parents are happy to have me close by for now, but they know that aliyah is still in my future. Thanks to my immersive Masa experiences though, they’re much more comfortable with it (well, that and the fact that I’m now 22!).
Masa made my dreams come true, and I know my Israel journey has really just begun.
A resident of West Hartford, Nathan Schachter attended Solomon Schechter Academy in New London, and is a graduate of Solomon Schechter Day School of Greater Hartford and the Hebrew High School of New England. Currently a senior at the University of Connecticut, where he is majoring in communication, he intends to either enlist in the IDF or begin working when he makes aliyah.
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