Updated: May 2, 2021
Aliyah Date: December 2014
Made Aliyah from Seattle, Washington
Currently living in Amirim
Meet Raizel, our newest content writer on the iKonnect team! Raizel traveled all over the world before realizing that Israel was where she wanted to be, and we are so happy that she did! Keep reading for her story...
Raizel was born in NY but grew up in Seattle, Washington. She made Aliyah just over six years ago, and recently took the leap and moved from Jerusalem to Amirim, a beautiful moshav in northern Israel.
Raizel's Aliyah story begins when she came to Israel for the first time for seminary, at age 17. She was raised Orthodox with a strong connection to Israel from a Torah (biblical) perspective, but not at all from a Zionistic perspective. Her Israeli education consisted of learning the hora from her middle school Israeli dance teacher.
When she arrived in Israel that first time she was amazed by everything -- the moon looked brighter and even the graffiti was "Jewish"! She stayed here for two years but stayed in her seminary bubble, which consisted of mostly English speakers. She didn't take buses, go to the shuk, or even learn much Hebrew (mostly because she felt embarrassed to speak). Still, the seed had been planted and her love for Israel grew.
Fast forward eight years later when Raizel was 26 and working for a non-profit in New York. One day one of her roommates said to her, "Let's quit our jobs and go to India." It was such a farfetched idea that she just laughed it off. It was a running joke - until it turned into reality. Raizel and her roommate, Mandy, decided that it was time to get out of New York. Raizel bought a plane ticket, quit her job, put all her stuff in storage, and headed out of town.
Raizel's sister lives in Israel and has for many years, and her sister was about to have her third child, so before heading to India, Raizel decided to go to Israel. After Israel, they had planned a two-month trip to Thailand, Vietnam, and India, but of course, things don't always go as planned...
While in Israel, Raizel also traveled to Paris and Slovakia, met her new nephew (who's now eight years old!), danced at her cousin's wedding, and then set off for Thailand, Vietnam, and finally reached India. After the first week in India, she knew she wasn't ready to go back. She felt like she needed to stop everything and be still. At the end of their planned 3.5 weeks in India, Mandy turned to Raizel and said, "Are you coming on the flight?" She couldn't. She felt like she needed more time.
At first, it felt daunting to be alone in India, but it turned out that she was never really alone because she kept meeting and traveling with Israelis. Anyone who travels a lot knows that Israelis travel in flocks all over the world after their army service - and India is a hotspot. Because Raizel keeps Shabbat and kosher, she always traveled to places where they had a Chabad House or Lev Yehudi Center - which are there primarily for the thousands of Israeli backpackers that pass through every year.
Without intending, she spent five months traveling with Israelis. When she reached India, her Hebrew was minimal! But every single day she was hearing and (trying to) speaking Hebrew and this changed everything. She started understanding more and expanding her Hebrew vocabulary - in India!
As an extrovert, it was challenging for her to struggle with following and participating in group conversations, but there was a certain point in the journey where she learned to sit back and just listen. She let go of needing anyone to know she was fun or interesting and just sunk into just simply being present.
When she came back to Israel five months later, everything had changed. Travel is always transformative, but this experience was different. In addition to learning about getting a better understanding of Israeli culture, Raizel felt as if God had held up a mirror in front of her -as if to say, "It's you, Raizel. The change happens in you. Stop looking outside for the answers."
Raizel came back to Israel and because everything had changed in those five months, she was like “now what?” There was nothing tying her down, so she stayed in Israel for a bit to spend time with her nieces and nephews. She still had no intention of making Aliyah and over the next two years went back and forth between Israel and America. At a certain point, she was debating between going to graduate school in the US or make aliyah. While she was grappling with the decision, a friend asked her, "What are you afraid of?"
That question suddenly opened her eyes to the fact that she wanted to be in Israel, and make aliyah, and the only thing holding her back was facing what that actually looks like. She was afraid of living far from her family, being a forever immigrant, the challenge of a new culture and new life. Once she realized what was at the root of the indecision, the fear melted away and six weeks later she was on an aliyah flight to Israel! When anyone asks why she made aliyah (it happens fairly often!) the best way she can describe it is that her soul breathes better here.
Along with content writing for us at iKonnect, Raizel also being trained as an iHeart facilitator, to teach a well-being curriculum to kids. Raizel also plans to run wellbeing workshops for women, on topics of boundaries, body image, self-esteem, confidence, etc...
"My wish for women of the world (including myself) is to be deeply grounded and centered in themselves so that they are always listening to their heart and soul and making conscious decisions that are aligned with their highest self."
We are eager to sign up when she offers these workshops!
Raizel says the challenges of Aliyah are mainly bureaucracy, paperwork, and the added challenge of it all being in Hebrew. It's hard to learn new systems, especially in a new language.
Raizel loves living in Israel for many reasons, but one is that "You get to re-invent yourself here. You come to a new country, not even knowing the language, and you can do your own thing with endless growth possibilities! Knowing English can be an advantage here too."
She also loves that there is an alignment of the calendar around Judaism here -- we feel more tuned in and integrated to Judaism here because it is incorporated into the life and the calendar! It's powerful.
Raizel's advice for future Olim is, "Be really patient with yourself and the process and be open to the fact that you don’t really understand Israeli culture. We come as Jews and expect it to be a certain way because we’re all Jewish, but it’s not like that.
Don’t assume anything about this country, pretend you moved to Pakistan and have to learn a whole new culture! Come with eyes open as if it’s brand new. You might get some amazing surprises!"