There has been a question asked a numerous amount of times in my 'almost' twenty years of aliyah, "Hey, Alan, what did you make aliyah for?". Well, I'd like to take a couple of minutes and answer this question by sharing a kind of personal part of my life.
While growing up as an average Jewish American kid in the United States, I came to the conclusion in 1991, by the end of the Gulf War, that I wanted to be in Israel because that's what I felt was the right thing to do.
After arrival in Israel, I started going to Yeshiva and met other guys with similar backgrounds as mine who decided to come to Israel for the same feelings ,"the right thing to do", one of the guys I hooked up with was from Canada-his name was Jason Friedberg, but I knew him as Yehoshua. Together we learned in yeshiva, but we decided it wasn't enough and we both decided to join the army-IDF. With the process of joining the army, being long and bureaucratic, we had many nights to sit up and talk. I remember one night I asked him a question, "Hey Yehoshua, how would you feel if something happened to you?". He said, "I'd feel bad for my parents, since I don't think they would understand how proud I was wearing the uniform while defending our people." I just laid in my bed, with those thoughts in my head, until I dozed off to sleep.
The time eventually came, and before I knew it, I was wearing that same uniform that we had talked about, but now working hard for it. My unit started training before his, so while I started basic training, Yehoshua was still in yeshiva. Every time I received leave for Shabbat, not being able to hardly stand because of my aching muscles, my face burned from blisters of the heat, I would come back to yeshiva and find Yehoshua lending me his bed to rest in and giving me some fresh baked cookies he had just bought for Shabbat. He acted as a brother to me.
Time went on and Yehoshua started training in an infantry unit called Golani. By this time I finished basic training and advanced training and was serving my stint of duty in the Gaza Strip during the Intifada. Being 'lone soldiers', without family here in Israel, we had special privileges and one of them was "an errand day". After not seeing Yehoshua for a while because of our service in different brigades, we coincidentally bumped into each other on our 'errand day'. Being so happy to see each other, I asked if he wanted to go out that night, but he told me he was seeing someone seriously and it looked like she was the girl for him. I said, "no problem, but if you have to be back early tomorrow morning, come over to my apartment and crash for the night". By the time he came over it was late, but we ended up talking about finding the right girl and marriage, the entire night. I thank G-D for letting us meet up that day and spending the quality time that we were able to spend, not knowing that would be the last time I would see him.
About a month passed and I was still serving in Gaza, we had a tent on the base with a single telephone in it(no cellphones back then!)and I don't know why, but I kept finding myself calling Yehoshua's apartment on the kibbutz, which adopted him. It was Purim that week and while I was not allowed to leave my base that Purim , I remember Yehoshua mentioning that he might get out for shabbat of Purim. I just kept calling every day that week but no one answered, and the week was soon coming to an end, not knowing that Yehoshua already had gone missing that week. As Erev Shabbat approached, I got ready for my 6 hour jeep patrol by packing my siddur in my flak jacket between my 8 clips of M16 bullets and climbed onto the jeep, then somebody handed out the Friday night newspaper. With my Hebrew not being as great back then, the first thing I usually did was look at the pictures. But this time I did not have to read Hebrew-Yehoshua's face was right smack on the front page. My heart fell to the ground and I yelled to the guy in the back of the jeep "TELL ME WHAT IT SAYS!! TELL ME WHAT IT SAYS!!! TELL ME HE'S OK!!!". He looked at me in my eyes and said, "he has gone missing since the beginning of the week and they found his tefillin and the rest of his belongings on the side of the Jerusalem/Tel Aviv highway." Well If you know Yehoshua, you'd know he doesn't go missing. He was too responsible-I'd say even a bit overly responsible from what I remember. He was even voted the most outstanding soldier in his unit.
As the sun started to set and Shabbat was approaching, the same guy came up to me, but this time he wasn't looking me in the eye. He heard the radio and said they found him, his funeral will be on Sunday or Monday, when his parents arrive from Canada. That Shabbat I will never forget as long as I live.
Today, there is a small monument at the site where he was found and if you're ever in the area then stop for a minute and think about his sacrifice to his People, Land and the Torah that he lived by.
So now you have the answer to the question-"Hey Alan, what did you make aliyah for?" By driving on the Jerusalem/Tel Aviv highway, I'm reminded every time why I made aliyah.
Am Yisrael, Eretz Yisrael and Torat Yisrael.