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Why I'm making aliyah at 21

Natasha Gee-Firsht starts her new life in Israel as the nation turns 70.

    Natasha in Jerusalem
    Natasha in Jerusalem

    Today is my last day at the JC. Next week I fly to Israel to embark on a new life. At 21, I am achieving my dream of making aliyah.

    Where did that dream come from? My parents are proud Jews and Zionists, I attended Jewish schools and was an active member of FZY. Loving Israel has always been part of my life.

    My first time in Israel was with my school tour at 14. I fell in love from my first glimpse. A teacher said to me: “When I leave Israel, there is always a piece of me missing and whenever I return, I find it” — words which have stuck with me ever since. Since then I have spent holidays there and, with FZY, a tour, then leading a summer camp and eventually a gap year, volunteering, touring and experiencing Israeli life.

    After my gap year I settled back into English life, eventually getting my job in customer service at the JC. I was also checking Israeli news channels, watching Israeli TV shows, listening to Israeli music, chatting to my Israeli friends, eating Israeli food and booking my next holiday back to Israel.

    I always felt guilty when I thought about making aliyah. I didn’t want to do that to my parents. I didn’t know how I would tell them and, besides, was I brave enough to leave them and everything else I had here for a new country? I thought I should get on with my life in England where I was secure.

    Then one day I was driving to work, day-dreaming, and thought: “What am I doing here?”. I pulled over and dialled Nefesh B’Nefesh and told them I wanted to look into the aliyah process. The kind gentleman on the telephone asked some questions and we arranged to meet. As I am only 21, there was the question of eligibility to be drafted into the Israeli army. I contacted the organisation which supports Lone Soldiers and also the Jewish Agency to get the process going.

    My parents still didn’t know about any of this. I confessed to them a day or two later, with a lot of tears.

    My Ivrit wasn’t good enough for the Lone Soldier programme. I was relieved but also devastated. I thought my dream was over.

    I hadn’t realised that there were other options available. Then my aliyah adviser told me about a live-in Ulpan programme based near Tel Aviv, which will be a way to improve my Ivrit, have somewhere to live and meet new olim. I applied and was accepted.

    I’m going to miss my family and friends. I’m looking forward to joining the Israeli ‘family’, that sense of being connected to a land and its people, which I haven’t felt in Britain for ages.

    When we were discussing the dates, I kept on saying that I wanted to make aliyah before Israel’s 70th birthday. The celebrations start the day I arrive.