Love Of The Land
Ezra Wanetik fulfills a 10-year dream to make aliyah.
EZRA WAN ETIK
Special to the Jewish News
t 4 p.m. on July 9, I found
myself in a strange position.
I was in a Ministry of
Absorption waiting room at
Ben-Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv trying
to make aliyah. I had arrived at 12:30
p.m. with roughly 400 other new immi-
grants to Israel. One by one, names of
the families had been called. People I
met on the flight received their teudat
oleh [aliyah ID] that lets the govern-
ment know you are a new immigrant.
Slowly the room emptied, until
there were only a few people left to be
processed. Then a few more were
called out. Now there were just two of .
us in the room. Chairs were being
stacked against the wall and I was get-
ting a bad feeling. A last name was
called. It was not mine.
I decided to approach a clerk again.
Throughout the process, I had tried to
ask questions, but the answer was
always the same — wait for your
name, then you would have a chance.
Now there.were no more names being
called and I was getting nervous.
As I explained who I was, the very
helpful clerk checked me out on the
computer. The computer knew I exist-
ed (which was good), but my paper
file was missing (which was bad). This
discovery necessitated a very quick
search of all the processing cubicles. At
last, my file was found and I received
my teudat oleh from a clerk, who sent
me off to collect my bags with the
words I have been waiting to hear a
very long time, "Welcome home."
I cannot adequately describe my feel-
ings. I had finally realized a dream of
mine for more than 10 years. Now all I
had to do was find my father, sister and
my luggage, and get a ride to Jerusalem.
After a bit more waiting, I was on my
way to Jerusalem with one of the other
families that made aliyah with me.
I should explain that I came to Israel
as part of a group that made aliyah
Ezra Wanetik, 26, is the son of Ann .
and Leonard Wanetik of West
Bloomfield. His sister, Devra, 23, made
aliyah last year. The Wanetiks are affili-
ated with Congregation B'nai Moshe.
together. We were around 400 strong
and constituted the largest single day of
North American aliyah in the last 25
years. The whole flight was sponsored by
an organization called Nefesh B'Nefesh,
which has taken as its mission to bring
the Jews of North America to Israel
through support, grants and tremendous
positive energy. Nefesh B'Nefesh is, in
turn, sponsored by Keren Yedidut. This
international coalition of Christians and
Jews has so far assisted in the aliyah of
more than 200,000 Jews. I cannot
express my thanks to them enough.
During college, I would often come to
Israel during breaks on whatever pro-
gram I could find to underwrite me, or
volunteer at a kibbutz just for airfare.
I attribute my decision to make
aliyah largely to my time at Alexander
Muss, and the great love of Israel that I
developed there, mainly from the tour-
ing and the incredible teachers. Not
only did they make sure I studied all of
my regular course work, but they also
pushed me through a rigorous course
of Jewish, Israeli and Zionist history
that continues to serve me well today.
Ezra Wanetik upon arrival at Ben-Gurion Airport as a new immigrant.
About half way to Jerusalem, my cell
phone rang. On the line was Gal, a
representative of TV Channel One,
who wanted to know if they could
interview me the next morning — live
and in Hebrew. I agreed a little hesi-
tantly and he explained the main
thrust of the questions was going to
be: "What are you doing here?" This
was to be my first experience with that
question, but one that I have been
asked by literally every person I meet,
from taxi drivers to clerks in stores.
Really, for me, it was just a matter of
love of country and timing. My love for
Israel was built up over successive trips to
Israel, including touring with my family,
at the Alexander Muss High School
International in Hod Hasharon, and
from living a regular life on kibbutz and
in university while on Nativ, the United
Synagogue Youth pre-college program.
Then I needed a plan. For me, that
meant thinking about how I could
come to Israel and not only make
myself happy with my move, but also
contribute to the State as well. I did
not want to be a burden and come
with no skills and no money, to be
another person on unemployment.
So, pushed myself to obtain college
degrees, which I did in the Joint
Program at the Jewish Theological
Seminary of America and Columbia
University in New York City. I also
worked for a couple of years to get
experience that would be practical in
the real world. Then, last June, I decid-
ed the time had come for aliyah, so I
met in New York with an aliyah shlicha
[emissary], Karni Goldshmid-Lahay.
And that is my real answer for why
I'm here: "The time has come" or,
rather, "HaZman Hegial
Our circulation department
can't wait to hear about
your exciting plans for-the
summer and we would be
more than happy to stop
delivery of your papers until
you get back. If you are
planning an extended stay -
talk to us about receiving
your paper wherever you