Sunday, July 5, 2009

Change and renewal - my Aliyah speech at the Kotel

I was one of two olim chadashim (new immigrants) from South Africa asked to make a speech at the Kotel at a special welcome ceremony on our arrival on July 5, 2009. The speech follows, and the video recording of it is at the end of this page or you can click here to see it.

Shalom, Hello, Sanibonani, Dumelang
“The decision to make Aliyah has to come from believing in the possibility of change and renewal.”
This is not a phrase I made up. I borrowed it from our former president, Nelson Mandela, although he was not referring to Aliyah. Mandela was referring to the defining characteristics of politics and religion. Making Aliyah - for me - is the possibility of “change and renewal”. The starting of a new life, the putting down of new roots, and the creation of new hopes and dreams.

I’m not going to tell you that I’ve been planning this moment all my life. That wouldn’t be true. I started thinking about it in March and made the decision in May. That’s all it took to decide to change and renew my life. It has been a whirlwind experience. One that hasn’t given me much time to think… of what and who I’m leaving behind…
One thing I do know though is that I’m not “walking away from” South Africa. But rather “looking ahead to” Israel.
South Africa gave birth to me, nurtured me, educated me and made me the person I am today – with a little help from my parents, of course!! I love South Africa… the warm-hearted people, the magnificent scenery – and most of all, my family and friends.
But I know I am “looking ahead” to something special…. It may have been a quick decision, but when you’re convinced your decision is right, acting on it is not difficult. I’m now moving forward to a new life with new possibilities and, I’m sure – many challenges.
A few moments ago, I quoted a South African icon, Nelson Mandela, who devoted his life to regaining and establishing a free homeland for his people. I’d now like to quote an Israeli icon - Theodor Herzl who said: “We wish to give the Jews a Homeland. Not by dragging them ruthlessly out of their sustaining soil, but rather by removing them carefully, roots and all, to a better terrain.”
I identify with this statement, as I’m sure, many of you do... I’ve uplifted my South African roots, still embedded in South African soil, to Israel for planting and nurturing. Hopefully, I will flourish and become part of this beautiful land.
My first step towards this goal is Kibbutz Meshabei Sade near Be’er Sheva, which is part of the First Home in the Homeland programme. Hopefully, by the end of my six-month stay there, my Hebrew will be good enough to move forward into reality when I take on the job market.
To tell the truth, I can’t actually believe I’m here. After almost changing my mind two weeks ago because I couldn’t say goodbye to my twin nieces, I nearly had to get on the plane without my luggage, but I made it and I’m happy to be here.
I think I can speak for everyone who has made this challenging decision when I say it’s exciting and wonderful – and a relief – to finally be here… coming from one City of Gold (Johannesburg) to another (Jerusalem), from Egoli to Yerushalayim Shel Zahav.
Gold is a valuable commodity and we can use the gold of our past to build on the gold of our future. Gold on gold – what stronger building blocks could we possibly find?
I wish that all olim chadashim find strength, commitment and prosperity in our beautiful homeland. Ngikufisela nhlanhla nokutulo! I wish you luck and peace.
Before I close, I’d like to thank Ofer Dahan, his staff at the Israel Centre and the Jewish Agency for all their efforts in making this normally stressful immigration experience so much easier for all of us. They eliminated the red tape and put out the red carpet, enabling us to land softly, - and on our feet. We all appreciate your support.
Todah rabah and b’hatzlacha to you all!

Note: This speech was recorded on video at the Kotel on July 5, 2009. Click play below to listen.

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