By Samuel Hyde
On the 27 July 2021, the biggest group of olim in 25 years left for Israel.
Simply put, you could feel the energy in the air at OR Tambo International as we gathered in a group conversing as if we’d been friends for years. Families, young adults and Dr Hymie Ehrlich, a 91-year-old Cape Town resident were all there to start the journey of a lifetime. My aliyah process began with a simple email to the South African Zionist Federation just under a year ago. I suppose the strangest part of the aliyah process besides the obvious feeling of leaving family behind and a country you have grown up in, is the bonds you make with those embarking on the journey alongside you. You form an instant connection with these people, most of whom you’ve never met. You share arguably the most important experience of your life with strangers.
Upon arriving at Ben Gurion airport, we were ushered into a room where we had a covid test, and filled out some paperwork. We were handed a sim card, official documentation and cash in an envelope as a welcome gift from the government — the first payment of Sal Klita, that we as new Olim would receive over a 6-month period to help ‘soften our landing’.
Once all was completed the group ‘hopped’ on buses that took us to our first destination, a 7-day quarantine period, all expenses paid by the Israeli government at the Dan Panorama Hotel on the Tel Aviv beachfront.
For that week I stood on my balcony watching the passers-by, the mother pushing her child in a pram at midnight, the suited businessman riding a bicycle to the next door high-rise finance centre and the ultimate joy and freedom as children, teenagers and the elderly walked the promenade lit by the blazing middle eastern sun and engulfed in a euphoric freedom.
As a political journalist, proud Zionist and Jewish activist all the concepts, articles, talks and ideas I had held so close to my heart and proudly imparted had become my reality. I had become part of those who are the realisation of our ancestors’ dreams. Already, being in Israel is more than just merely existing here. It is historic, but most importantly: we are all here knowingly to take charge and better the Jewish destiny for future generations to come.
The only question I have is: If not now, when?
Samuel Hyde, is a political journalist and Jewish & Israel rights activist based in Tel Aviv, Israel. He studied antisemitism and the Holocaust and aims to redefine the way in which the non-Jewish world interacts with Zionism, and revive Jewish pride within
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• Published in the PDF edition of the September 2021 issue – Get the PDF here.
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