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In honor of Israel’s 70th year, we asked our alumni in Israel to share their aliyah story. Read Deborah Goldman Golan (’69) story below. Click here to return to the whole page of olim who submitted responses.

What year did you make aliyah and how old were you?

1972 when I was 19 and a half but after graduating college; I came to Hebrew University and began an MA program at the Institute of Contemporary Jewry

Did your experience in high school influence your decision to make aliyah?

Not really. I wanted to make aliyah since I was very young, but my good education certainly helped in my absorption.

What was your path to aliyah like?

I spent the 1970-71 academic year at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem as a “junior year abroad” from University of Chicago/Circle and Spertus College of Judaica, and my experiences that year – Black September, the Israeli Black Panthers, spending every Shabbat at a different ethnic synagogue, and my teachers at Hebrew University – all combined to make me certain I must live in Israel and be part of the Jewish people’s biggest adventure – experiment – in the past 2000 years: creating a Jewish democratic soveriegn state in the Land of Israel out of the ingathering of the Exiles, and with our non-Jewish minority.

What has been the most rewarding about living in Israel?

There is such a long list – so many things! Being part of this miracle, living the Jewish people’s dream, the intoxicating diversity and richness of Jewish culture and peoplehood, an opportunity to help “write the ‘tractate of Jewish sovereignty'” and to do things that make a difference in Israeli society and give meaning to my life, and much more, including the many daily small reminders of what a privilege it is to live here and in this day and age.

What is the most challenging part of making aliyah?

Being far from my parents when my children were born and growing up – but that was in the years before internet, Skype, Whatsapp, etc., when telephone calls cost a mint and airplane tickets too.

Where do you live now?

Tel Aviv

What do you do professionally?

I am co-founder and president of Atid Bamidbar non-profit association (estab. 1990, ). We work throughout the Negev and on the national level to promote Israeli society that is more inclusive, has more solidarity, gives legitimacy to the multiple identities of its members, and maintains mutual responsibility between them. Atid Bamidbar views human and communal diversity as a source of strength for Israeli society, and promotes that diversity by giving center stage to the stories and heritage of the pioneers in development towns of the 1950s and 1960s, “Mizrahi” Jews from Asian and African countries, Ehtiopian immigrants, Russian-speaking Israelis, Bedouin, and other populations whose story is not well known in the Israeli mainstream. We use community-based tourism, communal documentation, and the preservation and nurturing of cultural traditions, as tools for developing a wider Jewish and Israeli story and empowering peripheral communities. Through the study-encounter and social-action programs that we initiate and/or facilitate, we connect Jews and other Israelis with each other and with Jewish and Israeli heritage in creative ways (frameworks for educating about environmental issues, dance midrash, Seminars on Wheels, Piyut, and more). Besides program development and facilitation, I lecture, teach, and develop resources and strategic partnerships for our work.

What is your advice for our students today?

Invest in your Hebrew language skills – even if you don’t make aliyah – but certainly if you think of it! Come to Israel for a one-year program and check out the options off the beaten track – away from the center of Israel (Jerusalem, Bet Shemesh, Tel Aviv, Raanana) in the Negev (or Galil, just to be fair) where you can immerse yourself and live among the people of Israel in all their diversity (don’t live in an English-speaking “bubble”, you’ll miss out on so much!) – and explore the many intentional communities and urban kibbutzim that can give you a social network to work with to do tikkun olam and help Israel (and you!) realize their potential. Then make aliyah – you won’t regret it! And come visit me in Yeroham!

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