Rachel Mirsky’s Israeli identification card is bigger than she expected it to be. It doesn’t fit into her wallet very well and she worries about where to keep it.
Rachel Mirsky, 27, receives her Teudat Zehut (Israeli identification card).
It does look the way she thought it would, however, with an identification number on the right and her picture on the left.
“It feels very official,” she says, turning the card over in her hand.
There’s nothing unique or special about the laminated piece of plastic. To most, it’s a piece of bureaucracy, something that has to be carried around.
But to Mirsky, 27, it’s a piece of her new life.
“This it it. You’re a citizen. Everyone in Israel has one of these and so do you,” she said.
Mirsky hasn’t been an Israeli citizen for very long. The recent immigrant was one of 234 olim to walk off Nefesh B’Nefesh’s 43rd chartered flight to Israel on Aug. 2.
Getting off the plane, she unfurled a banner, multi-coloured and handmade, bearing the words “Mirsky Triplets are now Reunited.”
Born in Toronto into a Zionist household, Mirsky is the only girl in a set of triplets who also have twin brothers, all of whom have moved, one by one, to Israel.
“Israel has always been a part of my life,” Mirsky said. “But it was a land far away.”
This changed on her first trip to the country, when she was 13.
“It suddenly made things much more real.”
Immigration to Israel started to become a reality for her around five years ago, when her triplet brother Yossi made aliyah and served in the Israel Defence Forces. Her brother Simcha, now 22, moved about a year later and is waiting to finish school in Israel before making aliyah. Aharon, 27, and Yisrael, 22, made aliyah last year, and both also joined the IDF.
But Mirsky stayed in Canada.
“I wanted to live [in Israel], but it’s a big step. It’s scary,” she said.
Instead, Mirsky went to school, first for an arts program, and then for animal care, a career she hopes to continue in Israel.
In May 2009, Mirsky decided to spend a year in Israel. She volunteered in the IDF, helping paratroopers unravel their parachutes after landing, and cleaning weapons, went on an archeological dig and explored the possibility of making aliyah.
“I knew that was the main reason [I went to Israel], but I wasn’t admitting it to myself verbally,” she said.
Finally, while still in Israel, she took the plunge.
With the help of Nefesh B’Nefesh (NBN), an organization that works with the Jewish Agency in Israel to help North Americans make aliyah, Mirsky started her immigration process.
“In some way, I felt I wasn’t going anywhere further [in Canada]. It wasn’t until I went back to Israel that I started being part of a community.”
And this is what Mirsky is looking for. This is why she packed up her life, left her parents, and took the 12-hour trip to a country that, at one time in her life, was a land far away.
“I really want to become part of a community,” she said while on the flight to Israel. “Back home, it was do my job, come home. I didn’t have much of a social life.”
But things will be different in Israel, she said.
“If you move into a neighbourhood, everyone’s going to be welcoming. No one’s an island here. They won’t let you be an island… They’ll drive you out of your shell.”
In September, Mirsky will be living in a kibbutz, where she’ll learn Hebrew and work. Eventually, she’d like to live in Jerusalem and work with animals, possibly at a zoo.
Until then, she’ll spend her time trying to get organized. After getting her Teudat Zehut (identification card) at the NBN office in Jerusalem, she browses different health care plans and talks to bank representatives at an NBN information fair.
“I think this is pretty much what I’ll be doing for the next week,” she says, trying to make a to-do list.
“They make it out to be simple, but it’s so many things. If I start thinking of it as a whole, it’s a little overwhelming. If I think of it in steps, I’m OK.”
That may be the same strategy Mirsky’s parents, Bracha and Michael, are using.
For Mirsky’s mother, having Yossi move to Israel was a little unnerving, especially since it was during a time of heavy bombing.
“Buses were being blown up and there was so much going on. I remember very distinctly Yossi calling me up… there was so much noise in the background. I asked him, ‘Where are you?’ He said, ‘I’m in Jerusalem, on a bus.’ And literally, my knees went out from under me,” Bracha said.
“A few months later, when he began to talk to me about wanting to go to the army, I realized that he had to. If that’s what he wanted to do, that’s what he had to do.”
Mirsky’s parents, who are thinking about making aliyah eventually, have taken a similar attitude to her move.
“I was happy for her because she’s a very strong willed person. If she felt it wasn’t good for her, she would not go,” Bracha said.
In Israel, Mirsky still wears pants underneath her skirts. It’s a habit she picked up in Canada, a place she still thinks of as home.
“I wish we could somehow put Canada and Israel together. But I’ve chosen [Israel]. In my mind, I say home. This is home with a capital H.”
The reporter’s trip to Israel was partly subsidized by Nefesh B’Nefesh.