We rounded up our kids, our bags, then our kids again, and staggered down that path to the terminal, the one with hundreds of cheering Israelis, friends, relatives and reporters. Everyone was laughing, crying, dancing. A band played; a shofar blew. We hugged everyone in sight.
Through the confusion and fatigue, we tried to look solemn as Prime Minister Netanyahu greeted us. Here we are: the newest generation of olim– the future of Israel. In truth, most of the future of Israel was squirming on my lap and summersaulting down the baggage claim belt. I hope Bibi didn’t notice.
A sign welcoming us to Ramat Beit Shemesh told me we’re home. The place is half the size of our previous home. We’ll have to squeeze past each other in the master bedroom, I noted. Time to lose some weight.
So we set up our bank accounts, got our Israeli ID cards, bought a car, arranged for health insurance, got the kids into school. We waited for our lift, day after day, week after week. And just when we’d concluded that those guys with the van were pirates, the lift arrived.
People ask me, “What are the biggest challenges of aliyah?” Well, our timing was perfect. We were just wading into Israeli life when the Pillar of Defense rose. Oddly enough, the conflict didn’t faze us. All the reporters I spoke with made sure to caution that we were moving to a war zone. In fact, during previous Israeli wars, I always had the inkling that I belong with my people, with the Jews in Israel, rather than sitting it out securely in NY. So now we’re here, and living here feels so purposeful that the dangers are just part of the landscape.
But I confess that I do have challenges, and most of them sound silly. I thought I was ready for Israeli life. But I hadn’t counted on air conditioners that flood our home; feeling desperately clueless at the supermarket; for a stove with attitude that sorta cooks on three burners, when it wants to; for undecipherable Hebrew notes from my kids’ teachers telling me that my little angel is a star student, or was it that he flew paper airplanes during math?
Then there’s the culture shock. We so want each of our children to grow up as a “mensch,” a polite, gracious person. But there are few social niceties in a country that’s always fighting for its life. They must learn to shove.
Yet I know in my gut that moving to Israel was a sane decision, and the reason is quite simple: I am a Jew. Israel is the homeland of the Jewish people, and I wanted to go home. For Hubby and me, aliyah was inevitable: the pull to our land and our people was intrinsic, spiritual, and undeniable.
The kids have noticed that tears come to my eyes at inexplicable moments. “Mommy’s happy, that’s why she’s crying again,” they tell each other, though they don’t quite get it. What makes me cry? The warm glow of Jerusalem stone at dusk; my kids sputtering in Hebrew with nascent Israeli accents; the boyish, valiant look of our soldiers as they come home on leave. And most of all, the stupendous view from my apartment windows – the mountains, the valleys, the roads of my land.
In our finale video you will see Hubby and me take our children to the Kotel in the Old City of Jerusalem – the last remnant of the Western Wall that surrounded the Temple Mount during Holy Temple times. Within Temple walls, generations of Jews daily renewed their connection to the Divine. For hundreds of years, the entire population, thousands upon thousands of Israelites, would trek to this spot every Sukkot, Pesach and Shavuot.
So we’re bringing our kids to this holiest of sites, connecting them to our heritage in so many ways. Exiled from this magnificent land for more than 2,000 years, our people have come home, we tell them, and we are part of that return. They seem to understand.
I hope you savored the sights and sounds of this wonderful place with us. You could say that now our “Joy of Aliyah” series is over, the adventure has ended.
But something tells me it’s just the beginning.
Don’t miss the first part of Aliyah: Behind the Scenes