A letter to my children

To my dear children –

It’s been six months since we returned to Israel after living in Pittsburgh for three years. While all three of you were born in Israel, you left the country at an age when old memories of life in Israel were quickly replaced by new ones of life in Pittsburgh. Before we knew it, Pittsburgh was the only home you could recall, and uprooting you from your home, school and friends has not been easy for any of you. You ask me all the time why we moved back to Israel; in difficult moments you even tell me I am a horrible mother for making you leave Pittsburgh. The return to Israel certainly hasn’t been easy for you, nor has it been easy for me. But I have no doubt that we made the right decision, and I hope that in time you will feel the same way I do.

The Zionist vision that led to the establishment a Jewish state in the Land of Israel has always been awe-inspiring for me. To be a part of the enduring Zionist project is a true privilege, one I chose to be a part of when I made aliyah to Israel many years ago. Growing up as an American Jew, I never felt like I was part of something bigger than myself until; that all changed when I traveled to Israel for the first time at the age of 18. There, standing in front of the Kotel, or meeting Israelis my age serving in the IDF to defend the State of Israel, or buying falafel on the street from a Yemenite Jew, I felt for the first time in my life that I truly was part of something bigger than myself – something important; something meaningful; something that connected me to Judaism in ways I’d never connected before.

Living in Israel means that you will never be persecuted for being a Jew; while that may not have resonated for me as an American Jew ten or twenty years ago, it resonates loud and clear for me today. Living in Israel means that the threats of assimilation facing Diaspora Jews are much less of a concern for you and future generations. Living in Israel means that when we celebrate Tu B’Shvat, as we just did, we will get to celebrate our connection as a Jewish people to the Land of Israel in the Land of Israel.  Living in Israel means that when we play sevivon, we say that a great miracle happened here, not there. Living in Israel means that, as Rosh HaShana approaches, the apples are crispier and sweeter, and the pomegranate tree in our garden is plentiful. Living in Israel means that, even for our non-Shabbat observant family, life truly slows down on Shabbat. Living in Israel means that the country’s successes bring us tremendous joy and pride because she is ours, not anyone else’s. Living in Israel means that the country’s losses and flaws, of which there are many, are that much more painful because she is ours,  not anyone else’s. Living in Israel means that we as a family are fulfilling the dream of our ancestors who prayed for thousands of years to return to the Land of Israel, a dream they were never able to fulfill. How truly fortunate we are.

This is not to say that’s it’s always easy; and it certainly isn’t always easy for me. Making aliyah meant moving far away from my parents – your grandparents – and siblings, aunts and uncles. This is a huge sacrifice that I don’t take lightly, but you will find out as you get older that some sacrifices in life are worth making, especially when it means following your heart and soul. We are a people full of hope – it’s no coincidence, then, that Israel’s national anthem is entitled just that. I hope that one day you will feel that Israel is your home just as much, if not more, as you felt Pittsburgh was. I hope one day you will thank me and your father for bringing you back to Israel where you can proudly live the Zionist dream in the world’s one and only Jewish state. I hope.

Love, Imma

The views expressed here are those of the writer and not necessarily any organization she represents.

About the Author
Kim Salzman is the Director of Israel and Overseas Operations at the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh. She is a trained lawyer and practiced law in Israel and New York. She is also the proud mom of Gal, Maayan and Ella.
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