One year ago today we boarded a Nefesh bNefesh flight from JFK Airport in New York. Alan and I had dreamt of this moment for a long time and it was hard to believe it was actually happening. Our journey had actually begun several days earlier as we said goodbye to home and friends in the Southern California community where we had lived for nearly 19 years. We spent a wonderful few days in New York reconnecting and saying goodbye to where our married lives began.
Today our son was the most courageous of our children and posted on Facebook: “A year ago my dog made Aliyah. I don’t know why she brought our parents with her. You win some, you lose some”. Yes, it is true that our children all greeted Izzy before us. However when I think of all the moments we have all shared in the last year I know, that although they may not always admit it, they like having their parents around.
Going on a NBN Charter flight was quite an experience. Just trying to move in JFK airport was like shopping on Black Friday or Boxing Day. Then I looked around at the people who would be joining us on our journey and all those who came to see them off. While waiting for the preflight speakers to mount the podium I began to talk to the people next to me. Who knew that a close relationship would be cemented, that not only the person making Aliyah but her entire family would become part of our lives here. Tamar often joins us for a Shabbat meal with a sibling or two or even the entire mishpacha. We met several others on our flight who we continue to see. Truth is that like my own kids I think they come to play with the dog. Being that it was a long flight Izzy also made friends and gets excited when they walk through our door.
Seeing my family waiting at the bottom of the runway was exhilarating. It was the first time in nearly 4 years that we were all together again. My maternal pride kicked in and I was moved to tears. Those happy tears turned to frustrating ones as we had to get through another round of paperwork. Lucky we had gotten prior permission to have Izzy leave with the kids as she would not have been happy sitting for several more hours. The Jewish Agency did try to help as much as possible but every bureaucracy is the same. Israel was not the first time I had to deal with Immigration issues but I sure hope it is the last. Not that I still won’t have to deal with one misrad or another but being with my family puts things in perspective.
What better time to make Aliyah than to do so in time for a major simcha? From birth, to her first steps, Bat Mitzvah and all the graduation ceremonies our eldest was becoming a bride. I had seen the venue on line but nothing could prepare me for the enchanting setting of Ein Hemed. A few days after arriving we went to a delicious food tasting and met our mechutan for the first time. A few weeks later Alan and I were escorting our daughter down the aisle to be met by her bashert. Watching them in the months since he stepped on the glass confirms they are meant to be. We were so honoured that Rabbi Benny Lau honoured us as mesader kedushin and that the Rabbi, and his lovely Rebbetzin, who married Alan and I nearly 25 years before were part of our simcha. We did not have a lot of family members or friends joining us but those that were in attendance made the evening extra special. While standing under the chuppah I looked up to the stars in the Jerusalem sky and felt the presence of my beloved mother z’l and brother z’l watching over us.
It is sometimes hard to believe a year has already passed. There are so many people I had hoped to reconnect with over these past months but I guess that leaves me more to look forward too. There are many places I hoped to go to again but they too remain on my “to do” list. I live only moments from Kibbutz Ramat Rachel where I spent a month when I first came to Israel four decades ago but have yet to drive through their gates.
Then there are the people we have spent time with. We have hosted many visitors and are looking forward to seeing many more. Our children have brought home friends and there are many teens that know our home is open to them. One Yeshiva/Seminary year has ended but in a few months another will begin. Of course before then are the teens on NCSY and Birthright Summer Programs who will be popping in and out. I am not sure who is more excited about that me or Izzy.
We have gone to visit Alan’s cousins who live in the north and some of them have joined us for a Shabbat dinner. It is ironic that the only family we had near us in Southern California was a sibling to the one in Israel. His family may not be large but they are all very much a part of our lives. In fact we are renting an apartment from another cousin.
Jerusalem, I was not sure I could manage living here. The hills and cracked pavement are physically difficult. However being close to our children, having them able to stop by more regularly has made it worth it all.
Jerusalem, the centre of Jewish life for over 3,000 years. The ancient capital has finally been recognized by the USA. I stood proudly with hundreds of others as the Embassy was being dedicated. The US Embassy is just down the road and even weeks later the signs and flags still hang. I look forward to other countries following this lead because Israel is here to stay.
Israel is my home, heart and soul. From praying at the Kotel and experiencing Birkat Kohanim to watching the new Sound and Light Show at David’s Citadel. Walking through the ancient city of Sfat when a modern bride was passing through the quarter. Experiencing the sights, sounds and smells of Machane Yehuda like everytime is a first. Eating in restaurants that are decorated in Middle Eastern flare to ones facing the magnificent Mediterranean Sea. From Yemenite to Iraqi to Moroccan to standard American fare. Iced coffee, ice cream, bread and pastries but thankfully lots of walking to keep the weight off. This is all my Israel, my home.
This is my first aliyahversary but hopefully not my last. I sure am looking forward to sharing many more milestones with my children in the years to come and know Alan feels the same way. Of course Izzy does too even though she has to put up with our newest family member, our kitty Cookie.