Confessions of an Olah’s Eema

Stephanie Z. Bonder and Rebecca Bonder the day before aliyah

So my daughter comes home from a work trip to Israel and says, “Mom, I’m going to do it. I’m making Aliyah!” I look at her and say, “Mazel Tov! I’m so proud of you!” I give her a huge hug! Then when she’s not looking a tear leaks out of my eye.

Of course, I’m proud of her. This is something she has dreamed about her whole life. Look, it’s no surprise. I’ve been taking her to Israel since she was in the third grade. She’s always known I’ve loved Israel. She’s watched me being involved in Hadassah, our shul, our Jewish Federation, our Jewish Day School. When she was in preschool, the children were asked to write cards to their moms for Mother’s Day. Each child wrote about what their moms did when they were in school. My daughter wrote, “My mom does Hadassah”. She knew…

She is living the dream. It’s a dream I had and a dream my dad had, but we didn’t do it. I wasn’t brave enough. I can make the excuse that it was much more difficult to live in Israel in 1986. I was studying in Israel at the Hebrew University on the One Year Program. There was no WhatsApp to communicate, no internet to send a quick email. Travel was expensive and there were no direct flights. To call home I had to find a pay phone, use asimonim to reach an international operator in order to make the call. It was very challenging to get a phone line hooked up in your apartment in those days. I came to the conclusion that my family needed me and I would get to Israel every chance I could get. And I did. Immediately after college I was a madricha on a teen tour in Israel. Then a few years later, I went to Israel with my husband for the first time for a family wedding. Then a few years after that I began my Hadassah journey and went to my first Convention in Israel. Then I went on a Peoplehood Project Trip with my Jewish Federation. The list goes on. I’ve done my best in the last few years (with only a gap from Covid) to get to Israel almost yearly. I’m so fortunate to be able to travel there so often.

But now, I have even more reason to visit regularly. My daughter has made Aliyah. She did it so wisely, and I am truly so proud. First of all, she is fluent in Hebrew due to her Day School education and love of the language. She has a job, working for itrek a non-profit that sends graduate students to Israel to meet leaders in their field of study and to learn about Israel firsthand. She also already had a bank account from her year teaching English in Be’er Sheva as a Masa Teaching Fellow. She used her Israeli chutzpa to go to the Misrad Hapanim to get her official olah teudah quickly. She got an apartment in a great location in the Old North of Tel Aviv. She’s living her dream and doing a fabulous job. I couldn’t be prouder!

But… I miss her. I might be able to see her on FaceTime and text her on WhatsApp, but it’s a little too far for a hug. I miss her. I’m her mother, and when your child is far away you miss them. Every time I tell someone my daughter made Aliyah, they say, “Mazel Tov”, except for the other parents of Olim. They know. They say, “How do you feel? Are you ok?” I suppose I’m in a special club now, the Horim shel Olim club, (parents of new immigrants). The next question I get is, “Are you buying a place in Israel?” Look, I’d love to be able to buy a place in Israel! I’ll have to wait and see what our retirement life will include. I know my husband wants to be close to our daughters, but right now we’re in the middle. Did I mention my younger daughter moved to California? I live in NJ! What’s that all about?

Honestly, I am so happy for my daughter. She is taking charge of her life and making her dreams come true. This is what every parent wants for their children. I would never stand in her way. She’s gone home. It’s my home too. I’ll be visiting her soon. Very soon! I love her. I love Israel and know she should be living her dream.

B’hatzlacha and B’ahava,


About the Author
Stephanie Z. Bonder is a proud Jew and lifelong Zionist. Stephanie studied at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem for her junior year abroad and is currently pursuing her masters in Jewish Education at the Hebrew University Melton School of Education. In her volunteer hours, she is on the National Board of Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America where she currently serves as Chair of the Speakers Bureau and team member of the Education and Advocacy division. Stephanie teaches teens and adults on Jewish Peoplehood, Zionism and current events in Israel through her involvement with the Jewish Federation of Greater Metrowest and her synagogue, Congregation Agudath Israel. All of her blogs are her own personal opinions and do not represent the organizations with which she is affiliated.
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