Jessica Levine Kupferberg

Go Big and Go Home

The weeks before aliyah are said to be a time of nervous excitement under normal circumstances, often marked by sleeplessness from the myriad tasks to finish, a time when future olim count baggage weight and trips to Costco instead of sheep to get some zzzz’s.  But my fellow olim of the summer of 2014 and I seem destined for something other than a typical aliyah.

Sure, I still binge order on Amazon and worry about whether my transformer will work with my Vitamix. But there are rockets raining down on Israel, so the mundane is bound to be muddled with the existential. I tease myself that this as an extreme form of what happens to me at the supermarket, where the line I choose inevitably become the longest. I’m finally making aliyah, so rockets have to fall all over Israel in time for our arrival.

Yes, it’s a strange time to be moving to Israel, to say the least. Yet despite what is happening, two weeks from now, my husband, four of our kids and I will be newly-minted Israelis,  battling jetlag and bureaucracy in equal measures. We will be showing our kids their new home for the first time, their new parks and schools and neighborhood up in the rolling Judean Hills. We’ve waited for this moment, dreamt of it, though not quite like this.

Two weeks from now we will have had our first night in Israel after our aliyah charter flight. Will we have said goodnight on borrowed mattresses in the new bedrooms that we can’t wait to paint, excited voices bouncing off walls in our virtually empty house?  Or will we have huddled together on a floor of the bomb shelter that I’d hoped we could pretend was just a guest room for a good long while? Will we have been forced to tell our kids what is happening because I will no longer have the American luxury of gifting them protective ignorance?

It’s not surprising that I have received a few inquiries about whether we would consider delaying our move until thing quiet down. I see concern — quite reasonable under the circumstances–on fellow aliyah-makers posts in Facebook groups about whether to come now, about whether their new towns will be safe. I imagine my parents sending me subliminal messages across the states: Don’t go, don’t go, at least not now.

While it may seem crazy, my husband and I have not even considered delaying or changing our minds.  We’ve planned this for a year, and for a lifetime.  We look at our aliyah as a strong marriage. You find your great love. You commit for better or worse. And the worse comes much quicker than expected, ruining that lovely honeymoon to Hawaii that you’ve planned for so long and placing a undue burden on new beginning. But you are committed and you know that you are still meant to be– that you are bashert — and you are all in. For better or for worse.  Even though you’re scared.

I’d like to think that Israel needs us now.  I was almost relieved when my  husband received a call asking him if he would  cover for another doctor at a job he hasn’t even started yet, because the doctor may be called to a reserve unit.  It made us feel tangibly necessary. And perhaps we can bring support and hope and an unjaded perspective to our brothers and sisters who are veterans of onslaughts like this. Maybe just coming will be something, something good in this dark time.

We are halfway through a month-long cross country road trip from California to New York, taking a big gulp of America’s beauty and calm before our aliyah flight. Yesterday, we stood at the foot of Mount Rushmore, a testament to men who had big dreams and bigger courage, both the men who the memorial depicts and those who carved their vision into the black hills.
Those men went big to make their dreams real.  As I looked up at the towering noble faces, I told myself that we too need to muster the “big” in us to bring our dream to fruition, to whittle a new life into another set of hills far away in our homeland. And while we would love to go small — can’t we please start small?? — we will still go now. Go big and go home.

About the Author
Jessica Levine Kupferberg is a writer and former litigation attorney. She made aliyah from La Jolla, California with her family during Operation Protective Edge in July 2014 after driving across America. She blogs for the Times of Israel and her work has appeared in the Jerusalem Post,, The Jewish Journal, The Forward, Jweekly, and as part of Project 929 English, and as part of anthologies about aliyah and Covid-19.