It was an unbelievably hard decision to go b’chutz, outside the land of Israel.
We consulted with a rabbi, counselor, and others. I prayed and spoke with friends.
My therapist said during a session, “It’s not a competition, but when it comes to the first year of aliyah, you get the prize for the hardest.”
A friend encouraged us to take a break. My anxiety and depression were winning against my emunah (faith) and bitachon (trust).
Since making aliyah 14 months ago, we hadn’t taken a vacation.
It was a hard landing moving directly to a town with few English speakers and no support for new Olim—even without the sirens and missiles.
There is no shelter (mamad) in our rental house or public shelter (miklat) in close walking distance.
We fled with our kids and dog to four different shelters in a week.
One man whose mamad we borrowed discovered that his brother and his brother’s entire family were killed in the massacre Oct. 7. And his mom was taken hostage.
When the call came motzei Shabbat three weeks ago to go to the airport, we got our stuff and went, as my soul longed to stay.
We took a flight arranged by my family in the US.
Our older kids were already on a pre-planned trip in Europe when the war started. They watched from afar as terrorists attacked our people, as their parents and younger siblings huddled together in a hallway.
Our taxi driver’s name was Ben-El, which means “Son of G-d.”
“We are all children of G-d,” he said, as he put our luggage in the trunk of his car.
During the 75-minute flight south toward Tel Aviv, five missiles alerts went off on his phone. His wife called his cell phone to check on him.
Sitting in the taxi, we could see the bombs in the night sky as they were intercepted by the Iron Dome.
It felt surreal, as I read Tehillim, held my kids’ hands.
At the airport, I sobbed. Tired, huddled masses laid on floors and benches.
We arrived in Athens, 18 hours after leaving our house. The flight was only two hours, in the same time zone as Israel.
Panos is a Greek musician who tours with his band. We ‘randomly’ chose his Airbnb, and then he made the generous offer for to stay in his family’s other house by the sea at no cost. And he lent us a car.
He said it was an honor to help a Jewish family.
We visited a nearby village where partisans hid a Jewish family during World War II and met some teenagers volunteering from Germany in an effort to spread peace.
A Greek neighbor, Paula, brought us freshly grown olives and offered to help with anything we need.
One person said, “Greece supports Jewish people. Don’t let the loud voices of the minority fool you.”
One of my children took off his Star of David. Another still wears hers. They were warned by friends of what can happen if someone knows they are Jewish.
We visit the Chabad here, light Shabbat candles, have Shabbat meals together, eat kosher. We try to be kind to strangers and add light to this piece of the world. I continue to write.
But we want to go back to our homeland. I’m trying to find a home with a bomb shelter. But ultimately I know our protection comes from Hashem.
I taught my kids what it means to be a Jew. That it’s a privilege and a responsibility. Someday, I told them, that life may not be as easy for Jews as it seems now. I didn’t want to be right.
The history of Israel and the Jewish people began thousands of years before the post-Holocaust state was established. Well before Hamas, the current group trying to remind us of who we are and why we are here.
October 7 stirred up something for every Jew.
‘Hidden Yidden’ started to awaken and speak up. So did people of other backgrounds.
We know that Jews are hated when weak or strong, poor or rich, religious or not.
When we live in our own land or when we don’t.
Antisemitism — like all hate — transcends class, politics, and generations.
There are so many good people speaking out and helping.
If you know any hero stories please share them with me.
As it says in the Book of Isaiah, 60:3: “Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.”