Houston, your problems are being solved

Dear Dafna:

In just a few hours you will arrive in the Lone Star State and begin an adventure that will perhaps have the greatest impact on your young life to date — one from which we hope you will both give and gain the most. To say that we’re proud of you would be an incredible understatement.  Each day, each week, each month, each year you continue to amaze us with your dazzling accomplishments. More importantly, we are in awe of your commitment and dedication to your chanichot, to your friends, to your fellow human beings — and your desire to give and share so much of what you continue to absorb in Israel, our home.

I know that six years ago you thought we were crazy (and perhaps we were) when we packed you up and made you move to Israel, the closest thing in this world that can be characterized as Utopia. Unfortunately for you — unlike the rest of your siblings (of whom we are also so proud), you had no choice. You had to leave your friends behind. You had to leave the only house you knew. You had to come with us. Fortunately for us, you didn’t come fighting and screaming, but you immersed yourself in your new life and tried to make the best of it.

And now six years after your arrival home, you are heading out on a “mission” as part of the Bat Ami program -an amazing program sending over 120 girls to communities throughout the world to share their enthusiasm and love of Israel throughout the Diaspora.

As I anticipate your arrival Thursday morning in Texas, I find myself thinking back to a similar time in my own life 29 years ago. Newly married, Mommy and I decided that we wanted to participate in Bnei Akiva’s Shlichut Pnimit program. We wanted to give something back to the movement to which we felt so personally indebted – after all, we had met through Bnei Akiva!

As I have shared with you, next summer will be the 30th anniversary of Bnei Akiva’s arrival in Texas. As you get older, you will discover how fluid time truly is – it can stretch out forever or contract decades into instants. So we are amazed that 30 years have gone by. What feels even more amazing is that our wonderful daughter is taking her own path – single, much further away from home – to accomplish a similar mission.

When we left Texas 26 years ago after a very long three years, clutching an “everything is bigger in Texas” bouquet of yellow roses – Adina and Ilan at ours side, our greatest fear was that the Tnua there might not continue. Going in and starting from nothing upon our arrival, we had known there were no guarantees. What gratitude we have that, even with all the ups and downs of its development and sustenance, Bnei Akiva thrives today in the Lone Star State. So many of those who started as chanichim and parents of became friends and grew to be like family. Many of whom we remain in contact with today.

Needless to say, the upcoming 30th anniversary marks a very special time in our lives. We were building a marriage, a network of friends, an independent life as young adults — and we were accomplishing a spiritual mission close to both our hearts. The commemoration is made so much more special by the fact that our baby is spending Bnei Akiva’s 30th year there following a course that we began one hot, humid August day in 1987.

We know that you will also meet numerous caring, loving, and dedicated families and share shabbatot and chagim with hundreds of chanichim, all while sharing the flavor and love of a homeland over 7,000 miles away. We doubt that we could have been so brave. As prepared as you are for the process (mentored coincidentally by one of my own madrichot from nearly two score years ago), there will be challenges to overcome. Whether it be something as simple as looking for a blue tablecloth to fit the perfect color scheme, as critical as dealing with a “left out” child, as frustrating as losing a passport or trying to think of an English word you have since forgotten, or as painful as the bouts of homesickness than will unexpectedly strike – whatever you face, I am confident that you will meet each challenge. Together with Shira, your amazing partner in this adventure, you will surely be of benefit to those whom you are there to serve. You will also gain so much that will remain with you when you return home for the rest of what is certain to be a passionate and productive life.

My only fatherly advice is to cherish each and every moment while you are in the Diaspora. Wear your blue and white proudly, and remember that you are part of an amazing team of ambassadors who represent Israel’s best. As the check-in agent at the airport commented tonight – she could see on your faces that you have so much to give. There is no Olympic athlete standing at the winner’s stand or no presidential candidate standing at a podium who is more deserving of medals or acclaim. The work you are undertaking will provide its own victories.

Remember that we continue to love you from afar (and perhaps up close and personal during the occasional visit), support you in every challenge, and cheer you on in each triumph (and steps) throughout the year.

Y’all have a safe landing and remember, when it may seem like a tough day – why you’re there: “Houston, your problems are being solved.”



About the Author
Stuart Katz was born in Panama and grew up in San Diego. He served as National Bnei Akiva Director, is highly educated (for whatever that's worth); managed an airline; made aliyah; traveled to over 80 countries; passionate about reducing mental health stigma in Israel and around the world...he's an entrepreneur and is involved in almost any volunteer project which comes his way
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