Innocent transitions – first weeks as olim

It is no secret that young children ask questions that adults often never consider.

As our small family touched down in Israel a mere week and a half ago, we have all been riddled with thoughts, both of the practical and philosophical nature. While, as parents, my husband and I made the choice to pick up our lives, sell off the home our children were born into, and move across the world, our kids, as excited as they may be, did not.

As we watch and engage with them in their exploration of our new reality, we are both rejuvenated in the fresh excitement of their inquisitiveness and thrust further into the dissonance between our hopes and dreams for our life in the Holy Land and the current reality as new immigrants.

As I have processed this experience, it’s evolved as answers to the questions of our children, perhaps, because answering their questions takes up a significant amount of my day, or, more realistically, because their innocent questions are the sparks of a reflection in the mirror of my own soul.

“Why did we move to Israel?”

In short, my precious child, because it’s a mitzvah. How do I express the magnitude of this mitzvah and its implications to anyone, and even more so, you, a small child? How do I explain that we are manifesting the dreams of thousands of years of our ancestors and making a positive impact on the future of the Jewish nation by moving to a strange land where you, my sweet boy, do not understand a single word? In short, I am not certain that there are word for these sentiments, so I show you the way the sun sets over the mountains, dusting glitter onto the windows of the homes in the far off hills. I make sure you smell the flowers as we pass them and climb every stone you desire.

I encourage you to take deep breaths and walk as much as we can, together, to experience every inch of your childhood expanse because while you have no idea of this now, all of this — the sand in which you play, the moon you wave good night to, the ground on which you stand — it’s all a gift for you. It’s something for which you are responsible to care for and to protect, pray for and appreciate. This land is my first love, a definitive, complicated, awesome love, one that your Abba and hope every day to pass on to you and your sister.

“When can we go home?”

Perhaps, in our short time here, this question is the most evolving. In the first days, you asked many times to return to our old home — to your toys and your friends, to familiarity. The truth I did not share with you is that while I wiped your tears, I was crying my own and while I told you that everything was going to improve, I was saying out loud what I needed to hear. After a few really long days, you have started to ask less about our old house and your life in America and when you ask to go home, I am starting to believe (or, perhaps, hope) that you are asking to come back to our new apartment. In so many ways, do you reflect my emotions. In the coming weeks, as our apartment starts to resemble a home and this land transforms from strange to familiar, we will realize that this has always been our home.

“Why is everyone standing up?”

As I look out into the hills, I listen to the sounds of our neighbors prayers. I am reminded that not everyone who shares this land is dreaming of raising their children peacefully, without a desire to share the darker truths of this beautiful land. Sitting together at the bus stop today, I was snapped into this reality by a stray backpack. Thankfully, the owner returned when the waiting crowd became alarmed, but I could not help but to look at you, my son, carrying your fluorescent, construction themed bag like a trophy after another successful day at gan (pre-school), and contrast it to the potential evil, that, for a moment, we all thought might be lurking too close.

I realize that someday, you will know why we all stood up, why we are always vigilant, why we have guards and why I tell you that our army is the best in the world. You will know why there are fences and checkpoints, and you will know why we have a safe room. But, for now, you can know that we were all helping someone find his bag, that we were doing a mitzvah to return a lost object…because that is also the truth, our beautiful truth, and all you need for now.

My sweet children, this transition is monumental and we have such immense pride in every moment we are here, living together in Israel. Your life here was conceived of before you were and we feel so blessed to reach this time together. While we know, and have already experienced that not every day may feel like a blessing, we are hopeful that we shall, together, enjoy our journey of questions and, while we shall always purpose to provide answers, your Abba and I pray that we all will learn to dance with the dissonance and breathe vitality from the unknown.

About the Author
Amanda grew up as part of the only Jewish family in a very small town in Pennsylvania (USA) and has grown into her Judaism through in study and intense questioning. Amanda's views on Judaism and the world are constantly changing as she evolves into her latest role, as mother to 2 wonderful children and olah chadashah (new immigrant to Israel).