Jessica Levine Kupferberg

Shalom, America the Beautiful

America the Beautiful,

One month ago, we bid farewell to our sunny Southern California house, a home we loved and lived in well, and we became wandering Jews as we embarked on a journey, an exodus.

We have spent a month exploring, driving across your wide belly. We glittered with the lights of Las Vegas. We were drenched in the shimmering river of Zion, where vibrant ferns cling to rust mountains like a child to a departing mother. We wandered among the mysterious hoodoos of Bryce and floated down the Snake River which hissed along the Grand Tetons as a moose snacked and a bald eagle passed by to say hello. We picnicked by perfect lakes alongside swaying grasses and got caught in the surprise of hail in July. We watched faithfully as geysers cheered, falls fell spectacularly along golden cliffs and colors were born in hot, percoating pools. We marveled at herds of bison and elk and a brown bear who didn’t know he created such a fuss. We saw presidents gleam from granite heights and heard prairie dogs chirp from the plains of the Badlands, where we smelled heaven in the form of honey-flavored wildflowers.

We also ate a lot of sandwiches. We stopped at sketchy gas stations. We splashed in pools and waterslides and prayed when the thunderstom we drove in warranted it. We sniffed the ghosts of cigarettes at a Utah motel and made myriad microwaves kosher. We squeezed English muffins in sandwich makers and prayed on the front porches of cabins. We delighted as we found kosher bread at a general store in Idaho and laughed when we realized that all the families in hot tub at the inn in Wyoming were Jewish too.   We passed the Crazy Woman Saloon and rodeos and relished shopping at Costco because it reminded us of before. We bought postcards and snowglobes and key-chains and t-shirts to mark our trail.

We crossed states and timezones. We hugged friends we knew from all parts of our lives and said farewell to family. We slept in guest rooms on trundle beds and pullout couches, pillows fluffed by loving hands who were happy to be part of our journey.  We fought a little and yelled a little more and snuggled and were homesick.

We took a good look and fell in love with you, America the beautiful, all over again and for the first time. But we also started to transform.  As we drove across the world we knew to take a charter flight to Israel, we mourned with the mothers there when our boys were found, but the pain was so much deeper because we knew we would soon be there. As we drove on and on, across 5000 miles, as the situation in our soon-to-be home worsened, we could feel ourselves shedding our American skins–not completely, but some– like the uncomfortable bison we saw at Yellowstone who rubbed his winter coat against a tree to reveal something new.

Compared to you,  America, our new home will feel small, intimate, defined. Your vastness and distance innoculated us against really feeling the depth of what it means to be part of Israel.  It was easier. This will be harder.  The latest numbers are so much more already than they were before. We can no longer take cover in your embrace.  And it is scary and exciting and right.  From the safety of here, we transform the screech of the sirens into the call of the shofar, the call to return to the place our souls know best.

Thank you for having us, America, but it’s time for us to go. We are packed, bags full, with our tired trooper kids who are brimming with excitement and nerves, and this morning we will board our plane. After this month, our hearts are harder and more frail all at once. We are ready.

We will miss you, America the Beautiful.

But at long last, we are going 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.