Soft landing

Nine years ago, my husband and I, along with our two young boys and a one-year old, got on a plane at two in the morning just a few short hours after we broke our fast from Yom Kippur. Were we running away from something? No, we were running *to* something: Eretz Yisrael, the land of our ancestors. Were we crazy? Well, you don’t have to be crazy to live here, but it helps.

Joking aside, I want to say why this was the best decision we made before we were married that finally came to fruition eleven years later. Is it easy to live here? Has it been a smooth, easy road? My Jewish answer, as it is a question, is: is aliyah meant to be easy?

For certain, some have it easier than others, either with extra help on one side or the other, family to turn to, or other good circumstances. We have some distant relatives in the North, but otherwise left all our close family behind. This was one difficulty. We had others like language issues and finding work; small and large bumps in the road. No matter; looking back I can see that all those bumps only led to a more interesting and eventful klita- absorption.

I guess what I wanted to say is that you can look at the outside of any family’s aliyah and think jealous thoughts like “why do they have it so much easier than us?”, but remember that you don’t know what is going on behind closed doors.

I feel so thankful that Hashem took us from the airport (where we were met by a wonderfully helpful AACI representative) to a most wonderful extended family here in the Gush, starting with the Thees  (who we had met once-they are family friends) who said “Ma Pitom?!” when we decided that we were going to live in Efrat but thought we’d leave their house for the mirkaz klita as planned while we looked for a place here. (I love that saying; it still makes me laugh.) We ended up living with them for three weeks; at this time of Aseret Yimei Teshuva, I hope they forgive us!

This was going to be more light and bubbly as I told you about all the things I love about living here, but as it is the end of shloshim for my mother I guess I’m not feeling light and bubbly. Suffice it to say that although we miss our family in the US, being here is misameach libi – it makes my heart lift. We continue to enjoy this time of year when one can see all the cars with schach roofs, as they bring home the succah covering; hearing the banging and seeing all the succot go up; the signs in the supermarket that say chag sameach, and the lulav and etrog shuks.

Now to the reasons this was our best decision. Aside from the mitzvah itself of living in the land, and despite any major or minor hardships, living in Israel has been good for us. For one, my husband no longer has to worry about using up all his vacation time just to take off for the chagim, no small benefit. Also, he is now more a part of the family, since he does not work the 14-hour days many jobs in America require just to stay afloat. Our children are getting an excellent education thanks to Ohr Torah Stone, and we do not have to beg door to door in order to give this to them. They also have more choices in life, because they don’t have to worry which career they can have and still maintain their Jewish lifestyle.

Most importantly: we *feel* Jewish here. According to the Luazi (non-Jewish) calendar, we still can’t count 9 years. But it is an important mark of how much we feel surrounded by our own culture that we celebrate this landmark now, the day after Yom Kippur, according to our own calendar.

As with succot, when holidays come and even when it’s just the regular part of the year, we feel that we are in our own country, speaking our language and living in the land that is mentioned in our history book, our guide to living, the Torah.

As L. Frank Baum wrote, “There’s no place like home.” Chag Sameach, and happy Aliyahversary to my family.

About the Author
Mori Sokal is a FIFTEEN year veteran of Aliyah, mother of three wonderful children (with her wonderful husband) and is an English teacher in both elementary and high school in the Gush Etzion-Jerusalem area. She has a Masters’ degree in teaching, is a copy editor, and has published articles in Building Blocks, the Jewish Press magazine.