Tears streamed down my face last Thursday night, as I stood on a platform several hundred feet above the Kotel. Staring down at the holiest site of the Jewish people, I couldn’t help but cry — tears of joy and trepidation meshing into a mess of pure and unadulterated emotion. In only one month, with God’s help, I will give my four children this gift – the gift of Israel. Yes, we are moving back to Israel … and it is overwhelming.
In those five minutes I spent looking down and outward at the Western Wall, I pictured my little Shai Hadar, 3, as an Israeli. She will know nothing but life in Israel – the hustle and bustle of the buses, the sound of sirens, meow of cats navigating in and around the alleyways and the taste of the sweet-as-candy vegetables and fruits on a Friday morning in the shuk. She will grow up walking to school in the footsteps of our forefathers and foremothers, in the cities of our prophets and kings. She will speak Hebrew with a sultry Israeli accident. She will have the Kotel in her backyard.
You don’t have to be religious for aliyah to be a religious experience. You just have to be a Jew.
Earlier last week, I had the privilege of traveling as a reporter with Nefesh B’Nefesh on their 53rd charter flight. Working with their strategic partners, the El Al flight delivered 221 individuals from North America to Israel. Each new oleh had his/her own stories. There was the young man who found his faith in Safed, the 90-year-old woman who waited 77 years to make Israel her permanent home, the family from the mid-Atlantic region who determined a move to Israel was safer than ultimately enrolling their children on America’s ever-increasing anti-Semitic campuses, and a family of converts who was looking to be part of a more diverse Jewish community. Brothers, sisters, cousins, singles, families. One thing in common: They see Israel as their home.
Families cried when they said goodbye at John F. Kennedy International Airport. Families cried when they sang Hatikvah at the welcoming ceremony at Ben-Gurion International Airport.
On Thursday night in the Old City, I cried for and with those families. With the sounds of evening prayers wafting through the air, the sight of a delicate white dove nestled in between two of the Kotel’s stones, and the gentle touch of the Jerusalem breeze causing my hair to dance gently against my wet face, I could taste for the first time in a very long time that special feeling: I am home. We are going home.
My knees buckled. The weight of the last several months knocked me down. Exhausted.
The last several months have been chaotic at best, as I try to navigate the bureaucracy of Israel, locating the right neighborhood, the right schools and the right job in Israel. A single mother, I am but one person, trying to pack up a household of people and their things in such a short time.
“Am I crazy?” I ask myself on a near daily basis, as I juggle my full-time job, my other full-time job (“Mom”), my freelance work, and the intensity of the knowledge that we need this bold move to reclaim our lives as Jewish and religious people in an era of anti-Semitism, Iranian nuclear proliferation and, perhaps most importantly, spiritual ineptitude.
Standing there, on that platform above the Kotel, I realized two things: 1) I am crazy – crazy about my children. 2) I am courageous — God gave the gift of Israel to the Jewish people and I am re-gifting it to the next generation by giving my children the privilege of making it their own.
I have not written my Times of Israel blog for more than six months. Today, I re-start it – as a woman on a mission: Taking Israel by storm! We move Aug. 12. I hope you’ll journey with us …