Today, we celebrated our 10-year aliyah anniversary.
Ten years ago, we flew into Ben Gurion early on a Tuesday morning and stepped out into the hot July sun to begin our new life.
We were nervous.
Full of hopes and aspirations, with prayers and dreams about what the future held in store.
And with us were four active little boys, ages 7 and under.
Full of energy and excitement, with little backpacks and wheelie suitcases, dressed in bright orange shirts so that they wouldn’t get lost.
Ten years later it is pretty amazing to think about what we have found.
We took a family trip to the Kotel today and while we sat in the Old City celebrating over dinner, we discussed what we think we have here that is unique and so special.
My 11-year-old is in a Geerz bike chug where he rides through the hills and valleys of Judea. The breathtaking scenery and the sense of ownership he feels biking this land is a modern-day fulfillment of “קום התהלך בארץ לארכה ולרחבה” — “Arise, walk about the land through its length and breadth” (Genesis 13:17)
My 13-year-old appreciates the connection he feels to the strangers around him. Whether they sit next to him on the bus, or he sees them out the window, he may not know them but there is a strong sense of belonging. Shared values and interests. Identification around a common cause and passion.
His brother added that when you feel part of the nation, in the way you do here, you see things differently, developing a big picture approach that leaves you feeling more of a responsibility to the greater whole.
Another child finds meaning in knowing that the life we have built here is not temporary. Though he prays daily for the ultimate redemption and the ingathering of exiles, he commented that while life may change significantly “on that day,” we ourselves will hopefully continue life in our same house, in our same community, in our same synagogue. It feels good to be settled somewhere with a sense of permanence and to know that you are where you are ultimately meant to be.
As I sat listening to these little boys who are now young men, I couldn’t help but wonder when these feelings took hold, when they began to understand the words they pray, when they started to appreciate Jewish history and Jewish destiny and when this place became home.
How is it that despite the wars, the rockets, the heatwaves, the politics, the traffic and the sometimes blunt Israeli talk that we are still adjusting to, a place can make you feel so emotional, its anthem can move you to tears, its people can feel like your family and its stones can warm your heart?
Is it because, as my young daughter commented tonight, we feel closer to Hashem, to God? In her words, “The whole world prays toward Israel, but we are in Israel already, so we get to turn to and come to Yerushalayim.”
Is it because these children know that they will one day proudly serve their country and this awareness of sacrifice and the spirit of giving forges an unbreakable bond and connection?
Is it because they speak the same language their forefathers did, hike the same land where the stories of the Bible unfolded, visit cities that bear the same names from thousands of years ago and then somehow, past, present, and future all begin to seamlessly blend into one?
Or is just because this is where their bedrooms are, their comfy couches, their games and books, their friends and neighbors, their schools and parks, their favorites restaurants and beaches. And increasingly, more and more of their family.
Before they went up to sleep tonight, our children thanked us for moving them here. They can no longer imagine an alternative life.
Ten years later, our homeland is their home and their home is very much our beloved homeland.
We have landed.
אשרינו מה טוב חלקנו ומה נעים גורלנו