Gila Berkowitz
If not #metoo, who?

Three suitcases

It’s the rule: every immigrant to Israel is entitled to a free El Al flight, with an allowance for three pieces of checked luggage. The one-way ticket makes sense but why three bags? Many a young single can barely fill one duffle bag while Western families take the allowance along with all the carry-ons that can be winked at — and follow up with a mighty shipping container hauling the rest of their worldly goods.

However there are three metaphorical bags carried by every immigrant.

There is the suitcase carrying the ache where all that was familiar is suddenly absent. This is the bundle that the first oleh, Abraham, brought with him from deepest Mesopotamia, the one that accompanied him from “your country, your birthplace, your father’s home” to an essentially unknown world.

It is the bag that carries the knowledge that you may never again see the uncle in the nursing home who can’t use a computer, never again have a beer with the gang from the office, probably lose contact with the last of your college buddies.

The ache in the bag is barely mitigated by such discoveries as your favorite shade of nail polish, of which you brought five bottles, being available at every SuperPharm.

The second virtual suitcase contains the skills and mind-sets that other cultures can contribute to Israel. “Here’s how Aussies avoid sunburn.” “In New York we got the most revenue from these sales.” “What do you mean STEM enrichment? In St. Petersburg every seventh grader, boy and girl, knows this stuff.”

The third suitcase is the most poignant. It packs God’s instructions to Abraham to “go to the land that I will show you.” No hints or clues; this one’s a pure leap of faith.

This suitcase is stuffed with:

*Determination. The Ministry of Silly Walks will not get the best of me!

*Confidence. Even though I can’t pronounce the letter “chet” I will name my baby “Chanoch!

*Hope. I am convinced that the Hatikva was written personally for me and I cry every single time it is played. Even at fifth-grade recitals. On accordion.

One oleh hurries, another lags, but each and every one brings home three bags.

About the Author
Gila Berkowitz was born in Haifa and received a B.A. from the Hebrew University. The daughter of survivors, she grew up in ultra-Orthodox communities in Brooklyn. Her curiosity is so intense and her interests so broad that friends have dubbed her "the walking Wikipedia." She has been a news reporter in Israel as well as a science writer here and abroad. She taught journalism at Stanford University and has written best-selling novels. Two of these novels are about women in the Holocaust, "The Ugly Sister" and the forthcoming "Your Sister's Blood."-- as victims and survivors, heroes and perpetrators -- books based on real events and people.
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