Wednesday, June 15, 2011

How the journey started….

August 16, 2010

How does one describe the myriad of reasons we’re making Aliyah?  There are more reasons than I can count but the short version is this- it’s where we’re supposed to be.  I’m not preaching that to the masses nor will I be adding that as a tag line to my e-mails.  Do I think it’s where we- me and my family belong?  Well, that I know.  Do I think it’s the most authentic place on the planet for Jews to live?  Well, yes.  But I’m not in your house, in your head, or in your wallet.  This kind of decision must be made by each person, each family, individually.  And considering I loathe being preached to or spoken to as if I’ve never thought about the option being preached to me, I’m not gonna start doing it to you. 

So many questions.  Why there?  Well, moving to any other country in the Middle East would be fairly ridiculous and Canada, though its very pretty, wasn’t on the list of places to go.  Why now?  Well, why NOT now?  I could speak to the fears American Jews discuss and harbor, some quite real.  But the truth of truths is that it’s the right time for us.  Add to that the fact that sometimes we plan to start things ‘tomorrow,’ or ‘when the time is right.’  Frankly, there are things you have to *make* happen at the ‘right time’ because they aren’t just gonna happen.  I’ve never wanted to be the person that sits and waits- for a bus, a call, or my life to happen.  Things don’t magically appear and in the spirit of a phrase we all know well, G-D helps those who help themselves.

Our lives in Chicago, and before that in New York, aren’t ‘bad.’ We’ve been blessed with the most devoted of friends and family, so much so that our friends have *become* our family.  We’re not running away from anything and we’re not leaving a place where there are a sum total of 10 other Jews.  We are, I suppose, running TO where we need to be and where our hearts and souls are calling.  When we were in Jerusalem nearly 2 years ago, I stood on the balcony of our rented apartment and took in the sight of the Old City’s stones, the sound of the Muslim call to prayer, and the boing-b-boing of the bouncing basketballs in Liberty Bell Park.  It was, in short, emotional overload.  I don’t know that I would’ve necessarily combined all of those stimuli, but what it did was pull me closer to The Land.  I distinctly recall thinking that if someone at that moment had told me that they’d lost our tickets back to Chicago and that we had to stay in Israel, I would’ve shrugged and said, “OK.”  No fuss, no fight, no tears.  I knew, just as I’d known at 16 when I was there for the first time, that I was home.  And folks, there really is no place like home.

I had a madricha (a group leader) when I was in Israel so many years ago, whose family had moved to Israel when she was a teen.  Her mom told her that there were but three things you need to make the trip; You need the will and desire- check! You need money - thank G-D for Nefesh B’Nefesh and the amazing ways they allow people to make Aliyah- check! And you must be absolutely, unquestionably, without a doubt, off you’re rocker and out of your stinkin’ mind- CHECK! People have asked me what I’m feeling and I can safely tell you that if you can name the emotion, I’m feeling it. 

I’ve started to mentally say good-bye to things like places I visit infrequently, extra Yom Tov (holiday) days that we won’t have in Israel, and wondering where I can find kosher food in uncommon areas beyond M&M’s and pretzels (There is no kosher food to be found on the West Side of Chicago- who knew?).  I refuse to spend my remaining 11 months in the States referencing everything as “my last this” and “our last that;” we’re not dying- we’re MOVING!  But I realize, beneath the humor and excitement, that there will be many “lasts” that I will have to say goodbye to.  Some, I’d just as soon say goodbye to right now (Kosher restaurants should be open later than 8PM.  What, no one else in Chicago gets hungry AFTER 8PM???!!!).  And some, I can’t bear to think of- the tearful hugs, selling our house, and the tears on the faces of those I love as we pretend not to wonder if and when we’ll see each other again. 

I will miss the home we’ve built in Chicago. I don’t mean the living space we co-own with the bank, but the home that is always open to guests and stragglers who feel comfortable enough to take naps on our couches, play with our dog, and stop by just because they’re in the mood.  I’m really proud of that house, more than the paint on the walls or the counter tops I chose years back.  While I will miss this place and the long summer Shabbos (Sabbath) afternoons we sit on the front lawn and people-watch, I know that we will recreate this home in Israel.  No, it won’t be the same and it’d go beyond denial to think that it would.  But it will be a home where guests and friends sleep on our couches, share in our simchas (happy occasions), and stay for awhile.

Israel is really hard to define.  It’s a place, a political hot-bed, the holiest place on earth for many, all consolidated into an itty bitty parcel of land.  How in the world does the land ‘call’ to you, how does it welcome you and speak directly to your heart and soul.  I. DON’T. KNOW.  There it is, in all its blunt honesty.  I’m not naive about the challenges- personal, linguistic, financial, or political- we will face.  Nor do I think that as amazing as Nefesh B’ Nefesh is, that we’ll get off the plane and be presented with keys to a new house and new car; this is REAL life,  not a game show.  I think that once you’re home, in whatever place you define that to be, the world’s challenges seem manageable.  They don’t always seem less difficult, but the knowledge that you can tackle them is sort of built into the fabric.  We are a close-knit family who will continue to be just that.  And with the amazing technology that’s out there, we’ll be able to touch base with loved ones across the Mediterranean as if they were next door.

Yeah we’re scared, yeah we’re excited, yeah we’re nervous, and yeah, we’re gonna cry like a bunch of babies when its time to board that Israel-bound plane.  But y’know, you have to give to get, risk to earn, sacrifice to appreciate what you really have.  What we really have is this amazing opportunity to walk the footpaths of our ancestors and connect our children, the next generation and their generations, to who and what they come from.  The Land has always wanted (the collective) us to come back.  We’re just answering our call to finally come home.


  1. Wow, this is almost exactly how I feel. Permission to link to this when I resurrect my blog? (I'm so not a writer)

  2. Rachel, this totally resonates! I can't believe we're going so soon! Good luck to us all - we're going to need it. Now, back to crazy packing...!

  3. Couldn't have been written better! What an amazing post!