Westbankmama is celebrating her family’s 20th anniversary of aliyah this year. (Chazak chazak!) In honor of the occasion (and, I suppose, the Crunch family’s upcoming fifth aliyah anniversary), here is an account of our family’s aliyah.
The Cap’n and I met at a one-year program in Israel in our late 20s (what used to be WUJS-Arad). He had come to continue his Jewish studies and involvement that had begun in graduate school a few years before. I had come, after a lifetime in a mixed-married household with little or no Judaism, to begin mine. It was my first visit to the country and his second. Although neither of us had grown up in Zionist homes, we both found ourselves deeply affected by the country, and our time here solidified our Jewish identities and observance.
But it was not yet time to think about aliyah. We were not ready to put that much physical distance between ourselves and our families, nor to contend with the realities of the language, culture shock, the rabbinate (both for my necessary halachic conversion and for our marriage), and finding a community into which to integrate. We were still new to Orthodox Judaism and chose to marry and settle in the much more familiar U.S. for the foreseeable future.
And yet throughout the early years of our marriage, we found ourselves having The Conversation every six months to a year. What about Israel? Is it time yet? Should we think about it? In the first year of our marriage, we took a trip to Israel to visit friends and the country again. The night we were due to leave, we were both in tears—I while packing, and he while prowling the aisles of the grocery store buying nosh for the plane trip back. This visit, while a great delight to us, drove home the reality that once we began a family and were paying for day school and college tuition, it was unlikely that we would be able to visit Israel again until the children were out of the house and financially independent.
Finally, after the birth of our third child, we heard a bat kol (voice from heaven). It wasn’t the supernatural kind one imagines from the Torah; it was disguised in a d’var Torah given by a friend at Kol Nidrei. In his discussion of the expression timhon levav (confusion of the heart) our friend interpreted the phrase to mean “refraining from doing that which you know is right because it’s easier to stick with the status quo.” On our walk home that night, we had The Conversation again, and this time decided that it was time to do a little research. (To our relief, Nefesh B’Nefesh had been invented, which made the preliminary searches, quests for information, and paperwork much easier.)
Within a year, we were on a plane to Israel (plus three kids, three car seats, three carry-ons, and ten boxes of our stuff). A year after that, the girls were speaking Hebrew, we’d sold our condo in Newton, bought a car here, and were looking for a place to buy. Two years after aliyah, we moved into our own home in Efrat and a few months later, I gave birth to Bill (at home).
And here we are, five years later. The Cap’n works for an Israeli company now, the girls can all read Hebrew and leyn (chant) Torah, and we feel with every passing year more and more like Israelis. Our name is in the phone book, we have Israeli driver’s licenses, I’m a dab hand at head lice removal, our kids know more about Judaism before the age of 10 than we knew at 25, and while we are excited when we travel to America for a visit, we’re even more excited to come back to Israel and our lives here.
I guess we’re home.