We made “Aliyah” in 2011. When translated, “Aliyah” means to ascend in Hebrew. Moreover, it means we uprooted our family and decided to leave the good ol’ USA and move to Israel, the land of milk and honey. We left behind loving family, friends and many comforts that most people would rather not live without.
When I was about 16 I went to Israel for a year to study abroad. It’s a very common act amongst the modern orthodox Jewish community for the kids to spend the year in Yeshiva or seminary once they complete high school, take a break before college, connect with our ancestors; it’s quite the experience. This was the first time I stepped foot in Israel. The year was filled with new friends, new lands, parties, learning, independence, and so much laughter. Till this day I remain friends with some of the girls I went to school with that year and without a question the experience helped shape who I am now and what I wanted in my life. I came back home understanding my parents more, as well as gained a deeper understanding of myself, my faith in Gd and my heritage.
Everything about Israel sank into my bones, the smells of the delicious street food and fresh baked goods. The epic views at every turn, the diversity of cultures and passion of life.
I knew within a few short months of living there that Israel was where I wanted to be one day. For good. Considering how young I was, and keeping in mind how teenagers minds can change with the flip of a coin my adult self is still shocked sometimes that my decision stuck. Even though it took years before it actually happened.
I often get asked by people why we moved here. Israelis think we must be nuts half the time, and Americans have a hard time grasping why we would leave all the comforts as well. Especially in times of war, which are frequent enough. “I couldn’t live like that, the poor children” people say. It’s a subject that I’ve contemplated many, many times.
The list is endless. The good outweighs the bad big time but anyone who has made Aliyah knows that this happiness doesn’t come easy. But we continue to fight through the bureaucracy, the crappy pay and trips to the bomb shelter. Why?
Well for me, here it is –
▪️It makes me want to be a better person. In my time spent in Israel I have experienced so many enlightening moments. Moments that shock, amaze and have actually brought me to tears. There are wonderful, giving people all I over the world. The difference is the rate, countless acts of giving in such a short span of time. Not just stories I’ve heard from other people or things I’ve read on social media, but things that have happened to me and my family. I’ll tell you what, It’s contagious. The expression “pay it forward” rings in my ears. I’ve been given a ride home from a pregnant woman that did not know me at all because she saw me walking in the rain. When I was pregnant with the twins, the bus driver insisted on dropping me off blocks closer (even though it wasn’t an official stop) so I wouldn’t have to walk as far. I’ve been pushed to the front of line at the supermarket because I had the babies with me and they felt I shouldn’t wait. These acts may be small, but there are too many to write and they all made an impact on me.
▪️Your children can experience a freedom they could never experience in the States. Because our world is often in a state of war, sadly, we are accustomed to be in a very hyper aware and alert state of mind. Naturally, we notice things that seem off quickly. This means we have a country filled with a bunch of uppity, paranoid, Jewish mothers. Every child is our child, we have no problem reprimanding other peoples offspring, nor do we mind kissing boo-boos for a kid who needs some love or direction. It’s a safer world in my book when there are multiple parents keeping tabs. Our children know they always have eyes on them, hoohoohahaha (*evil laugh)!
▪️We don’t fester here. You have something to say, so say it. Good, bad… Doesn’t matter. We yell and cry but it usually ends with a hug and cup of coffee together. When all is said and done we are brothers and sisters.
▪️We work hard and play even harder. Our kids go to school six days a week, and in order to financially survive here we have to work our butts off. Minimum wage is about 28 shekels an hour which is about 8 bucks per hour. And our expenses are not cheap. But when we have holidays or time off we know how to have a good time. We dance (no matter how old we get), we sing in public, we BBQ any chance we get, we hike at sunrise, we swim in natural springs, we all chip in, we share and laugh. Life is precious here, time isn’t wasted often.
▪️We don’t need a new outfit for every occasion. We see each other, past the labels and the bling and as long as you are clean and presentable you won’t feel judged or out of place. People’s celebrations are exactly that, we bask in them, it’s not focused on what we wear, but more about good food, great music and togetherness.
▪️In times of need, we are united. We take the clothes of our backs, we bring meals, we watch each others children and so much more. I’ve experienced this on the receiving end and it’s all encompassing to say the least. It’s a healing aid that is better than most medicines.
▪️Our children’s teachers are allowed to be affectionate to our children in a time where many places in the world frown upon this. They love them like they’re their own, they hug and welcome them daily and praise their efforts constantly. They cry at the end of every year without fail, and send them to the next grade with so much hope for their well being, and prayers for the next year. They are not paid well and still show up everyday with strength and patience that is commendable to say the least.
▪️We respect our elders, we care for them and treat them with kindness. Our kids help them cross streets, we help them carry groceries home, we stand to give them our seat and most of all they are acknowledged, as they should be.
I could go on for days but the fact is that my kids are happier because of this move. The culture shock was intense. The first couple of years were filled with frustration and difficulties but we stuck it out and now my children are experiencing the world in a true light, with their innocence more in tact, dirty feet feeling the earth on the regular, climbing trees, basking in the sun. Which is the way it should be, IMHO.
The time spent acclimating was intense and hard. We got dragged through the mud but now we’ve had a good shower and feel wonderful and blessed. I pray my children know how hard we’ve worked to make a life here for our family. For all of these reasons and more, I thank you Israel, from the bottom of my heart.