When we told our friends that we were making Aliyah (moving to Israel), some were shocked. Others said, “You will be back in six months. Life is very hard in Israel. You need a pile of money to survive.” And we were broke!
Well, to all our friends who doubted us: We are celebrating our 20th year of Aliyah! But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Our Dream Began in Canada
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada: It’s Erev Rosh Hashana 1993 – the eve of the Jewish New Year – and we [my husband, and twelve year old son] had just gotten off the telephone after wishing our two married daughters, their husbands and our three sabra (native Israeli) grandchildren a Happy New Year.
The girls were both married to Israeli husbands and had settled in Israel.
Sitting around our holiday table, the conversation once again was about Israel and making Aliyah. This was our dream…. a dream that we had for many years. Our son, who was going to celebrate his Bar Mitzvah the following year, wanted his ceremony at the Kotel (Western Wall). His wish came true.
Making Aliyah is a major decision, one that cannot be made on ‘one leg’. My husband and I had talked about it for years. We visited the Aliyah office of the Jewish Agency and spoke several times to different representatives. There always seemed to be a reason or maybe an excuse why this particular year was not right.
Time passed quickly. After high school, Naomi went to Israel to study at a women’s seminary. She planned to stay for one year and then return to Toronto for university. This was not meant to be.
The girls met their Israeli husbands and settled down. By the time our third grandchild was born, my husband and I knew that our place was in Israel.
Devorah followed two years later. Both girls fell in love with the country and decided that Israel was going to be their home.
Once the decision was made, the process went rather quickly.
Five months later, on May 30, 1994, we boarded an EL Al airplane with nine heavy boxes, and so started our journey home. [Two weeks earlier we had sent a few things I just couldn’t leave behind.]
From the moment that we stepped off the airplane and took our first steps on Israeli soil, we knew we had arrived home to new beginnings.
Living in Israel as new olim (immigrants) was an experience in itself. We were warned that the bureaucracy would be unbelievable. It certainly was! But we took it in stride.
First Home in Israel: Kibbutz Rosh Tzurim
Kibbutz Rosh Tzurim, Gush Etzion: Coming from Canada, we exchanged our large hi-rise apartment for a small 55-meter, two-bedroom kibbutz house in Gush Etzion near Jerusalem. Our daughter and son-in-law were and still are chaverim [kibbutz members]. The kibbutz wanted to open a section of housing for parents of chaverim. And so, instead of going to an absorption center, we chose the kibbutz as our first Israeli home. It was such a smart move. We started living like Israelis from day one.
Although we didn’t join the kibbutz, they invited us to use their facilities. We ate lunch in the communal dining room and used the kibbutz laundry service. The novelty of just throwing the laundry into the correct baskets and picking it up the next day, clean and pressed, was exciting.
Once in a while we celebrated Shabbat in the communal dining room with more 100 other people. Welcoming the Shabbat with the singing and sounds of young children laughing and running around made the Sabbath meal a true kibbutz experience.
As our young grandchildren became a little older, it was not unusual for them to bang on our door early Shabbat morning, looking for chocolate milk and Shabbat cake. For some reason, the milk and cake tasted better at Saba and Safta’s house,
Learning to speak Hebrew was another experience. We joined an ulpan for new olim in Jerusalem, and for a few months we went every day. My husband learned to speak very quickly; I didn’t. Even today, I speak in English whenever possible. Israelis love to speak English. After three months in school, our son was speaking Hebrew like a native.
It didn’t take us long to learn the ropes. We found out quickly that Israelis love to drink “mud” [Turkish coffee]; that their favorite expression, no matter the situation, is yehieh beseder [it will be okay], and politics is definitely the topic of choice. All Israelis have an opinion on how to run the government and everyone is a backseat general in the army.
You can tour and visit many places that are mentioned in the Bible. Israel has the bluest sky, and its national flower, callanit, is a beautiful red wildflower.
The country comes together when the siren rings on Yom HaShoah [Holocaust Remembrance Day] and Yom Hazikron [Memorial day for our soldiers and innocent victims of terrorism].
Cars and buses stop in the middle of the street. Drivers and passengers get out of their vehicles, pedestrians stop walking, and everyone stands silently, remembering the price the Jewish people have had to pay. It is a breathtaking sight.
On Israel Independence Day – Yom Ha’atzmaut – we fly our Israeli flag with pride, enjoy the traditional BBQ and watch the Bible contest on television. The Israeli Air Force does a flyover and we get to see a magnificent show of air power.
Today we live in a wonderful, warm community in the Western Negev. We have experienced joy, incoming missile sirens, war and Grad missiles exploding nearby. We hear the sounds of jets, helicopters, loud booms and the drone buzzing overhead protecting our precious land almost daily.
We have been blessed with 13 Sabra grandchildren. Six are 10th-generation Israeli.
Living in Israel: An Honor and a Privilege
Over the years so much has happened within our family. We have watched our daughters become marvelous parents and experienced the joys of our grandchildren growing up. Two grandsons serve in the IDF; one is protecting our country now in Gaza. Our granddaughter served our country doing national service, and recently two other grandsons received their first draft notice. Our youngest grandson will start kindergarten in September.
In our community, as in many other areas, 10 or 15 minutes before sunset on Friday, beautiful Shabbat music is played over the loudspeaker. When it is time to light the Shabbat candles, a serene atmosphere is felt. For me, the moments before Shabbat are a special time to reflect.
For our family, living in Israel is an honor and a privilege. We are living in our Jewish homeland and fulfilling our dreams.
Make Aliyah! Come home!