I’m humbled with this opportunity to relate the story of my recent aliyah, which happened on Monday, July 14. This move was not an easy one and it required the kind of strength and determination that I didn’t even know I had.
The desire to come to Israel began shortly before my wife and I got married. Having become more observant in our Judaism, we learned about our Jewish history and about the expulsion from the land some 2000 years earlier. Our desire was to follow in the path of other families in Canada and the United States, which meant spending a year or two somewhere in or near Jerusalem. Then, somewhere over the next few years as our friends made aliyah, we decided that maybe we should do the same.
We came for the first time in 2012 during the Passover holiday. We spent three weeks falling in love with the land – visiting the gravesites of our holy patriarchs and rabbis, prophets and great sages. We experienced kindness and warmth that was beyond our expectations plus incredible events (and miracles) that would be too much to explain or share in this article.
After those three weeks it was clear. We had to make aliyah.
Despite many difficulties that arose, the opportunity finally presented itself. And so, in the middle of May we gave up our home and sold the majority of our belongings, deciding that we would only bring our clothing and some toys for our two girls.
As July 13, our departure date, drew near, the Jewish world experienced a terrible tragedy as three of our boys were kidnapped (and killed). The rocket attacks began right afterwards.
From Difficult to Insane?
All of a sudden, our move went from difficult to seemingly insane. Both my wife and I come from very small, close-knit families. Moving to Israel was a source of great pain and sadness for all of us. Our families were very understanding and supportive until they thought our lives would be in danger. How could we explain to them that we were doing what we felt we had to do?
When we came to Israel two years ago, we felt like we immediately belonged here. We had to come home. So for two years, we were homesick. Unless you have that same feeling, it’s hard to explain. We agreed with how dangerous it seemed, but our decision was made. We were doing it. And somehow, maybe even miraculously, our families accepted that decision.
Despite our decision to go as the rockets rained down, we also began to worry. There were even moments of doubt. In fact, there was one moment in particular when almost turned everything around.
My wife and I were sitting in a rental van, getting rid of junk we had accumulated over the years. We heard how many rockets had been fired and we heard that sirens were sounding in Jerusalem. We began to wonder if we would be safer in Toronto when BOOM! There was a massive seven-car accident a minute away from our home. One driver was air-lifted away, while others were taken to the hospital. So we weren’t perfectly safe. It may not have been a rocket, but we realized that rockets were not a good-enough excuse to stop our plans.
A day before we left, we were told that Hamas was targeting Ben-Gurion airport, as they continued to do for weeks after. We were told that flights were being delayed and that we would likely have to delay our aliyah until the war ended. That was over Shabbat, so we had to wait until that Sunday morning before we would know if the flight was still going.
It’s Good to be Home!
With great relief and joy, we heard that the flight was still scheduled.
We stepped onto the plane with excitement and confidence. And, 11 hours later, we landed safely at Ben-Gurion Airport. There was no celebration to greet us. We avoided a charter flight, deciding that being in Israel would be all the welcome necessary. We simply landed, filled out our paperwork and headed home. It was, and is, good to be home.
The invasion into Gaza happened shortly after our arrival. Rockets were flying fast and furiously, and though we didn’t have (and haven’t had) any sirens in Jerusalem since the time we arrived, our friends in the South cannot say the same.
Growing Anti-Semitism Around the World
Amidst the rockets came a different kind of weapon. Hatred. We became aware of the growing anti-Semitism all over the world, the demonstrations and rallies, the graffiti and the attacks. Instead of watching from the sidelines, as we had done in prior years, we were in the middle of the action. Each posting we saw and everything we were told about the aggression coming against Israel pained us and those around us deeply.
The people of Israel have been under attack against an enemy that is doing everything possible to destroy us. They are not just targeting the army. They are attacking our children and our people. They are resorting to human (and animal) shields, and they are even attacking themselves to make Israel look bad. This is a war in every sense of the word. I’m sure you’ve heard about the terror tunnels and the plan Hamas had for this upcoming Rosh Hashana (Jewish New Year).
I found solace reading comments on the United with Israel website. There are people out there who care about Israel, and that means a lot to us. It makes us realize that we’re not alone.
Together, there is no threat that is insurmountable.