Miriam Goodman is celebrating 22 years since making Aliyah from Canada. In this blog, she describes the challenges and the joys of the past two decades living in the land that she so loves.

We were anxiously waiting for our friend to pick us up. Five months after our first appointment at the aliyah office in Toronto, we were making Aliyah!!

We made aliyah through the Jewish Agency, long before Nefesh B’Nefesh came on the scene. Many people complained how difficult it was to work with the Jewish Agency, but the truth is, we didn’t have a minute’s problem. EL AL allowed each person making aliyah, three suitcases or boxes plus one carry on. We were three and we each had a carry on and 9 large boxes. When our friend arrived and saw what we were taking with us, the blood drained from his face.

“Okay” he said, “let’s solve this puzzle and get everything and everyone in the car”. After several tries, success! We were starting the first leg of our journey home.

Ben Gurion Airport

At the airport, we were treated royally. We had talked about making aliyah for years. Every year there was another excuse. Were we really making aliyah? Our daughters, sons-in-law and three grandchildren were waiting for us to come home. The time passed quickly on the flight, and before we knew it the pilot was announcing our arrival at Ben Gurion.

Collecting our luggage, we found our way to the Klita (absorption) office. The clerk was impatient. Although she was holding our Canadian passports, she typed that my son was born in Hamilton, Soviet Union; and Avraham (my husband) and me, Montreal, Soviet Union. When we showed her the mistake, she wouldn’t correct it and told us that we had to go to the Interior Ministry in Jerusalem and they would correct it.

Our children arrived to pick us up, After many hugs and kisses, and Avraham meeting our youngest grandson – 3-month-old Michael, today an IDF soldier – our daughter Naomi said, “Show me your Teudat Oleh (immigration card), I can’t believe that you really made aliyah.” I couldn’t believe it either.

Kibbutz Rosh Tzurim, Gush Etzion

We decided to make the kibbutz, where we stayed for six years, our first home because our daughter and son-in-law, Naomi and Eliezer, and their 3 children were members. Together with their children Devorah and Hagai, they cleaned and painted a kibbutz house and found second-hand furniture for us to use. Our 3-year-old grandson Yoni drew a beautiful picture and posted it on the front door. On the bottom of the picture it said, ‘Welcome home’!

We spent our first Shabbat on the Kibbutz with our children and grandchildren. What a special blessing. Life was good. I remember our first grocery store shopping trip. It was a nightmare. I didn’t know what I was buying. Avraham found full time work at the Kibbutz factory. He had to learn a new trade in Hebrew. He couldn’t speak Hebrew but fortunately, there was an American working in the factory and he helped with translations. Since Avraham is good with his hands, he learned the procedure quickly. I worked in the preschool in Hamilton. I found a part time job working with the babies in the Kibbutz daycare. Our son was 12 years old, and we registered him in the local elementary school, where they had a program for immigrant children to learn Hebrew. In no time, Eli-Chaim was speaking like a native Israeli. Three months later we celebrated his bar mitzvah at the Kotel. This was his dream.

Once we had our feet on the ground, Avraham and I attended a morning ulpan in Jerusalem. We were fortunate that the kibbutz allowed us to keep our jobs and just work afternoons. Kibbutz life was interesting. Nothing like we city folk had ever experienced. One morning, when my son woke up, there was a cow looking at him through the window. Seems the barn was left open and the cows escaped.

Gush Etzion

A view of the coast from Mitzpeh Ha’Elef, Gush Etzion. (Aryeh Savir/UWI)

When my son was 6 years old, he asked my husband if he could get a dog. Avraham told him that we weren’t allowed dogs in the apartment, but if we ever moved to a farm, he would get him a dog. A neighbor had a pregnant dog and Eli-Chaim asked her if he could have a puppy. She told him that he should ask one of his parents to come and see her and say it was okay. That evening, Eli-Chaim said to his father, “Do you remember when I wanted a dog and you said if we ever move to a farm, you would get me one? Well, the kibbutz is a big farm and I know where I can get a puppy.” Avraham gave his OK, and a couple of months later little Rocky, a gentle, black, long-haired mutt became part of our family for 15 years until he died.

Leaving the kibbutz, we moved to Modi’in, where we lived for 4 years. Life was different in Modi’in, known as the city of the future with gorgeous parks and green spaces. Avraham kept his job on the kibbutz and commuted every day, and I worked at a local after school center teaching English. After a while, I started tutoring at home English as a second language and ran an enrichment program for native speakers. “English with Miriam” was born.

Going South: Netivot

Netivot is a wonderful place to raise a family. The city and residents are warm and friendly. We enjoyed the seven years we lived there. We had all that we needed at our fingertips. We now live on Yishuv Ma’agalim, where Devorah and Hagai and 7 of our grandchildren live. Once again we are experiencing a different way of life. We are Ashkenazi. This yishuv is Sephardi, made up of mostly Tunisians and Moroccans. Over the years we have learned about the different traditional customs. Once again, the residents are very accepting of us. There are 400 families and most people seem to know we are Devorah’s parents.

Jews from all over the world make aliyah. Over the past 22 years, we have lived though many IDF operations and wars.

There was the Second Intifada, when the Arab suicide bombers were blowing up buses, restaurants, and any place where they could maim and kill Israelis in the name of Allah. My son was in Jerusalem when there was a terror attack on Ben Yehuda Street, and he suffered from shock.

There was the Second Lebanon War. The residents of the North were bombarded with missiles.

We live in the south, 9 km. from Gaza.

We are Canadians, what do we know about war? Well, we have learned the different sounds war makes. The sounds of drones, tank fire, helicopters, jets, gun fire, the wailing of the incoming missile siren and rockets exploding.

We have experienced four wars and IDF operations since we moved to the South. When the siren wails, we have 15 seconds to seek safety. We have had Grad missiles fired at our yishuv, some exploding not far from where we lived. Rockets have exploded on the road where my grandchildren’s school bus travels. I have seen my grandchildren being afraid to go to the park across the street from their house because of rockets. Some of my grandchildren study in bomb-proof classrooms. Our youngest grandson was born during a rocket attack. The first sound he heard in this world was the siren ringing and rockets exploding.

During the past 22 years, we had much simcha (joy) in your lives. When we made Aliyah, we had 3 grandchildren. Since then, 10 more Sabra grandchildren born. We have celebrated bar and bat mitzvahs. Three of our grandsons have served or are serving now in the IDF. Another grandson is studying in yeshiva. Our oldest granddaughter did National Service. We had the honor of watching her get married, and now we await for the birth of our first great-grandchild.

Israel is the land of my heart and my home. We have been truly blessed.

Article by Miriam Goodman

Miriam Goodman made Aliyah from Canada with her family in 1994. She lives in the Negev. She is the mother of three, the safta of 13 precious Sabra grandchildren and a great-grandmother. She is known for her 'Safta Cookies'. Writing is a hobby and she has a blog called Miriam's Words.