I am writing this diary of my ascent to Eretz Yisrael at the request of a person who has given me the gift of moments of laughter, at times when I have needed them the most. And whose writings have given me the fortitude to deal with the 800 pound Gorilla of Galut that was riding on my back until I finally told it goodbye and came home.
There have been many days over the past several years, on which I have been prepared to let go of the battle that raged within. To go or not to go, that is the question. To stay with my daughter in exile (I am now divorced coming up on two years and my daughter is 14), or to come home, with the prayer that one day she too will find her path to the One source of all truth. I left the Exile, knowing that if I were to remain in Canada, then Eretz Yisrael and Judaism would never be the center of my daughter’s life. RebTzvi, your encouragement has provided the courage to be sitting here today, in Jerusalem, with a Teudat Oleh nestled safely in my back pack. You and Rav Moshe Kaplan never gave up on me, even though there were times I had given up on myself.
And thank you for letting me come over for Shabbat. I know that being my age (52) and without family here, there will be times that I will be by myself ….I just wasn't emotionally ready to do so this week.
And now to my thoughts on my entry into our land….
To those who are contemplating the path of Aliyah, there is no finer group of people to work with than those who make Nefesh Be'Nefesh the outstanding organization that it is. My case was far from simple, as I had been a temporary Israeli resident in the mid 1980's, while I was studying at the wonderful Machon Meir Yehiva. NBN guided me through all the necessary steps to ensure a smooth entry home.
My travels began on the Eighth of Tamuz (July 10th). After saying goodbye to my backwoods Canadian town, I drove to Vancouver and flew to New York. NBN was already preparing for the 1:30pm flight that was now only a few hours away. I was already undergoing my first mind-altering moment. For in those first few minutes of being with the other passengers of El Al flight 0034, I was with more Jews than I had been over the past 26 years.
There was the usual luggage check in and document authentication. After a brief ceremony and final farewells to family and friends, we boarded the plane. I do not for a moment minimize the sadness felt by those staying behind. But it has fallen upon us to begin this new chapter in the book of our nation's history. At every moment of every day, the voice of HaShem calls out "Lech Lecha"…we who are coming Home, are those who have been able to hear these words in the breezes that blow from one end of Creation to the other.
The flight itself had all of the typical "dangers of the road" familiar to immigrants to Israel - but of a different type than the pioneers who had come before us….three Glatt Kosher meals, a television built into the seat in front of you with 32 channels , 10 washrooms, air conditioning, and at least 12 cabinet attendants. Pretty tough journey!
Oh yes. I forgot to mention that Nefesh Be'Nefesh handled all of the necessary forms and passports for immigration officials. I might have injured my fingers otherwise. That was a close call!
Seriously, the aliyah process couldn’t be easier with NBN handling all the paperwork. Not to mention the free ticket.
Having watched the video of NBN flights many times over, I thought that the official "greeters" and soldiers (chayalim and chayalot) waving tiny Israeli flags would not have an affect on my emotions. Big mistake! It was one of the most overwhelming experiences in my life! Three weeks later I still find myself tearing up when I think of it.
Because these soldiers, these government officials, they are mine (and yours) and they are Jewish. Not like the boys of the Canadian Mounties and your average New York cop. And please don't come back at me with "The State of Israel uses these young men and women in ways that are negative to Torah Judaism". Less than 80 years ago, we were hunted down and slaughtered across the European countryside, with no one to protect us. THANK GOD for Medinat Yisrael and Tzahal! And by the by, if you don't like the way things are run here, put down your remote control, stop worrying if the NFL will have a season, and bring your body over here. That way it can join up with its Neshama. Stop hiding behind your computer screen. If you want to change something, then come here and do it. And stop supporting a country that wishes Israel would go back to the 1867 borders…..when there was no State of Jews at all.
And while we are on the topic of American politics, can you please possibly explain for me why 60 to 70% of the American Jewish community continues to poll support for Obama? Never mind his policies…..how can you support a man who did not allow Jonathan Pollard out of imprisonment to visit his Father before he died, and then kept him from attending his funeral? "Your" president is a soul-less individual and mean spirited to boot. Shame on you for your continued support of such a person. And while we are here, your financial support of Israel amounts to one day of our GDP. The simple fact of the matter is that the communities in the "chosen" diaspora are becoming rapidly less relevant to the Nation of Israel living in Eretz Yisrael. And you are building castles made out of sand.
It may not even take 2 generations to see assimilation go past the point of no return. Intermarriage in western Canada is pegged at 75% and that is a conservative estimation. Out of the 6 million Jews in America, it is known that over 50% are not halachic Jews. By choosing to stay attached to your more affluent life in Exile, you are responsible for, and are finishing the process, that began with the extermination of your relatives in the slaughterhouses of Europe. It either is important to you, or it isn't.
Back to the welcome at the airport…..we were ushered into Terminal Three that had been transformed into a reception area, complete with refreshments, and yes, with politicians. Several gave the typical welcoming speech, how happy they were that we had chosen to come home. And then former Prisoner of Zion, Anatoly Scharansky took the mike….his words I will never forget. As he looked out at us, this is what he said…. "You people, sitting here, are the answer to those who had attempted to stage "fly-ins" in solidarity with the flotillas and disrupt the Ben Gurion airport in previous days." And he was right. WE are the answer to the Obama's and the Mullahs and the Pope's of the world, all of whom would prefer to go to bed at night and wake up in the morning to an Israeli-less Middle East. So my question to you is, as one Jew to another, what are you doing to prevent their deepest desires? And what will you tell your children when they ask you? More importantly, where will you be living when you tell them?
While in Canada, I had arranged for a one year rental of a 2 room apartment in the Kiryat Moshe neighborhood of Yershalayim. As it was totally unfurnished, I spent the first few days "schlepping" around the area purchasing bedroom furniture and appliances. Having been forewarned of Israelis lack of service politeness and general attitude problems towards newcomers, I came "armed"…..which as it turns out, was so totally unnecessary. Since arriving, there is not one negative experience that I am able to speak of. The furniture store owner not only gave me sizable discounts on my purchased items, he gave me , as a welcome present, free bedding, sheets, comforter, and pillows. Not only that, but he pulled strings and had everything delivered and set up the next day so that I would not have to spend more money on a hotel.
He then directed me to another store for appliance purchases, where again the same level of service and friendliness was on display. Discounts were given, and service technicians were ordered for the very next day (something unheard of in Israel) as I was rapidly running out of clean clothes and needed a washing machine. Baby, it is HOT outside! I came from 19 degrees and rain showers to 35 degrees and no breeze. But that is summer here….not really different from the Eastern US…..but very different for someone from Canada….but this way, I will sweat out more "tumah" of the Exile in a more rapid manner, which can only be for the best.
Everyone warned me of the banks here and their indifference to olim. I don't know where you all are getting you “bubba mises” misinformation from, but you should stop!
The people I have had the PLEASURE of working with at Bank Hapoalim (especially Amira at the Givat Shaul branch) have been more service oriented than those I have dealt with both in the US and Canada. The Welcome Mat is truly rolled out here.
On several occasions, grocery store clerks have taken me on individual tours showing me where everything is, and then seeking me out later to see if I had found what I needed.
I have now been here for three weeks. I have experienced a few hiccups, but that is expected whenever one moves to a new country. But NONE of the warnings of Israeli ineptitude, poor attitude,or indifference, have crossed my path. Maybe they will someday, maybe they won't. The only thing I know for sure is that I am Home. I always knew my Neshama was here. My aliyah simply brought my body over to join up with it.
As Rabbi Tzvi Freeman (Chabad) writes "One who really cares, is not placated by the fact that he has a good excuse. If the goal was not achieved, it was simply not achieved---regardless of the excuse. "
So what's your good excuse for not making aliyah? Do you really care about your Jewish identity and the future of your kids?
Anyway, Baruch Hashem, I’m here.