Twenty-Three Years Ago...

Paula R. Stern,

לבן ריק
לבן ריק
צילום: ערוץ 7
Paula R. Stern
Paula R. Stern is CEO and founder of WritePoint Ltd., a leading technical writing company offering documentation services and training seminars. She made aliyah in 1993 when her oldest son was 6 years old. In March 2007, Elie entered the Artillery Division of the Israeli army and Paula began writing about her experiences as A Soldier"s Mother. The blog continues as Elie moved on to Reserve Duty, her second son, Shmuel served in Kfir and continues as her youngest son David now serves in Givati. She recently opened a publishing house, helping other authors fulfill their dream to publish. Links to the Author's blogs: * A Soldier"s MotherPaulaSays Israel Blogger...

Twenty-three years ago today, I flew across the ocean with two little boys, desperate to reach a husband who I had not seen in almost three months, my young daughter that I had not seen in 6 weeks.

It was a calculated plan to get us all to Israel, meeting my husband's requirement that he have work before we move and my daughter's need to learn at least some Hebrew before she entered third grade.

To this day, I cannot tell you if it was the right plan but it worked. We all got to Israel - that was all I wanted, needed.

I was exhausted when I landed, emotional, drained. The boys had been amazing on the flight. I was the only one making aliyah on my flight but the stewardesses knew and treated me like royalty. They asked often if I was okay, if I needed anything. They watched two sleeping boys when I needed to go to the bathroom even though to their Israeli minds that was a ridiculous thing because who could steal them on a plane soaring through the skies?

I was battered and bruised and all I wanted was home. I wanted to leave fear behind - fear of being assaulted as a woman for a few dollars in my pocket (a story of a young mother in New Jersey weeks before...the thief put the young child out of the van and drove off with the mother, eventually killing her for $1.25 that she had with her). I feared darkness. I feared someone would take my children. I craved light.

I landed and climbed down the staircase, holding my sons firmly while others helped me with bags...and all I saw was dream...and the sun and the warmth...I nearly fell to the ground just wanting to touch it and believe finally, finally, finally. But I held the boys, climbed on the bus. A man got up, and another, and I was told to sit down. One son sat next to me, another on my lap and I prayed I wouldn't fall apart.

I got through the paperwork, desperate to collect everything and really get out. They stamped, they filled out papers...I waited, I answered questions and pointed to bags and held hands and pushed a loaded cart until there he was. He brought me flowers and held me so tightly, so strongly, I knew he would never let me go again. I held my daughter and promised I'd never leave her again. My husband picked up his sons and hugged them. Finally together after so many weeks; finally home...

We went to a place I had never seen but recognized it for home within seconds. Settled quickly in a beautiful rented house and made friends. My husband worked; I began to work. My children went to school and made friends and began to fight in Hebrew. We added a son and then a daughter; we bought a house and moved. We sold a house and moved. We rented a house and moved. We bought a house and settled.

We "married off" a daughter and two sons and gained three grandchildren. We built a business, became part of an amazing community. We lost, we gained, we live.

Twenty-three years ago - it's like yesterday except so much richer, so much more. I can dream in Hebrew now, buy and sell anything in an ancient yet modern language.

One son has been to war two times; a second was blessed to have avoided war but not danger during his service. In less than 100 days, my third son...the first born here in this land...will enter the army.

There has never been, not for a single second of a single minute of a single hour of a single day of a single week of a single month of a single year...been a time when I regretted, when I wished I had done anything but board that El Al flight...other than to wish I had done it sooner.

There is no other land that is ours; there is no other place that is home. If you fly home over the summer to visit and vacation, your aliyah might not be successful in the end. If you keep one foot there, wherever there is, and one foot here, that other foot will pull you away.

I came as a refugee seeking a land I could call my own. I watch as others come here from lands where Jews are no longer welcome and worse, I watch while other stay in lands that are fast becoming dangerous.

When I turn into myself, as I will do today, I feel such gratitude to my husband for agreeing to leave his family to make my dream come true. I am grateful to God (and my husband) for the priceless gift of five children who have grown into amazing people in this land. And I thank Israel for welcoming me, for being here.

When I was 16 and came on my first trip, I never wanted to leave. I cried buckets of tears and promised I would be back. When I was 20, I listened to a Jewish Federation leader boast that he had been to Israel 23 times and while others were impressed, I was astounded, "that means you left 22 could you possibly have done that?" I asked without thinking.

When I was 33, I landed in Israel, wife, mother to three small children.

A few years ago, my husband and I spent Shabbat in a hotel in Jerusalem. At one point, I went to the bathroom and found three teenage girls sitting in the hall crying. I was concerned and asked if they needed anything and they explained that they were leaving Israel the next day and didn't want to go.

Paraphrased, this is what I said to them...and to every one who does not live in Israel.

Don't worry. Israel is here. Israel will always be here waiting for you. Whenever you need her, whenever you want, she's here. She is a strong land, a beautiful land and always only a flight away.

I took that flight exactly 23 years ago and my life had been enriched every day since.

May God bless the holy land and people of Israel.

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