Monday, May 26, 2014

Twenty Years........Where Has the Time Gone?

When we told our friends that we were making Aliyah, some were shocked and 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....  this week, we are celebrating our 20th year of Aliyah...but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Hamilton, Ontario, Canada: It’s Erev Rosh Hashana 1993 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 3 Sabra grandchildren Shana Tova.

The girls were both married to Israeli husbands and had settled in Eretz Yisrael several years earlier. Our oldest daughter Naomi, lived with her family on a kibbutz in Gush Etzion. Our younger daughter Devorah, lived with her husband in the South on a Moshav.

Sitting around our Yom Tov table, the conversation once again was about Israel and us making aliyah. This was our dream.... a dream we had for many years.  Our son, who was going to celebrate his Bar Mitzvah the following year, wanted his Aliya at the Kotel.  His wish came true.

Making Aliyah is a major decision, one that can not be made on ‘one leg’. My husband and I had talked about making Aliyah for years. We visited the Aliyah office of The Jewish Agency and spoke several times to different shlichim. 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 in a women’s seminary. She planned to stay for one year and then return to Toronto to go to university. This was not meant to be.

Devorah followed two years later. Both girls fell in love with the country and decided that they didn’t want to come back to Canada. Israel was going to be their home.

The girls met their Israeli husbands, we made two weddings in Israel and the girls settled down. By the time our third grandchild was born, my husband and I knew that our place was in Israel.

Once the decision was made to make Aliyah, the process went rather quickly.

Right after Rosh Hashana, I called the Jewish Agency office in Toronto and was told by the secretary that she would mail us the application and all the other paper work but there wasn’t going to be a shaliach in Toronto until after all the chaggim.

The shaliach finally arrived in December. Our paperwork was ready to go. We met the shaliach, a very nice man who was a retired Navy Commander and we told him we were anxious to make aliyah as soon as possible.

There are many horror stories about the Jewish Agency, but our experience was wonderful.  Our shaliach worked very hard on our behalf.

Five months later, May 30th 1994, we boarded an EL Al airplane with nine big and heavy boxes, and so started our journey home. [Two weeks earlier we sent the few things I just couldn’t leave behind. The lift was ¼ full.] From the moment that we stepped off the airplane and took our first steps on Israeli soil, we knew we arrived home to new beginnings.

Living in Israel as new olim was an experience in its self. We were warned that the bureaucracy would be unbelievable. It was, but we took it in stride. Our first experience with bureaucracy was at the Passport Control Office at the airport.

As new Olim, we needed to receive a Teudat Olah [immigrant certificate] .  The clerk typed up our information, but instead of writing country of origin Canada, she wrote country of origin Soviet Union. When we pointed out her mistake, she refused to correct it, instead told us that we had to go to the ministry office in Jerusalem. We later found out that a plane load of Russian Jews had landed a couple of hours earlier and the clerk was just used to typing Soviet Union.

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 are chaverim [kibbutz members]. The kibbutz wanted to open a section of housing for parents of chaverim. And so, instead of going to a merkas klita [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.

The girls and their husbands surprised us by cleaning and furnishing the house with kibbutz furniture so that we wouldn’t walk into an empty house.

Our three year old grandson, Yoni, drew a ‘welcome home’ picture that was hanging on the front door.  At first, it was a little difficult living in a small house. We were always under each others feet, but after a few days we each found our own space.

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 while we celebrated Shabbat in the communal dining room with more than one hundred other people. Welcoming the Shabbat with the singing of Shalom Aleichem, Eishes Chayil and Kiddish, the sounds of young children laughing and running around, made the Shabbat meal a true kibbutz experience.

Each family had its own table. There was a rotation system and every Shabbat several members took turns setting the tables, serving and cleaning up.

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 in Saba and Safta’s house than theirs.

Learning to speak Hebrew was another experience. We joined an ulpan for new olim in Jerusalem and for a few months went everyday. 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 Israelis love to drink mud [Turkish coffee], 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 Torah. Israel has the bluest sky and its national flower, Callanit is a beautiful red wild flower.

The country comes together, when the siren rings on Yom HaShoah [Holocaust remembrance day] and Yom Hazikron  [Memorial day for our chayalim 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, everyone stands silently remembering the price the Jewish people have had to pay.  It is a breathtaking sight to see.

On Israel Independence day,Yom Ha’atzmaut, we fly our Israeli flag with pride, enjoy the traditional bar b’ que and watch the Tanach Bible contest on television. Our air force, the IAF does a flyover and we get to see a magnificent show of air power.

Today we live on a wonderful, warm, hamish Yishuv in the Western Negev. We have experienced joy, incoming missile siren, war, had Grad missiles exploding not far from where we live and have 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, of which 6 are 10th generation Israeli.

Over the years so much has happened with in our family. We have watched our daughters become marvelous parents, experienced the joys of our grandchildren from newborns to toddlers, first steps, first words, first day at gan, [kindergarten], the excitement of kita aleph [grade 1] graduations, bar and bat mitzvot. Two grandsons became chayalim, one is in Hesdar and the other in a tank unit. Our granddaughter served our country doing Sherut Leumi and recently two other grandsons received their first draft notice. Our youngest grandson will G-D willing start gan [kindergarten] in September.

In our Yishuv like many other areas, ten or fifteen minutes before Shabbat, beautiful Shabbat music is played over the loudspeaker. When it is time to light the Shabbat candles a serene atmosphere takes over. 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 full filling our dreams.

Come home...Every Jew has a place!!

Until next time....Feel free to comment and share.