Part 1: The Decision
Making Aliyah is a major decision, one that cannot be made on ‘one leg’.
Today, May 31st we are celebrating our 21st year in Israel. And what an exciting twenty-one years it has been!
From the moment that we stepped off the EL AL plane and took our first steps on Israeli soil, we felt that we arrived home to new beginnings.
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 Shaliachim. There always seemed to be a reason or maybe an excuse why this year was not right.
Time passed quickly, after high school, our oldest daughter came to Israel to study in a religious seminary. She planned to stay for one year and then return to Toronto to go to university. This was not meant to be.
Our younger daughter 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 they 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 very quickly. We filled out our application in December and left Canada in May. Our son, who was going to celebrate his Bar Mitzvah in Elul, wanted his Aliya at the Kotel. His wish came true.
Part 2 Patience is a Virtue
Living in Israel as new olim is 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 Tudat Olah. 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, but instead told us that we had to go to the interior 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.
Coming from Canada, we exchanged our large hi-rise apartment in Hamilton for a small 55 meter two bedroom Kibbutz house in Gush Etzion, near Jerusalem. Our daughters and sons-in law surprised us by cleaning and furnishing the house with kibbutz furniture so that we wouldn't walk into an empty house.
Our then 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 other’s feet, but after a few days we 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.
Our older daughter and son-in-law are kibbutz members. This is why we chose the kibbutz as our first Israeli home.
Celebrating Shabbat in the communal dining room was an experience. Singing together Shalom Aleichem and many other Shabbat songs, 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.
Part 3 Fitting In.............
Learning to speak Hebrew was another experience. We joined an ulpan for new olim in Jerusalem and went everyday for a few months. My husband learnt 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.
Israel is rich in Jewish history. 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.
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.
The country comes together, left, right day, when the siren rings on Yom Hashoah [Holocaust remembrance and Yom Hazikron [Memorial day for our soldiers 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 and enjoy the traditional bar b’ que.
Today we live on a wonderful yishuv not far from Netivot and Beer Sheva in the south.
On our yishuv and in many other yishuvim and cities in Israel, ten or fifteen minutes before Shabbat, beautiful Shabbat music is played over the loudspeakers.
For my family, living in Israel is an honor and privilege. We are living in our Jewish homeland and full filling our dreams.
Until next time feel free to comment and share.