Reflections on my Aliyah: The Decision, Days Leading Up to Departure, Second Thoughts, the Three Year Itch
Wednesday, May 27th my husband and I left for Denver, Colorado to visit our children and grandchildren. Sometimes it feels like just yesterday that we were saying goodbye to them in order to embark on our aliyah journey to the holy land. Our decision to make aliyah was for me the most difficult decision of my life. This was completely related to the aspect of leaving my daughters and not being a visible part of their lives on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. I had been a single mother for 10 years raising two exquisite daughters whom I love with all my being. I treasure being in their presence: talking, sharing, laughing and learning about life and just being together. I had promised them that we would always be together and live near each other, especially since their father had died at a young age. Now I would be leaving them and the weight of the decision felt enormous. The distance from Denver to Israel felt as if I was taking a journey to the center of the Universe in order to live in a galaxy far, far away. My oldest daughter was pregnant with our first grandchild when we made the decision. My friends said that once I became a grandma, I would have great difficulty leaving. This off-handed remark gave rise to an inner reflection leading to the question: who am I as a Jew and what is my mission and purpose in life? Even with my limited exposure and knowledge of Judaism, I unequivocally knew that the Divine inheritance of the Jewish nation was the Land of Israel.
As I stated in my intro to this blog, I was perfectly content with how my life was unfolding. We had settled nicely into the Torah observant Jewish community and felt as if we were flourishing. My career was continuing to advance with great success and compensation. We lived in a big, beautiful 3500 sq. ft. house and we relished everything about our life. We were enjoying theater, culture, family, friends and all was well. My husband and I were traveling to Israel once a year and filling up on the spiritual pleasures to be found there. What could be better?
However, to be brutally honest, even though our life felt fulfilling at some level, our souls did not concur with that assessment. If one can make such a seemingly strange statement about one’s soul, there was actually an undercurrent of soul dissatisfaction especially after being repeatedly exposed to life as a Jew in the Holy Land. At some undefinable level, it appeared that our souls felt the Divine communications calling out to us, demanding to be heard. My husband connected to this level and had tuned into the frequency. He had been asking me for three years to make the move to live in Israel. Finally in an epic show of determination, my husband took the stance of the lion of Judah and stated that he wanted us to return home, the home of the Jewish people in the land of Israel. He said he could no longer be living away from his soul source because he was suffering. Would I make the leap of faith and courageously embrace the path that God outlined for us in his Torah? I was taken aback by the pain and the power of his plea. For the first time I realized that I was staring at the soul of my husband manifested through his words and longings.
What was actually preventing me from saying yes? Other than the pain of leaving my children, I ascertained the truth in one of my night-time inner thought wrestling matches, battling it out in order to arrive at my decision. Honestly, I did not feel compelled to upgrade my spiritual status by moving to the Holy Land. I was truthfully mired in the GOOD LIFE in America and honestly, the shopping, museums and weather, along with everything else was great. I knew my way around the city and Colorado is a gorgeous State with great outdoor activities and stunningly beautiful vistas. Additionally, I am one of those people who hate and fear not knowing where I am going and I could not imagine trying to find my way around Jerusalem or Israel where most of the signs are in Hebrew or Arabic. As I was thinking it through, I began to stack the deck in my mind in favor of saying no. G-d obviously had other plans and a miracle was forthcoming as a soul shift began to manifest. I attribute it not only to the mighty prayers my husband must have prayed but additionally to the fact that he began to whine continuously and whining drives me crazy.
As a successful business woman, I knew how to look at the big picture and make calculations for profitability and growth. Ultimately I began to calculate the cost to my soul of staying in America and living the GOOD LIFE versus moving to Israel, our Divine inheritance and living THE GREAT LIFE in the Land of the Living. I recognized a long time ago that life is truly a “Journey of the Soul” and I desperately wanted to embrace that journey. I had somehow forgotten the reality along the way, as materialism, career and busyness claimed both my attention and my life. As I began a careful calculation of soulful profitability in mitzvah opportunities alone, I perceived that the opportunities and numbers were staggering. Living every day of your life alongside your family and community and sharing your wealth and gifts with your nation to live a Divine ideal: What could be better? This combination of both the practical and the spiritual brought me to my decision to say “yes”: to myself and my husband. The truth is, in spite of the inner sadness at the mere thought of leaving my precious daughters, there was an equally intense feeling of exhilaration, as I began to gauge what my soul and my husband’s soul stood to gain by living in The Holy Land.
I must confess however that throughout the year of readying for our departure, my most fervent prayers were that G-d should remove any attachments I had to our stuff because I loved our stuff and was very tied to it. In the end, we gave away three-fourths of our possessions and we did so without pining for any of it. Another miracle from HaShem.
Days leading up to our departure
I can actually relive, even now, the inner tension that was building up to our departure date of July 13, 2003. It had nothing to do with thoughts of adjustments of language or culture or government or medical system. It had nothing to do with safety in Israel or the fact that we would be surrounded by enemies on all sides. It was all about separation from family. The days prior to our departure were extremely hectic. Sleep escaped me as I knew the day was fast approaching to say my temporary good-byes until we were to see each other again. We were all holding a tight rein on our emotions so as not to drown each other in our unexpressed feelings…..all intermingling with sadness and joy. My daughters expressed their pride in our longing to follow our dreams and our destiny. They knew it was a courageous undertaking and that I was actually going against my nature in leaving them.
What fortified me throughout the emotional days leading up to our departure was that I kept tuning in to the divinely implanted understanding which is fixed within the soul of every Jew: that we could not live a truly and completely authentic Jewish life outside our Biblical and national homeland. Like the migrating animals who know their inborn journey and destiny without a guide or roadmap, they return home instinctively knowing where they belong. We Jews have the same divinely implanted inner homing device that brings us into alignment with our deepest self when we return to our natural habitat.
Upon arrival at the airport, there was no one to greet us, since we came on an El Al flight alone. We did our paperwork and processing through the Jewish agency. It did feel strange and lonely knowing only a handful of people scattered throughout Israel but at the same time, it felt like the adventure of a lifetime. We felt like explorers and since we had each other, we knew we would be fine. Our paperwork was partially processed at the airport and they gave us money and a voucher for a taxi to the Old City of Jerusalem…our new home. Our friend in the Old City had the key to our apartment and greeted us as we stepped out of the Taxi. He helped us carry our six bags up the steps to our apartment and as he opened the door, he said, “Welcome Home, this apartment has been waiting for you your whole life!” Tears exploded from my eyes and cascaded down my face as I felt the truth of his prophetic words.
Walking through the small but adequate apartment with wonderful light and air-flow, we felt like we were living on top of the world. There were no second thoughts, EVER. We felt that we had made the choice of a lifetime and would never look back and we never have and life gets better every year. I can say that honestly and joyously.
The initial adjustments of grocery shopping were as humorous as they were challenging and we quite often found ourselves laughing sometimes even as we cried in frustration. Even when communication challenges arose, we took it with a grain of salt as they say. Since my husband and I were 54 and 56, we had experienced a lot of life challenges and didn’t create mountains out of every situation. Prior to making Aliyah, we had assessed the possible challenges. We knew that our only real choice was to flow with the challenges instead of waging war with them. This saved our sanity.
Three year itch
It never manifested, thank G-d! What did manifest was an itch to own land and buy a place of our own. Soon after that itch became very real, we decided to move north to Tzfat and build a house. Most people say, you have to be crazy to build a house in Israel and yes, I can attest to that truism.
Israel is vastly different today than 12 years ago, on every level: shopping, culture, roadways, transportation, economy, medical upgrades, housing, restaurants, and things to do. It is not only a spiritual paradise with the most phenomenal classes and teachers but the resorts and hotels are world class because, every Jew that returns home builds up the nation on various levels and contributes to the upgrading on every level. What could be better? In truth, there is no comparison. What we have gained cannot really be calculated, as I initially perceived. Here in G-ds beloved garden, the mitzvah opportunities touch the soul and connect it upwards in a way that defies description.
Make the decision of a lifetime to upgrade your Jewish Life on every level in the Jewish Homeland.
With love and Blessings, Ariella Bracha