We have just celebrated our first anniversary! It is now a full 12 months since we made aliyah. We left the U.S. on August 31, on a Nefesh B’Nefesh group flight, and arrived here on Sept. 1, shortly before Rosh Hashanah. We have come full cycle, having had the privilege of experiencing each holy day of the Jewish calendar in the Holy Land. An incredible milestone! When we stepped off the plane at Ben Gurion Airport, it was with excitement and anticipation of the future. We made this move with the utmost conviction that it was not only the right thing for us to do, but the only place for us to be.
It says in the Torah that Eretz Yisrael is acquired through challenges and just about everyone who we spoke to here confirmed that this is indeed true. So we understood that it would be best to remember the Jewish maxims “kol hatchalot kashot” – all beginnings are hard, and “gam zeh ya’avor” – this too shall pass, and most importantly, to remember that this is part of Hashem’s plan for us, too. Thank G-d, it’s been without too much trial and tribulation, so far. We have gotten accustomed to many different aspects of life in Israel; many facts of life here we’ve made our peace with; and there are things that we realized we can live with/without for now and look to change/acquire later on.
When we first arrived, discovering that stores and offices often close for a few hours in the middle of the day, close early or are totally closed on certain days was a bit of a shocker, but now we regularly take these schedules into consideration when making plans. This means that several weeks ago, because I knew the post office would be closed in the middle of the day, I waited till later in the afternoon to go, when I was sure it would open up again. Unfortunately I picked the day when it closed for the day in the early afternoon. But at least I could now accept having to go back again the next day with equanimity. Now, I’m also a lot more comfortable going food shopping and usually have a better idea of what I am buying. My first foray into the supermarket was difficult. Despite the benefit of having most of my Judaic subjects taught in (biblical) Hebrew as I was growing up, the language, the different packaging, and the many products which were not quite like those we were accustomed to back in the States made it a trying experience. Fortunately, I can navigate the supermarket aisles now.
We’ve been told that it takes somewhere between 3-5 years to fully acclimate to life in Israel. I’m sure it does. There are many parts of the acclimation process that we’re still working on and even those things that we’ve gotten accustomed to, still feel “different”. One can’t expect to relinquish a whole life’s worth of habits and customs over night. But at the same time, I don’t think I’ve referred to New Jersey as “back home” in quite a while. It was very hard at first and I had to tell myself repeatedly, don’t say “back home” since this is your true home, the true home for the Jewish people. New York and New Jersey were places to live, but now we’re home. So even though I have an affinity for the States and care about what transpires there, somewhere along the way, one chapter of my life ended and another began. NJ became my past, Israel my home and future. Our dear daughter started medrasha (seminary) in Yerushalayim last week, as an Israeli; our dear son has just started his fourth year of yeshiva in Yerushalayim; and we have a nice circle of new friends in Rehovot, and have reconnected with many old friends who made aliyah years ago. So, yes, this is now home. It’s truly been a miraculous year.
As we approached our anniversary, I had a desire to say the Shehechiyanu prayer, much as I did when we first got here, to thank G-d for keeping us alive and bringing us to this place and time. Not having inquired into the propriety of doing so, I sufficed with again realizing how much our being here means to me, with understanding the depth of my gratitude. I am so amazed at how much our lives have changed, how far we’ve come, and how much richer we are for it. To all our friends and family who are still living “away from home” – if we could do it, you could do it too. Please come and join us. Hashem is anxiously waiting for you here. To make it easier, He personally arranged aliyah assistance for you through Nefesh B’Nefesh. It is time to come home.