Coming Home Reflections
Is it possible that one year has passed since I made Aliyah? Is it possible that I was one of the 30,000 who immigrated to Israel last year?
My past year has been an amazing one! 95% positive for me personally, only moments of struggle mainly with Israeli bureaucracy. Times of adjustment for sure. Continuing frustration that I can't read my own mail and SMS messages in Ivrit, Hebrew, as I continue my learning at Ulpan, Hebrew learning school.
But I'm not totally an olah hadasha, a new immigrant. Because I've visited Israel continually for 18 years, my friends say I am an olah, an immigrant, but not so hadasha, not so new. That makes me smile.
A supportive friend continuously reminds me that my hard work at Ulpan will enable me to confidently speak Ivrit within the next year. From his mouth to God's ears as the saying goes.
My love for our Homeland increases every day. I made Aliyah knowing Israel is my true Home. I knew this when I first visited here.
In Jerusalem I have found the community I have sought my entire life. We actively care about each other here. The kindness of friends and even strangers at times overwhelms me with gratitude. "How can I help you?" I constantly hear.
For example, my wonderful neighbors are the third family which has "adopted" me. They invite me for Shabbat meals, translate the Ivrit I don't yet understand and much more. They are the best neighbors I have ever had anywhere!
And I help others as much as I can. I frequently run errands for elderly friends, offer hospitality to unplanned guests, and make suggestions to even more recent newcomers to Israel based on my experience. I've recommended to many classmates at the excellent Ulpan Morasha to go to the Terem Family Center where my new doctors are expert and considerate for instance.
Do I feel safe in Israel? my family and friends outside of Israel often queried me during Operation Protective Edge, our war in 2014. And now during the current matsav, the horrendous situation with random stabbings and vehicular attacks, I again am asked this question frequently. My answer: I feel safer here than when I am in the United States, the "old country."
Professional activities took me back to the United States last winter. There, in a "good neighborhood" the bank branch a five minute drive from where I lived was robbed by an armed man. No security person was posted at the door. The large shopping mall a ten minute drive away has no security at the entrances, anyone can walk in, no questions asked. In Jerusalem, we routinely pass through metal detectors and have our purses inspected by guards before entering banks, shopping malls, and places of entertainment. It's a fact of life which literally increases our safety.
It's not all wine and roses in Israel. Often when I sit on my merpesat, my balcony, I hear sirens and immediately check the news. Sometimes, which means far too often, I learn it's yet another attack.
Our IDF heroes now bear the brunt of these attacks. We literally owe them our lives. We can sleep at night because the IDF never sleeps. Nor do the parents of our heroes. My friend Schlomit along with so many others who have daughters and sons serving in the IDF, always have their cell phones turned on, in case their children need them.
Many restaurants have closed as Jerusalemites have hunkered down, going out less frequently at night because of the matsav. Other people, defiant, refuse to change their patterns and make a point of going out. "If we don't, 'they' win," these Israelis proclaim.
I admit I have changed my daily life patterns. At night, if alone, I take taxis more often, forgoing the walking I love to do in Jerusalem. A close friend "forbids" me to walk at night, expressing caring for me for which I am grateful.
We recently celebrated Yom HaAtzmaut, the 68th birthday of Israel, our Day of Independence.
As an Israeli, the day had special meaning for me, beyond other Israeli birthdays I have celebrated here. I went to a concert with Ulpan friends to begin the Chag, the holiday. The musicians began the concert by playing Hatikva, our national anthem. As always, everyone stood and sang. The man next to me, whom I didn't know, cried as he sang. Gam ani, me too.
I shed tears for my loved ones, virtually my entire family, lost in the Shoah, the Holocaust. I thought about my four grandparents who survived by fleeing from Europe. They were forced to be immigrants to the United States a little more than 100 years ago.
Now a century later, I have freely chosen to be an immigrant. I proactively made the decision to move to our Homeland, a proud free Jew.
My Aliayah-versary? It will be a day with joyful tears for sure, as I give thanks and share the day with my wonderful Israeli and soon-to-be Israeli friends with whom I will celebrate! I am blessed to be Home!