The art of making aliyah

Despite a rocky start, and the experience of sleeping with the whole family in a tent and then in a series of friends’ basements, Resnick is still a huge advocate for aliyah, especially now.

RESNICK FAMILY: Yael, Benjamin, Maayan, Maytal, Nitzan and Noam (photo credit: ANNA RESNICK)
RESNICK FAMILY: Yael, Benjamin, Maayan, Maytal, Nitzan and Noam
(photo credit: ANNA RESNICK)
For Yael Resnick, immigrating to Israel was always an elusive, multi-generational goal.
“My parents’ dream was to make aliyah. It was part of their love story and part of my family’s vocabulary from a very young age,” she related.
After her maternal grandfather died, Resnick’s grandmother, a Holocaust survivor who immigrated to the US after World War II, announced, “I’m not staying in America anymore.”
She made aliyah with her two daughters in 1969.
Resnick’s parents, who originally met in Israel, spent a sabbatical year in Israel when Resnick was in first grade. The trial didn’t work out and the family was forced to return to the US.
“At age seven, I cried and cried,” she recalled.
Upon their return, Resnick refused to read in English and only answered her parents in Hebrew. She nabbed every opportunity to visit Israel. At her bat mitzvah, she bragged that she had visited Israel seven times, then returned for a year of high school here and further study a year after graduation.
There was never a time when living in Israel wasn’t her goal.
“When I dated, the only question I asked was, ‘Do you want to make aliyah?’ If no, there was no date.”
Fittingly, Yael and Benjamin’s first date was at an Israel Independence Day carnival.
“It was always part of my life,” she said. “Unfortunately, my parents could never follow up with their dream, but we got full support.”
When they first married, the couple shared the goal of raising their children in Israel. They were able to spend a year of their graduate studies at Yeshiva University at the school’s campus in Jerusalem.
During that year, they put money down on a developing community in Emek HaEla between Gush Etzion and Beit Shemesh. The future community seemed idyllic.
“We had monthly community meetings with 20 other families. At that time, we had a toddler and a baby. All the [young couples] were very much like us. Everyone was into natural and environmentally friendly living.
“It was basically a dream come true. Our plan was to spend two years in LA until the house was ready. As soon as we got to LA and found jobs, the project fell through. We lost our timeline and our direction,” Resnick recounted.
Their original goal had been to get to Israel before their eldest child was in first grade. Instead, the Resnicks spent the next eight years in LA doing Jewish outreach work.
“Everyone said, ‘You’re doing good work in LA.’ Between the two of us, we didn’t feel that we could leave,” she explained.
But then something happened that pushed their aliyah agenda back to the front burner. The inflated values of houses that led to the subprime mortgage crisis of 2008 made their home significantly more valuable than it was when they first bought it.
Once it became financially viable to sell their home, a few other nudges contributed to the final decision. The daughter who was supposed to have started first grade in Israel was turning 11.
“Her bat mitzvah was our hard boundary,” Resnick said.
When close friends announced that they were making aliyah, and a former teacher from Israel who was visiting LA advised Yael to stay in America, the decision was made. Perhaps the teacher knew her comment would have the exact opposite effect on her former student. Resnick recalled that her advice to stay put, “made me want to make aliyah even more!”
Serendipitously, Nefesh b’Nefesh representatives were scheduled to visit LA exactly a week later. In November 2012, the Resnicks opened their aliyah file. By Passover of 2013, while they were in Israel on a pilot trip, their realtor held an open house and got three offers.
“It went so fast. We never moved back into our house after Pesach.”
It went fast, but it was not easy.
Their first two years in Israel were marked by constant sickness and “weird infections.” By the time they discovered toxic mold under the walls in their first rental, it had infiltrated their clothing and mattresses. Their son’s asthma got so bad, he needed constant monitoring, and Yael and Benjamin were afraid to fall asleep at night.
The family made the unconventional decision to move into a tent in the backyard for a few weeks so everyone could breathe freely.
Yael laughingly said to her husband, “We always wanted to be halutzim [pioneers] and look at us now!”
Providentially, it was springtime, but cooking indoors and sleeping outdoors clearly was not a long-term solution for the family of six.
The housing market was tight in their original Jerusalem-area community, and Benjamin was working in Tel Aviv, so they began spending each Shabbat in a different place, looking for their next home.
By letting their children pick their destination from among the places they visited, the Resnicks relocated to Karnei Shomron. Benjamin had already reinvented himself, shifting his career from Jewish education to hi-tech. Now it was Yael’s turn.
“Once the kids were settled, I had to ask myself what I wanted to do. I was a babysitter during the day while I tried out art as a career. I did it on the side at first to see if it was financially feasible. Two years later, I created the Pesach table runner, which is what got my business off the ground.”
Resnick is now a successful artist. Her distinctive, popular table runners are a core element of her art business today. She also produces “fine art paintings that are Judaica-based and Bible-inspired.” Women in the Torah and redemption are her two favorite themes.
Her newest project was inspired by the family’s aliyah experiences. It’s a cartoon about making aliyah that she hopes will help people “laugh at the hard parts.”
The cartoon is called “Halva Nagila” and every character is named for an Israeli food. Using satire and irony, the cartoon shows the mentality of Israelis through the eyes of American immigrants. Resnick hopes to launch it on Independence Day.
Benjamin’s mother made aliyah in December 2019, however the Resnicks initially came without any immediate family. They put down payments on housing projects in Israel five times before they found the right community and were finally able to purchase a home.
Despite a rocky start, and the experience of sleeping with the whole family in a tent and then in a series of friends’ basements, she’s still a huge advocate for aliyah, especially now.
“The corona time has given us all time to think how we want to live our life and where we want to live it. This is the best time to focus your energy and prayers on that. Don’t let that potential energy that you’ve been feeling these past weeks go to waste. Take those feelings you’re feeling now, and do something about it as soon as you can. Go fill out a Nefesh b’Nefesh application.”
She also advises, “From a spiritual standpoint, have a clear goal in mind and don’t veer off your goal. Try to keep to your timeline. Don’t come up with excuses. If it’s something you really want, just do it. Hashem will help you.”
Nevertheless, she knows first-hand that, “Your struggles don’t end when you get here. When we came, we had so many setbacks and failures. I just want to give people hope that things can and do change. It’s the land of miracles!”