Reflections on the year that passed:
Yesterday someone asked on the facebook group “Keep Olim In Israel” to list the pros and cons of living in Israel. I thought about it for a few minutes and wrote down a few of my thoughts.
” I feel like I belong. Warm people with big hearts. Beautiful beaches. Lots of yummy kosher restaurants everywhere. I love hearing Hebrew all around me. Beautiful hikes in the Golan, hiking in the desert. Yom Hazikaron, Yom Haazmaut and Yom Hashoa are so powerful here…so meaningful.
This year my brother and I founded Olim Advisors. I want to take a short walk down memory lane to try and explain where the idea came from. My brother and family made Aliyah in the summer of 2015, only a few weeks after our father z”l passed away. They decided if they are moving to Israel they want to be close to us, so thank G-d, we now live 15 minutes walking distance from each other (although walking on Shabbat in August feels a lot longer than that. But that’s beside the point.) I can’t say what my brother, his wife and 4 children went through the first few months of Aliyah. I can tell you I WAS OVERWHELMED!!! When I went in to school I was no longer taking care of my 5 kids, but felt like I had adopted 4 more kids. 4 kids that were uprooted from their comfortable life in a warm N.J. community. They now sat in classes where they could not understand a word of what was being said (so much for paying thousands of dollars and learning Ivrit bIvrit). My sister in law left a world she was succeeding in as an OT for autistic children, left all her friends and family and moved to a country where she could not say or understand anything more than “Shalom” and “Lo”. For my brother, it was easier because we had lived here for 8 years as kids and he speaks Hebrew fluently. The year went by, everyone started settling in and life continued. My kids as well as my husband and I feel blessed to have family so close by.
Oh my G-d!!!! How did they do it??? How did they and so many have the courage to leave everything and come to this land of ours. Israel to me is a true Sabres fruit (delicious fruit on the inside with very pointy pins on the outside). This land and its people are so tough and prickly on the outside. They will stare at you on the highway for driving too fast or too slow and scream at you for letting your child cross the street alone before they turn 9. They will put their cart in line at the supermarket and then go just get one more thing (37 items is more like it). They will cut you in line and speak loudly flinging theirs arms up and down. BUT….. and this is a big but, they care about you. You are a fellow Jew and fellow Israeli and if your child gets lost at the beach or you have a flat tire, people will stop and help you. It happens to me again and again. So I am the ultimate Zionist. Our father and mother left South Africa with their three kids in toe. They left maids, cooks and gardeners because they didn’t believe in the unjust treatment of the black people in South Africa. And they went towards my father’s dream, of living in Eretz Israel. My mom forgot about tea parties, gated homes and shmying. She fell in love with the simple beauty of Israel. I’m getting to the point… I promise.
Fast forward to last year. My brother in reflecting on his own family’s Aliyah decided something had to be done to help ease the transition of Aliyah. They made this life changing “step up” as so many others did before them, but the challenges can be so discouraging. Israel is not an easy country to live in. My brother knew of families who made Aliyah and then went back to their country of origin for various reasons and felt something had to be done. People need to stand on their own two feet when they get here, BUT…we felt that holding the hands of Olim for the first six months of their Aliyah and helping them maneuver through all the layers of bureaucracy can be the difference between staying here or leaving.
I feel blessed and inspired to have met and helped so many special families who made Aliyah from around the world. Retirees, converts, families with older kids left behind in their country of origin, families with young children from Canada, NY, NJ, California, South Africa, England and Holland. I loved meeting each family personally. So much to learn from each one. The strength of character each one showed by leaving it all and starting anew. This is our Eretz Israel and the beauty of Am Israel.
Looking forward to the New Year, I hope Beezrah Hashem, to help more families move here. As so many philosophers and thinkers have said before, those things you work hardest for are the most valuable. Adjusting to Israel is a true steep climb but when you get to the top the view is breathtaking.
Shana Tova filled with health and happiness for all of us.