Aliyah Journal – Part 2

August 24-29 | 27 Av-2 Elul, 5782

We received our official approval from the Jewish Agency, tentatively confirmed our Nefesh B’Nefesh sponsored flight, and then, finally, our precious Visas arrived.

I’m typing this with a feeling of disbelief and awe, because there were so many months, details and decisions, paperwork and interviews, and then this sort of obscure window of time as we waited for our FedEx package containing our Visas from the consulate. Finally, my email showed that they had been shipped, and sure enough I saw the delivery arrive by my front door a few hours later. I was on the phone with my Jerusalem-based counselor at the time — she specializes in helping “Olim Hadashim” like us — and I asked her to hold on as I went to fetch this unassuming-yet-irreplaceable package.

Where to Land

I was told that, for Olim, choosing a place to “land” in Israel is incredibly hard, but once you do, everything else falls into place. That was the case with us as well, and I’m so grateful to now be on the other side of that sea of uncertainty. We researched cities and towns throughout Israel. First, we started with looking at Google maps and studying the various community pages on the Nefesh B’Nefesh website.

Everything seemed strange and foreign at first, like feeling around a tunnel with our eyes closed. Gathering bits of information, speaking with people who shared their stories and perspectives, taking notes and discussing it all as a family. Plus lots of praying — “G-d, please be our eyes. Lead us home to the Holy Land, to the community where we belong.”

We researched communities of all types that we heard were potentially good for English-speaking Olim — Modi’in, Netanya, Ra’anana, Tel Mond, Talmon, Pardes Hana, Harish, Zichron Yaakov, Ma’ale Abumim, Ramat Beit Shemesh, Lod, Yad Benyamin, Karmiel, Nof Galil, Efrat, the Gush, Haifa, and then later we discovered Yokneam Illit, and finally, Kiryat Tiv’on.

Our decision and wish list were based on many factors large and small — religiously diverse and welcoming, a home with enough rooms for our family and for my husband and I to work remotely, a nice view. Our son Alex attends a Naale Elite Academy boarding school in the center of Israel, and that area tends to be a popular choice for many who want to be near the main cities of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

But we wanted to also consider the North, someplace less crowded and still somewhat easily commutable for him on the weekends. Then, after discovering Dalia’s school — which is hands-on and offers workshops in art, carpentry, 3D printing, cooking, and agriculture — we needed easy accessibility to the campus’ rural location in Kfar Hasidim.

We found a house, and everything finally came together. Upon our arrival, we will be living in Kiryat Tiv’on (“park in the hills”) in the North, by Mount Carmel and the Jezereel Valley. An ancient Jewish town called Tiv’on in that area was mentioned in the Talmud and Mishnah, as well as several times in Talmudic literature in connection with various sages who lived there. The town is known for its location bordering the national park, Beit She’arim, an important Jewish spiritual center during the Roman period, and once the seat of the Sanhedrin.

The community has a beautifully diverse mix of English speakers, Olim, longer-term Israelis, Chabad, Dati, Breslov, not officially religious, and everything in between. As baalai teshuvahs, our family doesn’t fit neatly into any box or labels, nor would we want to. The Kiryat Tiv’on community has already been offering a tremendous amount of support and love.

Kiryat Tiv’on

What to Bring

As with all Olim, much thought and effort has gone into what stuff to bring. We each get two checked suitcases and a carry on. That will be good for our clothes, toiletries, and other immediate essentials, including our favorite games (which we transferred into jumbo-sized ziploc bags), special books including a Chumash and siddur, Shabbat stuff like our kiddush cup, some must-have kitchen items, and our computers. We had Aliyah moving sales and made some extra money to pay for what we need to buy in Israel and part of our lift, which will come later.

Whatever we didn’t sell or donate, we put in storage. Danny, whose company has an office in Miami and in Israel, will return to the U.S. in a month to fetch our dogs (bringing pets was its own long and involved process) and to coordinate the lift. In the meantime, our house in Israel already has some furniture, plus people are often selling used stuff online, and there’s an IKEA nearby. It has been challenging but also cathartic, as we embrace the art of de-cluttering and minimalism.

The Aliyah process so far has been both spiritual and material, religious and mundane. As we tread through the details, it’s important to remember our WHY. Israel is home on Earth for the Jewish people.

Going Toward G-d

As with any big move there are challenges, but it helps to know we are not alone. While we already have family and friends there, G-d explicitly promised in the Torah that He would have a constant, 24/7 connection with the Land of Israel and those who dwell there.

אֶרֶץ אֲשֶׁר־יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ דֹּרֵשׁ אֹתָהּ תָּמִיד עֵינֵי יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ בָּהּ מֵרֵשִׁית הַשָּׁנָה וְעַד אַחֲרִית שָׁנָה׃ 

It is a land which your G-d looks after, on which your G-d always keeps an eye, from year’s beginning to year’s end.

Deut. 11:12

Since discovering and embracing Torah Judaism 15 years ago, my heart, soul and mind have become bound up with my people’s 3,000-year love affair with our Creator. I’ve been talking to my G-d since I was a scared and lonely girl sitting in my walk-in-closet. And over the decades since, I’ve learned to hear Him, to notice His signs. It’s a practice I continue to cultivate through prayer (formal and informal) and meditation.

Returning Home

Throughout our Aliyah journey so far, I’ve witnessed the undeniable Hand of Hashem throughout each detail large and small (when my ego gets out of the way). While I’ve experienced this Divine connection throughout my life and it has grown stronger more recently, each interaction dealing with Israel is at a different level.

Every year, thousands of people make Aliyah, finding jobs, good communities, and a holistic Jewish life. According to stats kept by the Israel’s Immigration Authority, 100,000 Olim have moved to Israel from other countries in the last four years. I”m honored, awed inspired that my family has the privilege to be part of this monumental time in human history.

In a few days, we will schlep our luggage, board a plane, and, on the “wings of an eagle,” we will head home.

Should anyone call into question the Jewish people’s right to the land of Israel, the Jewish people can reply, “God created the universe. He divided earth into many lands, languages and landscapes. But one small land He gave to the Jewish people. That is our title to the Land.”

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks

Aliyah Journal Part 1

Sending Alex Home

Longing of My Heart and Soul

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