When you ask olim (immigrants to Israel) what they miss the most about the country they left, the answer will almost always be “family.” (Though “Target” is a close second.) Putting an ocean and an expensive plane ticket between you and your family is not an easy decision. In fact, many people who love Israel and express a desire to live there simply cannot uproot themselves from parents and siblings.
Three and a half years ago, my sister and I, together with our families, made aliyah, leaving behind our parents (in Baltimore) and brother (in Chicago). There were many challenges involved in uprooting a family to Israel. To name just a few: Will our Hebrew be good enough? Will the children acclimate? Will we acclimate? What community is best for us? Will we find jobs? Will Old Navy online ever deliver to Israel? (They in fact do, if you don’t mind paying more for shipping than you did for the clothing.)
But by far, the biggest challenge was being away from our family. When our parents came to visit, we all felt compelled to spend every second together because soon they will leave! And it will be so long until we see them again! Intense Togetherness was the only antidote for all the time we would be apart.
Until by the end of the visit, we were all sitting on the couch staring at each other, togethered out. Because two weeks of intense quality time is not how God intended families to be. Spending time with parents and siblings should be woven into the fabric of your everyday life—Let’s get the cousins together today! Do you need anything from the store? Come on over Shabbat afternoon!—not a twice-a-year family-palooza. And Intense Togetherness, as we reluctantly discovered, did not make up for missing those everyday moments of each other’s lives.
But this year, something big and exciting is happening—my parents decided to make aliyah. I would first like to take a moment to say, “YIPPEEE!”
It was certainly not an easy decision for them, moving so far away from my brother and his family. But they decided it was time to be in Israel.
For my parents, moving to Israel is the closing of a circle that began long ago. Back when they were young ‘uns, (post-dinosaurs, before color TV), they considered making aliyah. But the pull of family—parents, siblings, nieces, cousins— was too strong. Then my grandfather, my father’s father, passed away when my parents were newly married. That confirmed their decision to stay in Baltimore, near family, and they tucked away their aliyah dreams in a safe place.
Growing up, my parents instilled within us an authentic, unwavering love of Israel. I remember the summer before ninth grade, when I was deciding whether or not to go to sleep away camp. My parents immediately said, “If we’re going to send you away to camp, we want to send you to Israel.” And so I went on my first-ever trip to Israel. My father bought me a special siddur to take with me. He wrote inside (in Hebrew, of course) my name, the year, and “In honor of her first trip to Israel.”
And then, not so many years later, it seems, we were telling them of our plans not just to visit, but to move to Israel. They expressed nothing but joy that we were making this leap, and supported us along the way, despite knowing they would miss us terribly. Soon, they were driving us to the airport to say goodbye as we embarked on our lives as Israeli citizens. A tearful departure, to say the least. But the tears were tempered with the hope that one day, they would join us.
Contemplating their arrival, I realized that it was because of the values my parents instilled in us long ago that we were able to move to Israel in the first place. And now, finally, the two pulls of “Israel” and “family” are no longer opposing, but one and the same.
As we say in Israel, “Bruchim Haba’im!”