This morning, five years ago, we awoke in a friend's house in Potomac, surrounded by 12 duffel bags. We packed the car, and drove up the hill to our recently sold house, where we would pick up our friend who was taking us to the airport in New York. Everything in the world that we owned was either on a boat, drifting towards another country, or in our car. As we drove up to our old house, rubbing the sleep from our eyes, we saw a crowd of friends waving frantically and holding Israeli flags. They had come out (very) early in the morning to say goodbye - and to escort us back home, to Israel.
I burst into tears as I saw Jordan and Stella, Seth and Julie, Brian and Elana, and Paul and Sara frantically waving the Israeli flags and singing to us. What a send off.
And what a five years it's been!
I don't think you can get too sentimental as another year of Aliyah approaches, or that you can reflect too much on what an amazing accomplishment this process has been. I look back at the person that I was five years ago, and I marvel that I got on that plane.
I remember the night that our lift came and that we packed everything that we owned into it. Yehuda and I went back to our friends' house to sleep before the packers had finished. I stood there, in another person's empty living room, surrounded by my duffel bags thinking, Dear Gd, what in the world have we done? As I've told many other prospective olim - the time leading up to aliyah is much, much more difficult than the challenges that await you here. Saying goodbye, leaving family, leaving friends, selling houses, packing belongings, and wondering what you are going to are all infinitely harder than the facts on the ground once you arrive. It's the unknown that kept me up at night there - not the bureaucracy or the language barriers here.
And while there are still many frustrating moments, and many things that are difficult here, I can't help but reflect on the choice that we've made. This is not to say that we wouldn't have had a wonderful life had we remained in the States. Most people, barring unforeseen tragedies and terrible situations, make lovely lives for themselves and find great beauty in their children and their communities. I know that we would have been happy had we remained in Potomac, and I certainly loved our lives in the States. I miss family terribly, and that feeling isn't going to go away - no matter how many years we live here. That's just the choice that we've made.
But, with that said, here's a list of the things that I believe I would have missed had we not taken this opportunity:
Had we stayed in the States, these little guys wouldn't exist. The cost of day schools and of good educations in America make it prohibitively expensive to put children through the system. Here, while it still costs us money to raise these children, of course, we don't think of the cost in the same way and it doesn't cost nearly as much. Similarly, the daycare, camp and school systems are set up to allow people to more easily juggle their children - and it's more acceptable to have more kids. It's amazing to think that these beautiful, amazing boys wouldn't exist if we had remained in the States.
3. Matan wouldn't have just finished the entire FIVE books of the Torah, reading and learning every single word with his teacher by the end of 3rd grade.
Yehuda wouldn't have just completed the first book of the Torah, Bresheit, and we wouldn't have gone to Ma'arat Hamachpela for his celebration.
5. I wouldn't look out my window to see the Judean Hills and the land that my ancestors lived on and fought for.
6. I wouldn't be able to take a stroll or bike ride on Derech Ha'avot (the Path of the Fathers) which is right down the street. This is the road where Avraham brought Yitzhak to sacrifice him and where the Jews would walk from Beer Sheva to Jerusalem three times a year to make their offerings at the Temple.
7. I wouldn't have an adoptive soldier sleeping on my couch right now, preparing to go back into the army tomorrow to serve his country.
8. I wouldn't recently have attended Jeff's initiation ceremony at the Kotel, bringing Matan and Yehuda with us to see the commitment exhibited by Jeff and his fellow soldiers as they prepare to join the Israeli army.
9. My 9 and 7 year olds wouldn't be at the daycare center right now picking up my 2 year old and walking home with him.
10. Josh wouldn't be standing at the airport, greeting hundreds of new olim who have just arrived and are using their bodies to declare their commitment to the Jewish State and the Jewish People.
11. I wouldn't be watching as the pomegranates bloom, getting ready to ripen exactly in time for Rosh Hashanah. How do they know?
12. I wouldn't have spent Friday in the Golan, a beautiful, serene part of Israel that we get to cherish any day that we want to do so.
13. I wouldn't be a half an hour drive from two of the most holy locations in the world - the Kotel (Western Wall) and the Maara (the Cave of the Patriachs).
14. I wouldn't live amongst people like the Mandells and the Goodmans, olim who have buried sons in grief and agony, and who have made incredible choices to honor their sons since then.
15. My kids wouldn't be fluent in two languages from the time that they are three, understanding instinctively when to speak which one, and to whom.
16. My 7 year old wouldn't ask me on a regular basis when Gilad (Shalit) is coming home already.
17. I wouldn't walk down the street, listening to Russian, Amharit, Hebrew, French, English and Spanish on a daily basis in Jerusalem.
18. Purim, the one day holiday, wouldn't last for over two weeks, and my children wouldn't come home every single day looking like this:
19. I wouldn't cry while watching fireworks on Independence Day each year.
20. I wouldn't have had the privilege of welcoming three other families to Neve Daniel from our old lives - the Frankls, Levins and Levys - and of having had a small influence on their decision to join us here!
21. I wouldn't have given birth at Hadassah - a hospital that is written about all the time in my Hadassah magazine and that is known throughout the world. (Instead, I would have given birth at Holy Cross Hospital - what a difference!) And my kids wouldn't have been born in Jerusalem, ir haKodesh.
For these reasons, and so many more, I celebrate our lives in Israel today.