Ten Years of Aliyah
Our aliyah recently hit the decade mark. To celebrate, Sarah and I and our 5 teenagers (ouch!) went out to eat. Sarah had arranged for a festive meal at a wonderful restaurant. And though we were the only diners (I guess the restaurant’s location—in the hotel at the Hadassah hospital in Ein Karem—is not a big draw), everyone was in a great mood. We took our dessert in a separate room, where we watched videos from when the kids were little in America. Sometimes it’s good to take stock and look backwards, and those videos from 1996 and 1997 helped us see how far we have come. I am happy to report that the general consensus was that aliyah has been good for us—good enough so that a short piece that I wrote a few months after making moving here still resonates deeply for me and my family. With some editing, here it is:
Aliyah begins with at-one-ment, a sense of wholeness and completion that a Jew finds only in Israel. Sarah and I had this feeling when we were in Israel in May of 1982. Sarah was completing her Junior year abroad at Hebrew University and I was visiting, having spent a significant period of time in Israel a few years earlier. We were both just short of turning 21, we were not yet married, and we did not quite know what to expect from adult life in the United States. So we put aside that emotional pull towards Israel, and for the next 12 years neither of us even visited.
Then, in the summer of 1994, my university sent me to Israel for 10 days to present a paper at a conference, and my feelings for Israel powerfully returned. This time, I was 33 and could see that whatever else life in America could give me, it could not give me the sense of at-homeness that I got in Israel.
When Sarah picked me up at the Miami airport on July 4, 1994, I told her that I wanted to make aliyah. She told me to get into the car and we would discuss it.
Sarah and I made aliyah on July 29, 1997 with our five children: Nathan (then 9), Rebecca (8), Ruthie (almost 7), Ezra (5), and Elie (almost 3). We moved right to Givat Ze’ev, to the house where we still live. Givat Ze’ev is a suburb of Jerusalem, though technically it’s in the “territories.” We did not specifically choose to live over the Green Line; what was most important to us was to have a place to live where our five very active kids could roam free and not be cooped up inside of an apartment.
When people ask me why I made aliyah, I answer them with one word: Zionism. I am here because I strongly feel the truth of your basic Zionist ideology: Jews belong to the Jewish nation, the Jewish nation requires a physical home like all other nations, and this home is Israel. Thus, if you are Jewish it makes sense to live in Israel.
It certainly is not the case, however, that after you make aliyah you wake up every morning whistling a happy tune. Once, when I was with my friend Joel Katz, who made aliyah five years before me, a visitor from the States asked him: “You must love it here, right?” Joel thought for a moment and said: “Well, I do find my life here to be meaningful.” There are happy days in Israel and there are more trying ones; throughout it all, if your aliyah is based upon an existential sense that Israel is home, then your life here will be meaningful.
In Miami, we were very close with Mark and Alicia Zelek, religious Catholics. Mark grew up in Massachusetts and he remembered his days there as mostly gray and dreary. Mark told us that sometimes when he wakes up to yet another dazzling sunny day in Miami, he simply is overcome by a keen sense of joy and appreciation for having ended up in South Florida.
Sarah and I did not feel this way about living in Miami—and we knew we couldn’t anywhere in the diaspora. But Sarah and I wanted to feel deeply connected to the people and land where we lived. So that’s why we live in Israel.
Copyright 2007, Teddy Weinberger