What an incredible experience! And even more amazing is how many people shared it with us – 1,000 people at Ben Gurion Airport and thousands more watching live on the internet. We were on board the largest plane load of North American of Jews ever to make aliyah together! We made history.
The airport part went pretty smooth, especially once I let go of the need to know where every bag and child were at any given moment. With 10 bags, 7 carry ons, a huge kennel, dog, and three kids to look after, its no wonder the carry on with all of our food ended up being loaded by one of our well-meaning children onto the conveyor belt to the plane! At least we had our family with us to help and bring more food. Moshe was interviewed by chanel 1 news in Israel and quoted as saying “we plan to move to Efrat in the Gush and hope to build a house one day if Obama lets us.” Hero won the award for cutest dog (well, at least in my opinion) wearing an Israeli flag bandana around his neck that his Savti gave him.
Once we said our goodbyes, our journey really began, but at a very slow pace. As we were passing through the seemingly endless security line at a snail’s pace, the kids were busy complaining, I spotted a friend I hadn’t seen since the 11th grade and we started to make some new friends. I couldn’t help but wonder what leaving Egypt must have been like. Did one Israelite girl spot another whom she hadn’t seen since her 11th year of slavery? Were the kids wining and the fathers schlepping? I told my kids that they should be grateful for an Exodus such as the one we were experiencing. While they were complaining about long lines, I suggested that it must have been harder to walk all the way through the dessert. They didn’t like that. I got very emotional feeling that we were walking, breathing, and living a very important part of Jewish history right there and then. We were going on our Exodus, and while it wasn’t easy, it was transcendent!
The Plane Ride
Everyone was incredibly patient and kind on this flight. The captain began by welcoming all of the “olim yekarim” dear immigrants aboard the plane ride home. All on board were eager to help one another. At any given time at least half the plane was walking around (the seat belt light went off while we were still at a 60 degree incline), a baby was screaming, and there was a long line for the self-serve drinks, though curiously never for the bathrooms! The best part of the plane ride was the landing. The whole plane clapped and cheered and sang “v’shavu banim” (and the children return to their borders) together.
As we got off the plane our family kissed the ground together. We boarded the bus to the terminal and were let off to a crowd of a thousand! There was music and soldiers and such incredible energy that we wanted it to last forever. While walking through the lines of soldiers we ran into Natan Sharansky and my husband had a beautiful conversation with him. It later occurred to us how poetic the meeting was as Moshe had attended Sharansky’s arrival to Israel from the former Soviet Union in 1989. It wasn’t long before we spotted our family who had signs and flags to welcome us home. We danced, and sang, and celebrated. You can still catch the video of our arrival and short interview at nbn.org.il/live.
Since then we have been slowly acclimating and getting into reality. It is still very wonderful and surreal, thought I wouldn’t be telling the truth if I said that it has all been bliss. I did have a bit of a “down” somewhere between the HOURS of waiting for luggage, getting to our new home (which is less than ideal, though I knew this already), and repacking to go to the beautiful apartment we are borrowing from friends for a week. Today it occurred to me that this was my ‘amalek’ moment. Amalek was the first nation to attack the Jewish people after they came out of Egypt. They targeted and harmed the weak and vulnerable among the nation, but they did not win. Some sages explain that Amalek signifies doubt. When we are tired and weak, we are attacked by doubt, fear, and uncertainty. However, we need not succumb. Thanks Gd after food and rest I was able to say hallel on my first Rosh Chodesh in Eretz Yisrael and proclaim “Zeh Hayom asa Hashem, nagilah v’nismicha bo!” “Today is the day Hashem created to rejoice and be joyful!”
What a blessing. We are Home!