Monday, August 17, 2009

Not your Grandpa's aliyah

Making aliyah today is nothing like our ancestors could have imagined. What follows is my list of top ten modern day miracles that have transformed the way we move to the holy land.

1. AIRPLANES – I know most of us are more or less over the invention of flight, but when you take a step back, you see that it truly is miraculous. Just the other day I was having a conversation with one of my kids. He asked me how all of the Jews will get to Israel when Moshiach comes. I told him about the tradition that we will come on ‘wings of Eagles.’ I then went on to explain that some people think that airplanes are the Eagles that the Torah is referring to. To this, my son responded. “ I hope its real Eagles. That is so much cooler. “ While I have to agree with him, you still have to admit – it’s pretty amazing that we can sit in a chair in the sky and fly with the birds all the way to Israel in a matter of hours.

2. CELL PHONES – Friends of ours who made aliyah 30 years ago told us that they had to wait NINE MONTHS just for a land line when they went. Today, we can have a phone instantaneously that can go with us wherever we go and allow our nervous chalaria mothers back home to contact us whenever they feel the need. More importantly, we nervous mothers living in Israel will be able to keep tabs on our children in a country that experiences some danger once in a while.

3. FACEBOOK and the like – it’s easier than ever to be in touch with friends and families overseas. I found this out by accident. I read somewhere about a pro Israel rally that I wanted to attend – the details were posted on facebook. I wanted to go to the rally so I joined facebook. I woke up the next morning to find a flood of facebook emails from friends and former students from Australia. Then followed friends from high school and elementary school. All of the sudden I could know the intimate life of someone I hadn’t spoken to since the first grade. I even met some family members via facebook, that I probably would never have met otherwise. What this means for us olim is that out of sight does not have to mean out of mind. The goodbyes are slightly easier and connections are kept strong.

4. DIGITAL CAMERAS – I chose a home to live in without even stepping foot in it. When I found something of interest, we had a very wonderful friend go check it out for us and take a zillion pictures. When I called him to see how it went, he had just gotten home. Within a matter of minutes he had uploaded the images and sent them to me thousands of miles away where I got a virtual tour of my home to be.

5. INTERNET – It used to be that a person living in the middle of nowhere was, well, living in the middle of nowhere. Now you can be anywhere and still be somewhere. You could be living in the Galilee and doing business in New York. Most importantly, you can be living in shekalim while earning in dollars.

6. SKYPE – Long ago I experienced my first trip to Disney. One of the memories that stuck out in my 5-year-old mind was a ride in “tomorrowland” that showed the progress of technology and projected into the future. Part of their depiction of the future was a phone that allowed the callers to be seen by each other. I’m not that old, and already what was science fiction then is reality now. Skype is a free service that not only allows people to call each other, but with a webcam, we can see each other too. While normally a private person like me would find this a nuisance, it’s a real boon when you have kids, grandparents, and nieces and nephews in your family.

7. Ikea – Ok, maybe this one doesn’t belong, however it certainly makes it easier to move when you know you’ve got good furniture at great prices in a store you are familiar with. Perhaps the most miraculous things about Ikea in Israel is that it is one of the only things that doesn’t cost any more there than it does in the US. Can we say that about anything else?

8. VONAGE -- Thanks to Vonage, we can take our Miami phone number with us to Israel, or for that matter, anywhere else in the world. No one has an excuse to not call us when they visit. You already know our number! To top it off, for the many people who pay a flat rate to make any amount of calls within the US, this means that calling us from the US to Israel will be FREE!

9. GPS – I was always afraid of getting lost when driving in a new place, but that fear is amplified by a whole lot when that new place includes unfriendly neighborhoods that make Harlem look good. I know it’s not foolproof, but having a GPS does help assuage those fears. And at least I won’t get lost on our little mountain of Efrat! If anyone makes a pilot trip to Israel, I strongly recommend renting a GPS. It is invaluable when you are trying to scout out the whole of Israel in a few days or weeks.

10. NBN – Last but not least, the greatest modern day miracle in making aliyah has to be the initiation of Nefesh B’Nefesh. What this organization has done and is doing to make aliyah from North America easier and more popular is unbelievable. I am honored to have grown up just up the street from its founder Rabbi Josh/Yehoshua Fass. Like the biblical Yehoshua, he is truly doing Gd’s work in settling the land. NBN has streamlined the aliyah process by providing guidance from start to finish, financial assistance, help finding a job, help navigating the Israeli bureaucracy, and so much more. Because of them, I will be able to board a plane tomorrow comprised fully of Olim. They will seat us by region so that we can start meeting each other, we will be Israeli by the time we land, and we will be greeted with huge fanfare and ceremony. And you can all watch it live at It doesn’t get better than this!

So that’s my list, but ultimately, the greatest miracle is the fact that aliyah exists today. I’ll end with a thought from Israel’s most famous poet, Yehuda Amichai. I borrowed it from my husband’s last sermon in Miami.

“Once I was sitting on the steps near the gate at David's Citadel and I put down my two heavy baskets beside me. A group of tourists stood there around their guide, and I became their point of reference. "You see that man over there with the baskets? A little to the right of his head there's an arch from the Roman period. A little to the right of his head." "But he's moving, he's moving!" I said to myself: Redemption will come only when they are told, "Do you see that arch over there from the Roman period? It doesn't matter, but near it, a little to the left and then down a bit, there's a man who has just bought fruit and vegetables for his family."

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