Counting Down to Going Up| May 31, 2022
What were a few bothersome appointments if they were the key to the Land of Israel?
Stage One: Work, Save, Wait
Jews are always counting. Minutes to sunset. Six days until Shabbos. Eight days to a bris. Six years until shemitta. And of course, Sefiras Ha’omer — seven weeks from Mitzrayim to Matan Torah.
My husband and I counted too, not down, but up. Six years of working and planning, then six crazy, intensive weeks until we were ready to fulfill a life-long dream… aliyah to Eretz Yisrael.
As a little girl I dreamt of being a shepherdess on a hill in Eretz Yisrael, guarding my sheep and playing my flute. I married someone a bit more practical, but he also intended to make his home in Eretz Yisrael, so there was never any talk about if we would make the move; the only question was when.
In 1964, six years after our wedding, with two little boys in tow, my husband’s semichah in hand, university degrees in our pockets, and the magnificent sum of $4,000 in the bank, we were finally ready to leave.
Stage Two: Arrangements
Next came practical matters. A house and a job were the easy part. My husband was offered a position as a rebbi in a yeshivah in a tiny, rural community down south. The job came with free housing… 40 meters worth — about the size of my parents’ living room. But they were holy meters in Eretz HaKodesh!
Then came Officialdom. Passports, travel arrangements, banking matters. And, of course, health procedures — doctors, examinations, vaccinations, medications.
Everything necessitated a separate appointment and in-person visits. Cellphones were non-existent and Internet was the stuff of science fiction (even in the US). But what were a few bothersome appointments if they were the key to the Land of Israel?
Stage Three: Shopping
Out with the old; in with the new! The American buying spree was on! We purchased all electrical and basic appliances (Israeli appliances were all so small). But no furniture. Too big and heavy for 40 square meters. We mercilessly eliminated all superfluous “stuff.”
Next came Shop, Shop, Shop. Israel was a poor country in 1964, but everything was terribly expensive. Should one purchase shoes and clothing for the kids for next winter or was that crazy? Israeli children did wear shoes and clothing in all sizes and seasons, even in Israel 1964, didn’t they?
What about linen? Household goods? Where to draw the line? Scores of small, absolute necessities (think rubber tipped bobby pins, decent band-aids, good safety pins, Scotch tape) were unavailable in Israel.
Everyone said Buy, Buy, Buy. So we Bought, Bought, Bought.
Stage Four: Goodbyes
Gatherings with friends, family, and neighbors. Tears, kisses, hugs, gifts, promises to keep in touch and hopefully see everyone soon. (Many were planning their own aliyah.)
We were dizzy, exhilarated, jubilant, and exhausted.
Stage Five: Unexpected Surprises
Like Medical Emergencies. They were not part of the plan until I landed up in the hospital ten days before departure. I requested a private room and enjoyed three quiet, restful days. (No cell phones.)
Medical Emergency #2 was Spots. All over our two-year-old. The doctor couldn’t decide what kind of spots they were, but the shipping company said “Spots? Sorry, no spots on board!” So the luxurious cruise I was dreaming of was cancelled, and we arranged for a flight instead. We’d arrive on wings of eagles and not on a giant fish.
The lift containing all our new purchases would be sent separately, arrive later, and at a whopping additional expense. In the end, our son’s spots disappeared, he was not sick and did not have any communicable disease, but our watery vacation had evaporated.
However, it was a small price to pay for the privilege of entering the Holy Land. And after waiting 2,000 years, it only took 12 hours to get here!
Stage Six: Turbulence
It was a time of churning emotions. Sorrow, joy, and guilt. Lots of guilt. Leaving my parents and taking their only grandchildren halfway across the world was hard. With no cell phones, Zoom, Internet, or cheap flights, communication was sporadic.
When my father ruefully suggested that perhaps we’d “leave the little one with us, just for a few months, until you are settled,” and my Mom entreated, “Gershon, Gershon… don’t make things harder,” I thought my heart would rip.
To this day, 58 years later, the memory still brings me to tears.
Stage Seven: Arrival
On Thursday, the 22nd of Av 5724, we completed a 2,000 year “countdown.” We left another land of Exile and returned Home.
Baruch Hashem, my parents lived to see more grandchildren, to walk the streets of the Old City of Jerusalem, and to daven at the Kosel.
Ours was not a count down. We counted up, to soar and ascend. We learned to fly, and we never looked back. We feel privileged and blessed.
May all of Am Yisrael find their wings
and share our blessings. 2
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 795)
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