Saturday, August 28, 2010

Mazel Tov - 18 Years in Israel

This Shabbat, Parshat Ki Tavo marks my family's eighteenth year living in the Land of Israel.
Mazel tov, as we say in the vernacular.
Eighteen summers ago in August, bli ayin hara, I gave birth to my one and only girl - pink and precious - after four fun-loving boys. No sooner had the doctor announced that she was a girl, then my husband said lovingly, "Well, there's no brit (ritual circumcision on the eighth day after a boy's birth), so I'm going to take the boys and move to Israel right away. Bye." I came home from the hospital to pack 18 duffle bags and say a hasty farewell to my school boys, and then recuperate at my mother's house with my new daughter and my two-year-old son.
We had planned to move to Israel that fall, but suddenly, it was happening a little earlier than expected.
My husband and the "Big 3" boys moved into our new home all alone. They had no fridge or oven. My mother-in-law, ad 120, graciously cooked their dinners, and sent them or brought them from Jerusalem. I called from America to see how they were doing.

"How's everyone?"
"How are the kids doing in school?"
"How do they get there? You don't have a car."
"They take the bus."
"What!!!!??? You walk them to the bus stop every day?"
"No, they walk alone. It's only a few blocks."
Remember that I came from America. In America, in my neighborhood, the bus picks up each child at his front door. A child in America would never walk alone to the bus.
"Well, at least they go with Micha. He's 11. He's big enough to watch over them."
"No, Micha's in a dormitory now. He sleeps in school."
"What, my baby? Alone in a strange school. How could you!!"
"You said he's big."
"He's big at home. He's my baby when he's away. He's too young to be alone."
"Hundreds of boys are with him. It's normal here."
Normal!!?? My heart beat faster. My eldest child had been shipped off to some boarding school (what did he think this was, England??) and my little boys were walking through foreign streets to the bus.

"What are you all eating every day, since you don't have a refrigerator or stove?"
"The kids are eating a lachmania and a bakbuk mayim."
"What's that?"
"A lachmania is a roll and a bakbuk mayim is a bottle of water."
"What??!! My children are surviving on bread and water??!!"
I was really starting to flip out.

"How's the clothing situation? I know you have no washing machine, so how are their clothes holding out?"
"Fine. Every Sunday we put out an outfit and they wear it for the entire week."
"What?!!??!!?? The same clothes every day!!??!!"
That was the straw that broke the camel's back.
My little boy all alone in some foreign school. Then the bus situation was terrible. The bread and water story was horrible. And on top of it all, that people should see my children wearing the same clothing twice was too much for my Five Towns pride. So, I ran (as quickly as my birth stitches would allow) downstairs and announced to my dearest mother (may she live and be well until 120) that we must get the baby a passport and go immediately to Israel.

When You Come to the Land
We processed everything as quickly as possible and were on the plane just in time to attend synagogue for the first time in Israel to hear the reading of Parshat Ki Tavo. It couldn't have been a more appropriate chapter for us, or any oleh (new immigrant).
Deuteronomy 26:1: "It will be when you enter the Land that Hashem, your G-d, gives you as an inheritance, and you possess it, and dwell in it..."
And there was I with my new baby in my arms having just entered the Land of my forefathers and feeling that I was really possessing it.
My family has had many adventures in the past 18 years, just like the families of my fellow olim (immigrants). We have had our personal dramas (like when my cleaning girl stole my no-longer-insured diamond ring and bracelet, and was not arrested or punished in any way, no matter how hard we tried to have her prosecuted; like when all the animals of my son's petting zoo were killed on the night of Rosh Hashana when a pack of wild dogs broke into their cage; like when the sewage pipe in our rented house exploded and ruined tens of thousands of shekels worth of our belongings without compensation from the landlord; like when we were stoned on the roads during the intifada; like like like......we've all got our dramas). We have experienced personal joys, B"H, bli ayin hara, (like the building of our home, the marriage of our children, the birth of our grandchildren, the success of our children in yeshiva, the success of our children in the Israel Defense Forces, the lighting of a torch of honor of Israel's Independence Day, and B"H so many more.)
We have witnessed national dramas (the murder of friends by Arab terrorists; war, terror attacks, drive-by shootings and suicide bombers; police/soldier violence against our own people at national demonstrations; the destruction of Gush Katif and the degradation of its people; the demolition of Jewish homes under the orders of a foreign government; all levels of corruption in our own government; threats to our nation's security, etc., etc.).
We have merited experiencing moments of national glory (massive tefillot [prayer gatherings] at the Kotel; inspirational evenings at Me'arat HaMachpela [Cave of the Patriarchs]; struggling along with thousands of others to save Givat HaDagan and our hilltops; lighting a menorah in the Kotel Tunnels across from the Kodesh Kodeshim [Holy of Holies]; swimming in the ocean of Gush Katif; uniting with tens of thousands holding hands from one end of the country to Jerusalem; volunteering for one cause of other for the benefit of our brethren; taking in strangers from the North during the Lebanon War; marching in a sea of friends to Givat HaEitam; performing over the years in front of tens of thousands of women in Raise Your Spirits and Dames of the Dance; standing atop the Golan Heights; attending Sefer Torah dedications; seeing a destroyed community being rebuilt; experiencing the Birkat HaChama [blessing of the sun] in Israel; and more and more).
The past eighteen years have been both a personal adventure, as well as a national one for my family, and for all olim.
Our Children in the Land
We sat at the Shabbat table with two of our granddaughters today, and I told my oldest granddaughter, 7, that in this week's parsha, we learn that we take our bikurim (our first fruits) to the Kohen in the Holy Temple and we say the same thing that Jews have said for the past thousands of years, "...Hashem brought us to this place, and He gave us this Land, a Land flowing with milk and honey. And now, behold!, I have brought the first fruit of the ground that You have given me, O' Hashem!"...
I told my granddaughter that we were so lucky, because we could bring our own fruits from our trees to the Temple one day soon and I just couldn't wait. We've got persimmon trees and etrog (citron) trees and pears, and soon, IY"H, there'll be pomegranates and dates. My granddaughter said, "Savta, you can only bring the pomegranates and dates. You can only bring fruit from the Seven Species of fruit particular to the Land of Israel."
I could not believe my ears. My soon-to-be-second-grader in the Orot Etzion School knew that the fruits had to be the Seven Species. I didn't even remember that (well, it's been a year since last I read this chapter). I hugged her from happiness. I don't think she'd have known that if she'd been a seven-year-old on Long Island.
And so, I felt, exactly as it says I'd feel in the week's portion, 26:11, "You shall rejoice with all the goodness that Hashem, your G-d, has given you and your household...."
I am rejoicing!!
Thank You, Hashem, for bringing my family here to this blessed Land. (No, it wasn't easy, and it still isn't, but IY"H, we're making it.) Thank you for my husband, children and grandchildren who love the Land and dedicate themselves to Your commandments, and the future of the Jewish People on the Land, just as You promised.
Thank You for the loving friends You have helped us make over the past 18 years, and the incredible things You have helped us accomplish.
Thank You for our dear family that came here before us - my mother-in-law, sisters-in-law, and my brother and their families - and please influence the rest of my family - my dearest mother ad 120, my wonderful sister and brother-in-law, and my darling niece - and the rest of my brethren in the Exile to come join us.
Mother Rachel is still waiting for the rest of her children to return to their borders, and so am I.
Thank you, G-d, 18 Years! Le'Chaim.

1 comment:

  1. We know that the Land of Israel has special qualities (miracles) such as the land being desolate for generations while the Jews were not in the land.
    Arabs began planting grapes when the Jews returned. Up until then nothing would grow and no people were successful in building up the land while the Jews were away.
    Same in Gush Katif, the very same Arabs who worked for Jews in the hot houses, now try doing the exact same jobs that they did for 30 years, growing all sorts of vegetables and fruits, but since the Jews are no longer in Gush Katif, agriculture does not flourish there as it did.
    In the beginning of Ki Tavo, the great commentator Rashi mentions that "zeit shemen" is olive that has oil in it, the olive that gives forth oil!
    Siftei Chachamim explain what Rashi means by this.
    There are olives that have oil and those olives that do not have oil.
    Many countries grow olives, the ones that have oil and the ones that do not.

    In Israel....all olives have oil. There are no olives in Israel that do not have oil.
    Another amazing miracle that makes one living in Israel thank HaShem every day for the goodness that He bestows upon us.