Thirteen years ago tomorrow (for the purists it was Rosh Hodesh Elul 5753), we departed New York to come on Aliyah. We had scrimped and saved and worked and longed and pined for nine long years, leading up to that day. We had three children and a nine-month old infant. I had a letter of appointment to the Talmud Department at Bar Ilan. I felt we were righting the injustice visited upon my great-great-grandparents, when the Turks confiscated their Jerusalem business in 1914 and made life here untenable. Ironically, we landed right in the middle of the onset of Oslo, a process that threatened to continue the Ottoman policy.
In 1993, fewer than 1,000 North Americans moved here. When we arrived the only one who met us at the plane was a stalwart AACI representative who said 'Welcome Home' and "Be sure to meet with one of our Aliyah Counselors. There are things you need to know that you would never even think of asking.' (This remains extremely sage advice.)
We proceeded, unaccompanied, to the representative of Misrad HaPenim. I won't go into the details, but we had a potential snag that we were told to resolve on Sunday AM at the Jerusalem office. Suffice it to say that we resolved it, after seven hours at Misrad HaPenim. To this day, in our family, if you want to tell someone 'Go to Hell!'- you say 'Go to Misrad HaPenim!'
We've been through Oslo, Terror Attacks, a political assasination, a kuturkampf, two wars, lots of smahot, purchasing a home, two Bar Mitzvahs, two Bat Mitzvahs, the birth of a daughter, hours of guard duty, two cars (one new, one used), but our Maytag appliances are still working (ptu ptu). We, Thank God, have many Israeli and American friends (and lost some, as well). I am skeptical as to how much we"ll ever be seen as 'real Israelis' (but that may be a blessing).
One thing I know is how vatiqim looked at us, so many years ago; with bemused affection.
At least, that's how I feel when I look at the fresh faces of some of the more than 4,000 new olim who've arrived here in the past few weeks- smack in the middle of a war and its aftermath. They really have no idea what's awaiting them. They're flying on faith and may God give them more of it.
There are innumerable challenges facing them. It remains true that ארץ ישראל נקנית בייסורים.
Nevertheless, my wish for them is that they quickly learn one simple lesson. Hazal say that walking four cubits in the Land of Israel is considered a mitzvah. That means that Eretz Yisrael is the only place on earth where simply getting up and walking to brush your teeth in the morning is an act of sacred, existential significance; a contribution to the eternity of Israel.
Nothing beats that. Nothing can beat that. No one can defeat that. נצח ישראל לא ישקר.
Welcome Home Olim Hadashim!