Personal Aliyah Story In Honor of Aliyah Day

“You turned my lament into dancing, you undid my sackcloth and girded me with joy,” Psalms 30:12 (The Israel Bible™)

Introduction: Originally written on October 13, 2009, this is the story of how God granted my family the ability to make aliyah after years of longing. It was originally published on the Bat Aliyah blog I wrote while living in America, waiting to be able to make aliyah.

This is the post I’ve been waiting eight years to write. What seemed utterly impossible just a short time ago suddenly, and I mean suddenly, became absolutely possible. In the end, the whole story is one giant Kiddush Hashem (sanctification of God’s Name).

God, through His great goodness, finally said, “Yes. Yes, Rivkah, you can now make plans to come and live in my Land, live among My people. Come soon and grow yet closer to Me.”

I can hardly believe it.

Every single boulder that was in our way on the road between Baltimore and Ma’ale Adumim [the city just east of Jerusalem where we owned an apartment] is gone. It’s as if God said, “Oh, is that in your way? No problem. Here, let Me get rid of that pesky boulder for you.” And He did. With such elegance, with such ease, that it could only be God’s handiwork.

There have been miracles in this process of getting to yes. Outright miracles. Jaw-dropping miracles. Out of respect for the privacy of others, I can’t share everything that happened in public, but I can recount this.

On the day I left our oldest daughter, Ariella, in her new life in Israel [she had just made aliyah alone as a 19 year-old], I stood on our mirpeset (back porch) facing Jerusalem, and prayed an inchoate, “Please Hashem. Please. Please.”

I wept quietly on the sherut (van) from Ma’ale Adumim, all the way through picking up nine more passengers in various neighborhoods in Jerusalem and I didn’t stop until Modi’in, 15 minutes before reaching the airport. Although I sat all the way in the dark back corner and tried to be discreet, the sherut driver twice tried to comfort me in Hebrew, “Yihyeh b’seder, Giveret.” (It will be okay Ma’am.)

Despite the fact that this was the most difficult parting to date, I eventually dried my tears and made my way back to Baltimore. Once back at the house, I started to unpack. I was alone in the house when something I can’t quite define sent me into my daughter’s room. The room that she left behind when she made aliyah. The room that held an essence of her, a memory of her, but will no longer ever be hers.

I sat on the bed and I had a meltdown. I don’t know how else to define it. The grief that I held quietly on the sherut surfaced in that empty house and I yowled and keened, a wailing lament, as if for the dead.

In my head, I reminded myself that my situation was far from grievous. No one I love had died. No one I love was even sick. I was not Gilad Shalit’s mother. [At the time, Gilad Shalit was an Israeli soldier being held captive by Hamas.] My children were healthy and well and I knew where they were.

But I simply could not stop crying.

Years ago, my husband made me promise that when I couldn’t take it anymore, I had to let him know. He recognized, before I did, that we were now at that point.

And suddenly, in the exact place where there had been three absolutely impenetrable obstacles, there were five really potent reasons why we should make aliyah. Why we must go soon.

My husband agreed. The words came out of his mouth, but I knew it was Hashem talking. And just like that, the agony over being displaced was over.

To me, it was no less a miracle than the splitting of the Red Sea. Whether I finally cried enough, or accumulated enough merit or, more likely, the combined strength of the prayers of others reached its fulfillment, something shifted in the universe and Hashem said yes.

But then it was Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, and, in a rabbinic household [my husband was a synagogue rabbi at the time], there was no time to talk about or act on what we had just agreed to.

We told our families that, with God’s help, we will be coming Home in Tammuz 5770 [July 2010]. Some of these conversations were very painful and full of tears of another kind. But, in the end, we were blessed, even by family members who wished we weren’t going.

With the chagim [Fall holidays] coming soon, it was a priority to tell our family members. Beyond that, we only had enough time to tell a few close friends.

So many people clearly demonstrated that they appreciated how precious this news was. Some sang in response. Some shouted praises to Hashem. Some cried with joy for us. That was monumentally affecting, that our news brought others to tears.

A particularly memorable reaction came from someone I have known for 20 years, an old friend who plans to remain in America. “Of course,” he said, “I will miss being in your physical presence. But it has been so hard for me to watch you in pain, to watch you feeling profoundly displaced all these years. I am so happy for you.”

To have friends who love us and who truly, selflessly, wish us joy in this decision is a blessing beyond measure.

Hodu lashem, ki tov. Ki l’olam chasdo.

Praise Hashem; for He is good, His steadfast love is eternal. Psalms 136:1

UPDATE: My family did, indeed, make aliyah the summer of 2010. We settled in the very same apartment in Ma’ale Adumim where I had prayed so hard for God to let me come Home. Today, our family has grown and now includes a grandson, the first child on my side of the family to have been born in Israel in 2,000 years.

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