Day 1, Part 2: There’s No Place Like Home

Ok, where did I pause? Right, longest day of my life. We just got our IDs.

The original plan was to take a taxi to Har Shmuel (right outside of Jerusalem), but a close family friend, Mrs. Batsheva Goldman, whose family made aliyah 10 months ago, offered to pick my grandmother up so they could both welcome me. Amazing people!

As I rolled up with my trolley, my grandmother started shrieking, and I burst into tears (don’t get bored of the tears yet-there’s lots more of those to come 🙂 Here’s the video-Mrs. Goldman caught the moment. Bubby made a big welcome sign for me.

There were Israeli high school girls with drums singing welcome songs-they asked to take a selfie with me, since I was obviously the most teary eyed of the group.

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photo credits: Nefesh B’Nefesh

As we drove walked outside, I nearly kissed the ground. It was the most perfect day-maybe 85 degrees, slightly windy. Beautiful.

In the car, my grandmother wanted to know all my plans, but my brain was so fuzzy and my voice hoarse from lack of sleep that I basically just left her hanging.

My cousin’s house was quiet, and I slept for a few hours after arriving. When Rachel Orah, who is just a bit younger than me, woke me up, the family was home and getting ready for Lag B’amoer and my aunt and uncle’s 24th wedding anniversary.

The table was set with flowers and barberqued wings, hot dogs, salad, and china plates. Shia, my cousin, had set up a speaker and a big disco light. I have such great photos on my phone, but it’s not letting me send them! I met the wife and daughter of one cousin for the first time, and we played some ‘newlywed’ games. At sundown, Rachel Orah and I took out our guitars and sang inside. (She’s a songwriter, too.)

In the empty lot next to my cousin’s house, the kids lit a fire for Lag Ba’omer. I stood on the porch and clapped to the music until my hands were on automatic. Staring at the fire and the kids dancing around it, I felt a giant rush of gratitude. With the feeling came tears, so many that I went down the stairs and stood before the fire for about 10 minutes, sobbing. I couldn’t stop the feeling-this overwhelming thankfulness, the inner peace that accompanied it, and the relief that I had made it this far.

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To make aliyah, you have to be really brave. You have to take your fears by the hand and tell them to go away. For me, that sometimes meant not addressing my fears at all; just pushing forward. I spoke with my mother, prepared my self mentally, by writing down my thoughts and spending time with the family, and physically, through getting in shape (lots of walking), eating well, seeing my chiropractor, and buying everything I needed to be ready. But the enormity of the decision didn’t hit me until I left, and the bursting storehouse of emotion wasn’t let out until this night, by the fire.

A woman, my cousin’s boarder, came over to hug me and gave me blessing for salvation and answered prayers. She said, “You need to be believe that there will be a salvation, and you need to say thank you to Hashem.”

She offered me marshmellows and I nearly burned my forehead trying to roast them in the fire. In my broken hebrew, I introduced myself and made a new friend.

We went to another fire after that, which was at least a floor high, if not more. The men sang, and I watched the red ashes fly from the fire like hot snow over our heads.

I didn’t go to sleep until 1:30 that night, since I needed to re-orient myself and unpack some essentials, but, when I was finally in bed, it was only a few minutes before I was out.

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