I can’t help but sit here feeling sentimental today. This morning, while Josh was at the arrival ceremony as part of the Nefesh B’Nefesh staff, the boys and I sat in front of the computer watching the live pod cast of the landing of the first plane of the summer. I imagine I will be 120, having seen 100 planes land, before I stop crying at these ceremonies. The beauty and power of them is truly overwhelming. The boys are so funny; they try to ask me questions while we watch the video and, between big gulps of air and tears, I try to mumble my way through the answers. They turn to me to see what’s wrong and are about to ask, and then they say, “Oh mommy – there you go again.”
And, indeed, there I go again.
Our five year aliyah anniversary is next week – and I simply can’t believe that it’s been that long. When I watch the arrival ceremonies, all of those memories come flooding back. The fear and anxiety before making aliyah, the exhaustion of the plane, the anticipation as you approach Israel and are about to see land, the moment that the plane touches down and the amazing cheering, the soldiers lining the way off the plane and welcoming you, the heat, the cheers, and the new life.
Today, when I was watching, I was struck in a way that I haven’t been struck before. The plane landed and everyone was preparing to open the doors. The stairs were in front of the plane, and you could imagine all of the people inside gathering their belongings and waiting for those doors to burst open. While watching the anticipation and the build-up to that moment, I couldn’t help but think of the Holocaust.
The Holocaust, you say? Well, that’s a bit odd. Perhaps. But let me explain. I certainly don’t tie the entire significance of the State of Israel to the Holocaust, as some of our American political leaders have tried to do recently. Israel’s history goes way, way beyond the Holocaust, and is grounded in thousands of years of history, oppression, fighting, persistence, resilience, and more. With that said, I was thinking today of the millions of Jews who were rounded up and pushed into cattle cars. They, too, stood packed together in anticipation as the doors were about to open. These doors, however, brought dread, doom, death and destruction. Can you imagine if someone could have shown them the pod cast of another set of doors? A set of doors attached to a plane that was bringing Jews from around the world back to their homeland? Doors that were about to burst open into freedom, into a Jewish life, into a future, and into the fulfillment of the Zionist dream.
Compare those two sets of doors – one the oppressive doors of the cattle car of destruction, and the other the liberating doors of an El Al plane bringing the same Jewish people home. It’s a mind-boggling juxtaposition.
As we approach five years in Israel, I sometimes wonder how the heck we ever got here. At other times I wonder how we were ever anywhere else. Some days are ordinary and I forget the significance of the life we are leading; other days are certainly frustrating and draining. Overall, most days offer some form of magic and a deep appreciation of the land that we have been granted – and that we have come back to.
Here’s to another plane load of Jews making their way home to build their lives here – in our land and with our people. Welcome Home!