February 3, 2005
Time to Go Home
When my wife and I woke up on the day we made aliyah, we talked and decided that we felt good. Natural. Normal. A little excited. A bit eager. Somewhat tired from some late-night, last-minute packing. Above all, we were ready. It was time to go.
The family dressed in T-shirts that we had made for the day. The white shirts were emblazoned in blue with our Hebrew slogan for the trip: "Bashana Hazot," which in English means "this year."
Our shirts were inspired from the central motto of the Jewish people: "Next Year in Jerusalem." Thanks to some terrific support from friends and family, "Next Year" was now.
We had been staying with my parents, who could not have been more encouraging and supportive, for a last precious drop of a week with them. We will next see them in three months, at our new home, in Israel.
At LAX, our porter saw the boxes we were sending, asked a polite question or two and soon knew that we were moving. Before he left us, he said something very formally in Gaelic, which he translated as: "Have a safe trip home."
Once at the gate, my 4-year-old saw the El Al plane with the giant Jewish star on the tail. He yelled: "Abba, that's a Israel plane." Exactly.
As the plane thundered down the runway, my wife looked a question: "Can you believe this is happening?"
I smiled and shook my head from side to side.
Like all flights to Israel, this one lasted a long time, but it did not end until I filled out the Israeli visa entry forms. Under reason for visit, I wrote, "Aliyah." Under planned departure date, I wrote, "None."
As we approached Israel, we dropped through a storm. Our 4-year-old saw a rainbow. I held my wife's hand.
When we crossed over the Tel Aviv coastline, I experienced a flurry of emotions, which were magnified by a sense that this return was final.
I felt a great, humbling appreciation that I was now doing what so many of my ancestors had wished to do for thousands of years. I thought of the millions of Jews who had prayed to God for the existence of a Jewish state in Israel. I was grateful for the sacrifices of the early Zionists, who took sand and mosquitoes and made milk and honey. I considered the multitudes of people, both in America and around the world, who have prayed and worked for Israel's safety. I recalled all of our friends and family who wished us the absolute best. And, I understood that the thoughts, prayers, dreams and hopes of all those people, going back all those years, were with us, right at that moment, right at that single point in our lives. It was overwhelming.
When our plane landed, my wife and I said the "Shecheyanu" blessing, and thanked God for allowing us to reach this day.
As we entered the terminal, we were met by a smiling official from the Ministry of Interior, who was holding a big blue and white welcome sign, and a volunteer who had previously made aliyah from the United States.
At the airport office of the Ministry of Interior, the kids got candy, flags and pins, and the parents got a new-immigrant identity card called a Teudat Oleh. My cousins brought us not one, but two cakes welcoming us to Israel and drove us to our new home.
As we left the airport, some 26 hours after our day had begun, our boys tried to imitate Hebrew. They laughed as they babbled together: "Cha-cha-cha, cha-moosh, cha-cha-cha."
They sounded just great.Nathan D. Wirtschafter lives in Rehovot, Israel.