Five years ago we made Aliyah and became Israeli citizens. Eleven of us. Five years ago. That's over three thousand loads of laundry. During that time we've made four weddings, (two in the USA and two in Israel), we've had two daughters born to us in Israel, and three grandsons. I've had four different jobs and my son Mendel helped bring home one bronze medal for the National Israel Little League Baseball team. And we missed one funeral; my mother-in-law's, ob"m.
We made one Bar-Mitzvah, and I attended one "triple" funeral in the middle of the night. My son Yaakov spent two years in the army, and I spent two years studying to be a tour guide. Our car has traveled 160,000 kilometers and our children have spent hundreds of days in the hospital. We have spent over 300,000 sheqels on food, 135,000 for a car and have participated in two different Kupat Cholim. My Hebrew vocabulary has increased ten-fold but I will always be "an American" in the eyes of Israelis and an immigrant in the eyes of my younger children. We have made countless friends.
Three of my children, two of them married, presently live in the USA. Two of my fourteen siblings live here in Israel, and one other is planning to make Aliyah soon. None of my children have graduated from High School in Israel. Over 1,000 people live in my community of Mitzpeh Yericho. Over 30 children are in my daughter's pre-school class. Barely ten are in my fifth grader's. The typical summer temperature here during the heat of the day is in the high 90's. But it's a dry heat.
During our five years here, we've had our fair share of ups and downs. Our children have been enrolled in ten different educational institutions and different governmental agencies have been on strike at least a dozen times. A two week mail strike just ended. There have been a couple of earthquakes and I've gotten one speeding ticket. Terrorist attacks were more frequent when we first moved here and we've had one war since making Aliyah. I've guided hundreds of tourists to hundreds of locations all over the country; families, Birthright groups and Christian Pilgrims. We've reached out for help many, many times and have thankfully received it. During my five years here I climbed Masada's Snake path once.
My love affair with Israel began when I was 30 on my first ever trip here. And now, 20 years later, I love it here more than ever. When we vacationed in Mitzpeh Yericho seven years ago during the summer of August 2001, I made reservations for a family dinner at the newly opened restaurant in the community. We were expecting over 30 people for dinner.
I arrived at the restaurant promptly at 8PM as pre-arranged. The place was closed down shut, pitch black. I tracked down the owner who was living at the time in a trailer. His wife opened the door after I knocked on it. He came to the door where I excitedly explained to him the situation of 30 very hungry people with no place to eat and wondered as to what had happened to my reservations!
He calmly explained that he had been to Jerusalem that day and had decided not to open up the restaurant that day. He was tired. Reservations or not. '' יהיה בסדר '' (rough translation: It'll all work out) was all he could say to me as he closed his door and bid me goodbye.
What to do!? As I was walking back to my bungalow to inform the starving mob of the latest, I bumped into Oklahoma Joe who was out walking his dog. Oklahoma was living next door to our bungalow. I wished him a good evening and told him of my predicament.
No problem, he said. In no time at all, Oklahoma had food grilling on his BBQ and we all enjoyed a great dinner. It was just as the restaurant owner had said. In the end it all worked out. He really knew it would. And now I was beginning to learn that as well.
The rest is history. After that summer in Israel, we all decided to place our fate together with the Land of Israel. And we moved to none other than Mitzpeh Yericho in the Judean Desert.
And the guy who owned the restaurant? They don't live in the trailer anymore. They live right next door to us and our families are the very best of friends. We've become one family.
That's what it's like to make one's home here.
Jewish Book Review » You Come for One Reason But Stay for Another: Making the Odyssey to Israel could be subtitled “It takes an Optimist”