2001. My husband and I were taking a giant leap and moving to Israel with our three small children. We were leaving our family, close friends and everything familiar to us.
Moving to Israel was our dream, mine since childhood and his, while not as old, was no less passionate. We were united in our determination which also required a hearty dose of faith and like all big dreams, a measure of insanity. Under the best of circumstances, this move would have been major.
But this was far from the best of circumstances, given that Israel was at the peak of what would later be known as the Second Intifada, an all - out war by Islamic terrorists against average citizens of Israel. It was bloody, unpredictable and out of control.
For reasons I can’t full explain, although the situation frightened us, it didn’t stop us from planning the move. It also didn’t stop everyone we knew from expressing what they thought about our decision, some more politely than others. I managed to shield myself from the comments and questions that might have shaken someone less determined.
I surprised myself with extent of my strength and ability to forge ahead cautious but steadfast. I was fully aware of what we were up against from every angle, or so I thought.
We arrived in Israel on August 1, 2001. We came alone, pre-Nefesh B’Nefesh, leaving without fanfare and arriving with no one to greet us. As I left the airport the sheer power of the heat hit me with tremendous force. The first few days were a fog of jet lag, acclimation and loneliness. Yet, I felt an incredible high from what we had achieved.
We had packed up our three kids, ages 5 ½, 4 and 18 months, withstanding doubts and fears, and moved them across the world to a place, that in my heart of hearts, I knew we belonged. Yes, it would have been so much simpler to stay in Riverdale, NY but I was not prepared to give up on my dream that easily.
When I began to meet people, my neighbors and other parents, they mostly reacted the same way. Shock and horror. If the people in America thought I was crazy, the local Israelis thought I was completely insane. And if I thought people in America were trying not to be rude, the Israelis didn’t even bother trying.
"You l left America to come here? Now? Why?" they almost shouted.
"I’m a Zionist," I said matter of factly.
"We would move to America in a second," they said.
So go, I thought.
If I expected any praise or admiration for willingly joining a country under threat and throwing in my lot with theirs, I was going to be highly disappointed.
I had mustered the strength to leave and I would find the strength to stay, was my thinking. My husband had a great job in a top law firm. My children were happy. I had done a good job of shielding them from the daily horrors of the intifada.
The fact that they didn’t understand Hebrew only worked in my favor. We settled into a routine not all that different from the one we had in America. Our days revolved around school, supermarket shopping and play dates. Something I found myself explaining frequently to my friends back home.
A week after we arrived, the notorious bombing at the Sbarro pizza shop kills and injures countless people. Other bombings followed. It was not long before I had moments of serious, disturbing doubt. Was I putting my children’s lives at risk? Was fulfilling my dream placing them in harm’s way? Did that make me a bad or selfish parent?
Did the distress I was causing my parents make me a bad or selfish daughter? Would the unimaginable happen that would make it impossible for me to forgive myself and would make others hold me responsible or negligent?
Although the correct answers to those questions might have been yes, I never felt for a moment that Israel was the wrong place for us, or any Jew, to be. We were in this for the long haul. We were an active part of writing Jewish history. We were living a dream, that didn’t always feel all that dreamy, but was bigger than ourselves.
It’s now twelve years later, the country is much safer and my now five children are proud Israeli youth, unaware or unable to fully understand the gravity of our move. When I look back I am in awe of our courage. We endured several brutal years in the country yet, somehow we felt fulfilled.
If we had not come when we did, would we have lost all momentum? I will never know. What I do know is that looking back, I would not have done anything differently