Aliyah Reflections - 3 Years Later...
It really is amazing how quickly time flies by. It really feels as if I have been living here for much longer than 3 years, just as it feels as if I have been married to my wife for much longer than the 3 and a half years that we have been together (I can hardly remember my bachelor days). Thankfully, in these two instances, I have no burning desire to return to what once was.
In the eyes of my wife (and I tend to agree with her), these two ideas - that of marriage and living in the Land of Israel, are closely related - and I will return to this point in a moment.
I gave much thought as to how best to relate to my 3rd Aliyah anniversary. 3 years represents some type of chazakah - permanence - in the Jewish sense, and thank G-d, I do believe that in the last 3 years my wife and I (along with our beautiful daughter) have planted strong and deep roots that will allow us (and hopefully all future generations that will come from us) to live in the Land of Israel - in the Jewish State of Israel - as proud, passionate and committed Jews.
Our 1st Aliyah anniversary was an easy one to celebrate. After all, it was our first year in Israel. We had returned home. We had begun a new life - with all the joys and challenges that go along with that.
Our 2nd Aliyah anniversary was, in many ways, even more special (at least in my eyes) than our first. During our 2nd year in Israel we moved into our new home (that we are privileged to own) in a wonderful community where we are surrounded by many friends. Even more significant, we were blessed with our 1st child, who was born in Jerusalem - the first child in my family to merit such an honor in who knows how many generations. It was also during this year when I switched from my English name - Jason - to my Hebrew one - Ze'ev.
Looking back at our 3rd year since having made Aliyah, there is nothing specific that stands out that really merits any type of celebration. Thank G-d, our daughter continues to grow, and she truly is a gift from Hashem (even though my wife and I still aren't exactly sure how our daughter ended up with blond hair and blue eyes while we both have brown and brown).
Also, over the last year, I began using the Jewish calendar (whenever possible) in place of the Gregorian one, which serves as a compliment to my having adopted the use of my Jewish name a year earlier. I have found that my decision to begin using my Jewish name along with primarily using the Jewish calendar has really helped to strengthen my connection to my People, Land and Torah. Additionally, two significant events happened over the course of the last year: 1st, I started my blog, and 2nd, the Jewish community in Israel surpassed that of the United States to become the largest in the world.
However, this past year, on the whole, has been a difficult one. In the last 6 months, thousands upon thousands of Jews have been expelled from their homes at the hands of the 1st Jewish government and army that the Jewish People have known in 2,000 years, with no end to the retreats and expulsions of Jews from the Land of Israel in sight. At the same time, the government turns a blind eye to the ongoing threat to the very existence to the continued existence of the State of Israel that our Arab neighbors (from within and without) pose.
Yet, in many ways, I feel, looking back at my 3rd year in Israel that it has been this year, challenges and all, which has been the most fulfilling of the 3 years. It was over the course of the last year that I truly felt as if I was living in the center of the Jewish world, watching Jewish history play itself out before my very eyes, and in being here, having the ability to play some role in shaping the events central to the Jewish People and State.
Personally, I can't even imagine what it would have been like to still be living in NY as the expulsion of Jews from Gush Katif and the Shomron played itself out, or during the frightening events that occurred at Amona this past week; to be 6,000 miles away from home, watching and reading about these tragic events, but knowing that there was very little that you could do about anything - short of prayer or charity - which aptly sums up 2,000 years of Jewish life in the Exile.
This leads me back to my wife’s comparison between marriage and living in the Land of Israel. Speaking from experience, neither marriage nor life in the Land of Israel is always perfect - there are bumps along the way, and challenges that must be overcome - but if a husband and wife are committed and dedicated to each other, knowing in their hearts that they need each other in order to be complete and to fulfill their shared mission in life, then they will ultimately be able to overcome and build a strong and lasting relationship.
Similarly, life in the Land of Israel for the Jewish People is not always easy, but so long as we remain committed to who we are as a people, understand why it is that we continue to exist, and recognize that it is impossible for the Jewish People to fulfill their collective destiny in this world anywhere but in the Land of Israel, then ultimately we will be able to overcome all of the obstacles and challenges that stand in our way and live our lives as proud, passionate, knowledgeable and committed Jews in the Land of Israel - in the Jewish State of Israel.
It's been a great 3 years, and while I know that there are still many challenges and obstacles ahead, both for myself along with the Jewish People, I can't imagine being anywhere else - not now and not ever.