Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Existential Whiplash

Time Magazine published an article two months ago celebrating the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11. The article's writer, Jeffrey Kluger, posed this question to some of the men who walked on the moon.

"What about the existential whiplash that comes from being on the moon one week and in your living room the next - and having to find your own way to process the vast gulf between these two worlds?"

And that, I thought, is a remarkably accurate sense of what it's like to make the transition from Israel back to America. I have made this transition more than 20 times and existential whiplash (not to be confused with Snidely Whiplash) is exactly what I feel each time.

Yesterday, I went to the Second International Jewish Bloggers Convention in Jerusalem where I realized, with a start, how many of my friends here are also bloggers. I knew, of course, but it wasn't until I saw them all in one room that it crystallized for me. I have yet another thing in common with so many friends on this side of the world.

From 2-10 PM, I sat in multiple sessions where people talked for hours about Israel. In my mother tongue. Oy, joy! Eight hours of talk about promoting Israel, in this case through the use of blogs and other social media with 300 people who not only don't roll their eyes when I say the word "Israel", but who, in many cases, actually know way more about the topic than I do. And even though quality varied across sessions, the most astonishing thing was simply that I was attending a conference with 300 other (mostly) Israeli bloggers in Jerusalem. Yesterday, I occupied a space in an Israeli sanctum sanctorium.

Today, Ariella and I took yet more bus rides, shopped and waited our turn at the post office, the bank and the health fund office, taking care of her aliyah business. I'm not actually an Israeli citizen, but I play one on TV.

In less than 24 hours, I enter the existential whiplash zone of returning to America. My life in Israel is an altered state of consciousness.

Scratch that.

It's my life in America that's the altered state of consciousness.

Here in Israel, I am most fully alive.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Departures and Arrivals

NOTE: This departure narrative was written by my amazing husband, Elan. Some months ago, we decided to split the job of launching our daughter, Ariella, into her new life in Israel. Elan agreed to take on the task of bidding her farewell and I got to receive her here in the Holy Land. For those who don't know our family, Elan, who was born in Israel, is Ariella's step-father (but only in the most technical sense). Shani is her sister. The rest is, I think, self-explanatory.

DEPARTURE

Hi everyone,

Just an update from our home in Baltimore.

Yesterday I drove Rivkah to Newark airport so she could arrive a day before Ariella's aliyah flight. After a 5 hour delay, Rivkah finally took off and arrived safely today in Israel. Rivkah and her brother Herschel will be joined by several friends at the arrival ceremony at Ben Gurion in just a couple of hours.

Shani and I and her Uncle Brian joined Ariella on the drive to JFK today, as Ariella joined over 200 others on their aliyah flight this afternoon, the last Nefesh b'Nefesh flight of the summer of 2009. We were joined at the airport by Ariella's cousins Sara Nechama, Nochum and their 5-month old baby, Baruch Binyamin.

There is a farewell ceremony, with several speakers, followed by cake and soda, and then came the time no one was looking forward to, saying goodbye to Ariella.

Man, was that tough. Was that ever hard.

It was exactly a year ago when, the night before Ariella was leaving for her year of study in Israel, I told her what will be playing in my head when we bid farewell....it was the Muppets movie, I think they were in NY, and at the end, when time for departure comes, the characters sing, "It's time for saying goodbye." And then, a year ago, minutes before the last hugs prior to
her passing through security, it was, indeed, time for saying goodbye.

But this was very different. Her closet is empty of clothes, her room is mostly bare and devoid of her special touches, and with duffles and backpacks stuffed with what makes her Ariella, she was ready to check in at the El Al counter, seconds away from receiving a boarding pass to the rest
of her life 6000 miles away.

Hugging her and crying, I blessed her and wished her every success and happiness, hesitating to let her go, squeezing her one more time before she belonged to everyone else waiting their turn.
I told her that even though we don't share the same genetic material, in less than twelve hours, only she and I will share something special that she shares with no one else in the family- citizenship in Israel.

A few more waves, and blown kisses, and mouthed "I love you"s, and it was....time....for saying........goodbye.

We met when she was
6. I left Israel when I was 6. Now, she is going to my home, to make a home for herself.

L'hitraot, Ariella, may Hashem bless every step you take in your new home.

And may our steps not be far behind.

Love to you, dear friends,
Shalom,
Elan


ARRIVAL

I wasn't sure what to expect from my heart this morning as I waited for the arrival of the plane that brought my daughter Home.

When we first entered the welcoming ceremony, images from the departure ceremony at JFK the day before were rotating on the huge screens in the airport. I got to see pictures of my family, including one shot of the three people I love the most in the whole universe, standing together, larger than life.

As the plane touched down, we were able to watch it live on these same screens. When I saw my daughter, my first-born child, step out of the plane, landing in Israel for the first time as an Israeli citizen, I screamed with joy. Then, with the support of some loving friends who are all Israeli citizens themselves, sharing this miraculous morning with me, I rushed outside to greet her in person.

I didn't have to wait long. Ariella was practically the very first person to get off Tram #1 and walk through the crowds of greeters. Considering how long I waited to greet her at birth (31.5 hours of labor), this was fine compensation indeed.

Trying to catch her eye, I started jumping up and down with excitement and anticipation (not a common emotional response in my middle-aged life). I had kissed her goodbye in Baltimore just two days before, but I
could not wait to hug her now.

Today, 25% of my enduring, unrelenting, unshakable aliyah dream came true. And I am a very proud, grateful and jubilant Mom.

Thank You God for bringing my daughter Home.

Ain od milvado. There is truly none besides Him.

Friday, September 04, 2009

So It Begins

Right now, my oldest daughter, the one who is making aliyah in 3 days, is in her bedroom, taking down the massive photo collection that has graced her walls for the last few years. In a sense, this collection defines her and her rapidly growing social circle (at least as much as her Facebook profile.)

I can't bear to watch her, so I'm in the dining room trying to sort out what I'm feeling.

I'm leaving America the day before she does so that I can be in Israel to meet her flight. Just as I was there to hold her in her first moments of life, I will be there to hug her when she steps off that flight and steps into her first moments of life as a citizen of the Land of Israel.

Usually, this close to a trip to Israel, I am giddy and high-spirited. This time, I'm thinking of the day, coming very, very soon, when I am going to have to say goodbye to my first-born child and to the Land at the same time.

Can you say Kleenex Jumbo Pack?