So, that aliyah thing.
Aliyah, in case you didn't know, literally means "ascent." When you hear Jews talking about "making aliyah," they are talking about one thing: moving, permanently, to Israel. They are ascending to the land; they are going up. It is ascent that is physical, as well as spiritual. Aliyah. Going up; going home.
Living in Israel is a mitzva, a commandment. (As someone said to my husband the other day, "It's too bad it's a mitzva. If it were a chumra [stringency], everybody would do it.") For the last couple thousand years, it's been one that's been totally out of reach of most Jews. We pined after Jerusalem, sang songs about Jerusalem, reassured ourselves "Next year in Jerusalem"--meaning, when Mashiach is here, because how else could we ever get there?
Well, now there is El Al. And there is Nefesh b'Nefesh. There is internet, there is Skype and Vonage, there is a sal klita. And we, our little family of observant Jews, are still here. In North America. Not in Jerusalem. Not in Israel. Here.
So, what's our excuse?
For most people, the hardest thing about making aliyah is leaving family. For me, that's not really an issue. I don't have any biological family to speak of, besides my boys; whenever I refer to a grandmother or an aunt, they're all people who have come to be my family, but not people to whom I am genetically related. My husband's family consists of his parents and two sisters, and their families; one sister is already in Israel, along with her husband and their kids. If we went, there seems a reasonable chance that the rest of them would be at least more likely to follow.
Sometimes I feel that we have to go, we have to go now, and we should just do it, because the longer we wait, the harder it will be. I read blogs by people who are there. I regret that we ever bought this apartment, which, now that prices around here have plunged, we will lose a tremendous amount of money on if we sell. I mentally catalogue what we will take with us and what we will leave behind, what we would buy here and what there. I think about communities, I prowl through aliyah websites, I speak Hebrew to the boys when we are home alone. I think, we'll be there by this nephew's bar mitzva. No, by his older sister's bas mitzva. We'll go next year, or the year after that.
Sometimes I look around at our cozy little apartment, the first place that has really been a permanent home for me. I think about how many friends I have here. I think about our comfortable lives, our good jobs, the fact that for the first time in my life I don't have to factor buying a book or a set of knitting needles into the monthly budget, because B"H we can afford it. I can buy new clothes for my kids and for us--from Target and Marshalls and Value City, but not the thrift store. The basement full of diapers I can't use is an annoyance, not a crisis. I can afford to buy Pampers if I want to. For me, that is enough to feel wealthy.
For the first time in my life, I am really happy. As a friend said to me after Barak was born, "You've built a beautiful life for yourself, against all the odds." I felt, and feel, uncomfortable with that; it sounds too much like taking credit. But about the odds, she is right. I could never have imagined, ten years ago, having a family, so many friends, such a happy life. It came so hard. I know how lucky I am. Part of me does not want anything to change. I want to hold on to it all, just as it is. But of course, I can't, even if we never leave this country, even if we never move out of this apartment. Things will change, one way or another--whether we stay, whether we go.
Do we risk it? Do we say, like my ISIL did, yes, we are going to have emunah that it will all work out somehow, and just go? MHH speaks Hebrew well but not fluently; my Hebrew is barely functional--lousy, really, but I've learned enough languages that I know I can learn another one if I need to. I'd need to find a job. He'd need to find a job. Where would we work? Where would we live? How would we manage? How would our kids handle it? Would we be able to make it? Or we be one more failed oleh family, coming back to the States in three or five years because it was just too hard?
At night, I run through the options. Go for a year, try to get leave from our jobs, see how it goes. MHH could find a position for a year, I could do ulpan, we could save up for it. But what to do with the apartment, which we could never rent out for enough to cover the mortgage? If we wanted to stay, it would be so difficult to sell it from there. We could wait another year, and see whether I could turn my job into a permanent telecommuting position. Would they let me take it abroad? Even for a year, to test the waters? Do we wait until MHH is up for tenure, or go before that? Do we wait until we can get back the money we paid for the apartment, which we now seem to have bought at the top of the market? It might never happen.
When we went to visit my sister-in-law, a year ago, I told her all of this. I said, I love my kitchen. I love my orange walls, and my dishwasher, and my friends, and my life. She asked me, "Could you give it all up to come here?" I said, honestly, that I didn't know. I still don't, and I ask myself every day.
Every little decision--whether to buy a bed for Barak's room or let him sleep on the mattress that's on the floor, whether to sell my loom or keep it, whether to knit the bulky yarn in my stash (which I wouldn't take with me) before the fine yarn (which I would)--I think, are we going to go? Are we going? If we are, when?
I don't know. I don't know. I don't know.