Thursday, May 18, 2006

Leap of love

West Bank Mama (hey, post a little more about where you live--I have it narrowed down to two yishuvim, and I'd love to see if I'm right) asked why we've made aliyah. I think that's like asking why someone chose to have kids, or what they see in their spouse--way too complex for a blog post, but here's a shot, definitely not in order of importance:

Socio-economic reasons
Have you ever tried to raise a family in NYC? And pay yeshiva tuitions? And maybe buy a house? The bandleader at our wedding is a computer programmer. Back then (1986) he was making over $100,000. But he had 10 kids, so that didn't go far enough, and he moonlighted at weddings and bar mitzvahs almost very single night, twice on Sundays. We had this radical idea that, having birthed these babies, we actually wanted to spend some time with them, and so needed to get onto a slower, less expensive track. Of course there was always out-of-town, but to two native NYers, out-of-town might as well be another planet, and if you're moving to a different planet, it might as well be Israel.

The week we finally decided to schedule a meeting with a shaliach aliyah (who refused to process our papers, but that's a story for another day) one of our friends had his throat slashed by a disgruntled former employee, another had been killed when his store was robbed, and a third we knew was kille din a car accident. Not long before I had been in Prospect Park with my (then) two kids, a friend, and her two kids. The Oldest Teen (then 3) came waddling out of the sandbox with a used condom in one hand and a used hypodermic needle in the other. This was NYC under Dinkins, a good time to want to get out of Dodge.

The Oldest Teen was turning 3. Time to find a school for the kid. Toras Emes Kaminetz? Not a strong enough general studies program. The yeshivish schools? Too anti-Zionist. (I've never been much of a Zionist--my father was brought up a Satmar Chassid and studied with the alter rebbe OBM, but I didn't need to educate my son in schools which teach that world-wide anti-Semitism is a result of the existence of Israel, or that we should never have broken the three vows). Mizrachi L'Banim? Three quarters of the kids with whom the Oldest Teen would have been in kindergarten with had divorced parents. That's fine and good, but I never wanted him teased because his parents chose to stay together. If you can't find a yeshiva you like in Brooklyn, where can you, outside of Israel?

The Spouse's family is old yishuv. I mean real old--Azriel, the grandfather of R' Yisroel Ashkenazi made aliyah in 1770, and was the Spouse's great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather. (R' Yisroel and his father Shmuel followed years later.) His family didn't leave until after the 1929 Arab riots destroyed the food stores in Jerusalem; his mother started out as one of 13 kids and by 1932 was one of 6. His father left at approximately the same time; his father was in teh US trying to earn a living, and after his mother died (when he was 12), he and his sister joined their surviving parent.

I was an early-adopter of right-wing views. As a college student and graduate student I was a board member of the North American Jewish Student Appeal on behalf of the Jewish Student Press Service and then Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry, and the most fun I had was battling the leftist student organziations. Over and over I told them, as they sought to fund some anti-Israeli government activity, "If you feel so strongly, what are you doing here?" Then one day it hit me -- same here. If I feel so strongly, why don't I move there? So as soon as we could find a shaliach aliyah who would actually process our paperwork, we were on our way here.

Whew--that was long. Good thing West Bank Mama didn't also ask us why we chose to live where we do!


Jack's Shack said...


westbankmama said...

I love it - down-to-earth and practical, which shows that Israel is not just for the dreamers. And I shuddered in sympathy when you described your kid coming out of the sandbox...Thanks for the contribution!