“1 By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion.
2 Upon the willows in the midst thereof we hanged up our harps.
3 For there they that led us captive asked of us words of song, and our tormentors asked of us mirth: ‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion.’
4 How shall we sing HaShem’S song in a foreign land?
5 If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning.
6 Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, if I remember thee not; if I set not Jerusalem above my chiefest joy.” Psalm 137
I have written about my love affair with Israel on many occasions. There are times when reading Eicha feels overwhelming. There are times when my not being there has been among the great heartbreaks of my life.
This is a topic that has been covered a number of times. The most recent that I am aware of was over at MCAryeh’s place. He did a very fine job of listing many concerns that I share, but since this is my blog I should spend a few minutes outlining some more of my thoughts.
It is a little more than 20 years since this love affair began. A little more than 20 years since I returned from one of most powerful experiences of my life with lifetime of memories and a keychain of asimonim.
In truth I think that part of why this is so hard to write about is because to a certain extent I am ashamed that I let life and circumstance prevent me from following my heart to learn if Israel was home or just a place that will always occupy a fond place in my heart.
You see, when I visited Trumpeldor‘s kever in Tel Hai and read Ein davar, tov lamut be’ad arzenu (“Never mind; it is good to die for our country”) I really bought into it.
I was 16 and so very free. It was June when we arrived and August when we left Ben-Gurion. When I left I was ready to return to the states but only because I thought that I would be back for college. It was a dream that never became a reality, just the fantasy of a kid.
I came close. I was accepted into a program that would have sent me back my freshman year but it wasn’t something that my family could afford. I was ready to try again my junior year but love of a different sort got in the way and I foolishly passed it up.
In the years that have passed I have been back twice. Each trip involved a healthy chunk of time and each time I came back to the states with a heavy heart. But there was the promise of the future and as an adult it seemed to be more real than it had before.
You know, it is funny as I sit here typing I know that I have this dreamy look on my face and a parade of images in my mind. And I imagine that out there some of you are wondering if there is this much affection what is holding things up for me, why wouldn’t I try and explore this further.
In my case I think that it is a series of things, family, fear of the unknown, the challenge of convincing a spouse to try to make the move, what would I do for a living, questions about my children etc. So let me try and address some of them in more detail.
My children are among my biggest concerns and I say some of this with great guilt. But if we were to make aliyah I would not be the one facing time in the IDF. I am not the one who would potentially be placed in harms way and there is part of me that says that my job is to keep them safe to the best of my ability.
If we don’t make aliyah it is less likely that they will ever serve, not impossible but less probable. And I feel guilty for saying this, for saying that it is better than some other parent face this than I. It would be different if it was me, it would be different because it is my choice.
From a family standpoint it is not all that different than many others. In Los Angeles my children are surrounded by all of their grandparents and a large percentage of aunts, uncles and cousins. We have family throughout Israel and could make it possible for more to come, but there are older relatives such as my own grandparents for whom it would be an impossibility.
What would I do? How would I provide for my family? I am one of those people who really needs to be employed in a position that I enjoy. I really do not do well working in a situation that I hate. I am not suggesting that others do, but some do better with it than I do.
Perhaps I am succumbing to the path of least resistance, but maybe not. My gut is that the day will come when I will make the move. I am not so sure exactly when that is, but truly my heart tells me that the time will come when I will look out the window of my home and it won’t be in Los Angeles.
Life is one hell of a crazy journey.