Photo Credit: Flash90
New immigrants from North America arrive on a special " Aliyah Flight" on behalf of Nefesh B'Nefesh organization, at Ben Gurion airport in central Israel.

Twenty-eight years ago was the last time I questioned my aliyah (mostly). I sat in my empty house, suitcases packed, my two youngest children asleep on the mattress next to mine. The house was empty. The next day, early in the morning, men from the yeshiva would come and take our two cars away. They agreed to take the junky one if we gave them the better one and honestly, I didn’t care anymore. Others had taken the washing machine and dryer, but I didn’t need them anyway. Somewhere on the huge Atlantic Ocean, my new washing machine and dryer were making their way to Israel. I cried. I looked around at the house. At the home we had made. It wasn’t home anymore. My husband was already in Israel. He’d started the job he wouldn’t make aliyah without and was loving it. My daughter was with my sister, begging me to come to her soon. Tomorrow, I told her. Tomorrow.

Oh, how I cried. Three rooms, two bathrooms (including the one we’d built). A beautiful yard with woods and a pool way in the back. A riding lawnmower that I can’t remember what I did with. Each time we would buy a car in Israel, my husband would remind me that I could have saved a lot of money if I’d loaded that thing inside our lift. I was so exhausted, I couldn’t sleep and yet soon enough, dawn broke…the sun was shining and the boys were hungry.

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My father-in-law was in the hospital. Should I call my husband back? Dreading the answer, I knew I had to offer my father-in-law the choice. But what if he said yes? We’d never get this far again, that I knew without doubt. And yet, I would have canceled our aliyah, if my father-in-law asked. Instead, he told me to go and told me that I belonged with my husband. Above all else, that blessing gave me peace for what was to come. He even promised to come visit us for Pesach the following year… by then, we would know that the problem he was having was brain cancer and that trip would never happen.

My father took us to the airport. I honestly can’t remember who else. More quickly than ever before, I cleared El Al security. Everything seemed to be going so smoothly and somehow there were hands everywhere to help with all the suitcases, the young boys, the carriage and car seat and carry-ons. And still, despite everything, I was on the verge of tears.

Somehow the boys, 3 and 6 years of age, must have understood enough. The stewardesses came around and when they saw I was traveling with two young boys, they too offered to help. That was when I broke the first time. In tears, I explained that we were making Aliyah and my husband was already in Israel. They were wonderful and spoke to the boys about how much fun they would have. They brought them extra treats and promised more once we were in the air. And still I prayed, please God, just let the plane take off already. I wanted to see my husband, to tell him I’d managed so much in the 2.5 months since we’d seen each other. I’d packed up almost 10 years of our lives. Transferred the electricity, closed the telephone lines and the bank account. I’d found someone to rent and then buy our home.

As the plane took off, my youngest fell asleep – a feat I have yet to understand. When the seat belt lights went off, I lowered him to the floor on a blanket and pillow – something they’d never allow today. After a short while, the 6-year-old fell asleep. Somehow I got the three year old off the floor and put the six year old down there to sleep while the 3 year old slept on the two chairs and my lap.

Any parent would say the flight was a dream come true – they both slept for nine hours. Oh how I wished they would wake up and keep me company. The plane streaked through the sky and in the hours of silence and contemplation I knew that what I was leaving was nothing to what I was approaching. Dreams do come true and even better – they stay true.

The six year old is now 34-years old and the father of three beautiful young daughters. His wife is everything I could have wished for him, and even more. The three year old blossomed into a 31-year-old father with an angel of a son named after my husband’s father and a wife who pushes him to speak English with their son.

On August 17th, we landed and cleared through a nightmare of bureaucracy, found our 9 suitcases, our 6 carry-ons, the carriage and the car seat I had almost forgotten. Finally, finally, I came out into the sunshine to find my husband and daughter outside waiting for us.

Settled with the children in school just weeks later, we celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. Soon, we will celebrate, God willing, our 38th. Wedding anniversary.

We’ve changed cities and homes and jobs, added to our family, switched cars and political parties. We’ve been in debt, built a company, paid our taxes, watched three sons go through the army and our daughters serve in Sherut Leumi and survived all that life and Israel has brought our way.

Moments before our Aliyah, I prayed for so many things and as I sit here, I realize that dreams and prayers do come true. On August 16, 1993, my children and I flew home. On August 16, 2021, there is no other place we could possibly imagine. In my yard, I have five fruit trees and more flowers than I can count.

All it takes, is a willingness to try, to get on that plane and let it hurl you into the most amazing adventure ever. Thank you, Israel, for being at the other end of that flight. For welcoming us home, even before we had fully grasped the concept. If there are any regrets, they are only that I wish we had come sooner, that my father-in-law and mother-in-law could have lived longer and come to visit their grandchildren here in Israel and seen at least some of the 8 great-grandchildren that fill our lives with such joy. My youngest son and daughter, both born in Israel, carry the names of my father-in-law and mother-in-law.

There is no doubt in my mind that we have thrived not only in Israel, but because of Israel. If you are there, contemplating, dreaming, hoping, wondering, my advice is to get on the plane. Make it happen. You can. Really.

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Paula R. Stern is the co-founder of Retraining4Israel (www.retraining4israel.com), a new organization working to help olim make aliyah successful. Paula made aliyah over 25 years ago with her husband and their three children. She lives in Maale Adumim and is often referred to as “A Soldier’s Mother”. She is now a happy wife, mother of five (including two sabras), and grandmother, happily sharing her voice and opinions with others. She is also a senior tech writer and lead training instructor at WritePoint Ltd. (www.writepoint.com). Please visit her new website: www.israelheartbeat.com