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Letting My Daughter Go

Letting My Daughter Go

Sending your 18-year-old to the other end of the world is not easy.


Twelve years ago, my husband decided to take a sabbatical. We had recently purchased a home and I guess we were getting too settled. It was time to shake things up. It was time to go back to Israel -- to learn, to grow, to re-connect and re-charge. In six short weeks, we packed up, rented out our house, and registered our young children in Jerusalem schools and day care.

That summer, August 1990, we left Los Angeles. We opened the newspaper on the plane to learn that Iraq had invaded Kuwait. We took our children to their new schools where the IDF was stockpiling gas masks. We made a lot of black jokes about our impeccable sense of timing.

How could we teach our children about the importance of the Land of Israel and run when things were tough?

On January 7, I gave birth to a baby girl. On January 15, the Gulf War began. Sirens and sealed rooms. Terror and Tehillim. My mother-in-law bought us tickets to return home (home?) -- just in case. But we knew we would not -- could not -- leave. How could we teach our children about the importance of the Land of Israel and run when things were tough? How would it be possible to communicate the precious gift of being part of the Jewish people and abandon them in their time of need?

So we stayed. We studied Torah and flourished and deepened our love of the land and our people. The war ended, joy erupted, and a few months later our sabbatical came to an end.

We returned to Los Angeles to be greeted by the Rodney King riots, the Malibu fires, and ultimately the Northridge earthquake. (More black jokes about our sense of timing!) A safer life?

These days I'm thinking a lot about that year, as my oldest daughter graduates high school and prepares to leave for seminary in Israel. (I also think about the fact that I'm not supposed to be old enough to have an 18-year old daughter!) I think about that now when every day awakens fresh concerns and horrors about life in Israel. I think about that now when the daily news opens new wounds and fresh pain.

How can I let my daughter go? But how could I keep her here? Besides all the psychological reasons for allowing our children to fly, I can't be a hypocrite. Either I'm on board or I'm not. Either I put my money, my most precious "possessions" where my mouth is, or I live a lie. Either I stand with the Jewish people or I don't. And if I don't (to borrow from Hillel), what am I?

How could I rob my daughter of that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to let the Land of Israel get into her bones?

And how could I rob my daughter of that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to grow and connect, to let the Land of Israel "get into her bones," to feel the tremendous sense of family and power that is the Jewish people in their own country?

So she'll go. I'll be nervous. (Then again, I'm nervous every time she gets behind the wheel of the car in Los Angeles!) In fact, I'm feeling quite anxious. I've kept it at bay until recently -- running around, doing errands. But graduation is in a week, I had to buy new (very large) suitcases, and the ostrich has to lift up her head. I want to shelter her. I want to protect her. But where?

In the United States of 9/11, the murder of Chandra Levy, the kidnapping of young girls and the drive-by shootings...? I can't protect her. I never really could. She's in the Almighty's hands and always has been. It's just clearer now. And what better place to be than under the wings of His Holy Presence, in His holy land?

We'll pray and we'll be proud.

I know it's right and meaningful. I know that to live a life of value and commitment is the deepest pleasure available. So we'll pray and we'll be proud. Not just of her, but of all her friends -- most of her graduating class are also going (with strict orders about when and where they can meet each other!). And in Jewish high schools across America, it's become "de rigeur" for girls to spend the year following high school in Israel. And from what I can see, they're sticking to it, with few exceptions.

Our daughters are special -- and courageous -- and this seemingly small, almost taken-for-granted choice, will inform their whole lives. They will emerge deeper and stronger, and they will have the power to teach all of us what it means to have the courage of your convictions -- and to live as a Jew.

June 22, 2002

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Visitor Comments: 5

(5) Anonymous, July 29, 2002 12:00 AM

Absolutely what we all need to hear in America

This article must be sent across the wire all over the country! Beautifully done,Emuna!!

(4) Anonymous, June 25, 2002 12:00 AM

I can relate

I relate to your article. I too am sending a child off to study in Israel. My son is planning to leave for a yeshiva in the West Bank in August. Nothing can compare to Torah study in Eretz Yisroel, and if he doesn't go now, when will he? I feel I can't deny him the opportunity to intensively study Torah in Israel. I am very nervous, and he will be going with strict guidelines which I hope he'll listen to.This year was the first time in 4 years that none of my children were studying in Eretz Yisrael. I certainly felt unnerved with several of my children in NYC on 9/11. Who's to say anyplace is safer than any other. Wherever we are, we need Hashem's protection. May He bless us all with peace and security.

(3) Gloria Maria Schwartz, June 24, 2002 12:00 AM

ASmazin' Amazin', Amazin'....WOMAN !!!

Please bottle your energy and sell it !
All prceeds to help the charity of choice....

(2) Chana Koren, June 24, 2002 12:00 AM

On the same wavelength

I too am a mother worried about my 18 year old daughter going off to - a settlement in Samaria - Israel. One that has recently seen 2 very bad attacks with several murdered victims. But I tell myself can I protect her, when she goes on the bus in Jerusalem, visits a cafe in Tel Aviv or goes to a wedding in Hadera? What kind of a world do we live in? Why must we live in fear of the "enemy"? We must believe in the Almighty, that when our time us up it is up no matter where we are, what we are doing, or who we are with. This and only this keeps me, the mother of a newly 18 year old (and several other children who travel around Israel without a care).

(1) Chana, June 23, 2002 12:00 AM

Beautifully to the point! Thanks for strengthening us as our daughter prepares to return to Jerusalem this August. I agree, either we're on board or we're not. We can never forsake our people, our land and our beliefs. We are proud our daughters want to be counted among those who go to Jerusalem at this very trying but momentous time in Jewish history.

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