We are leaving for Israel in a week and a half.
I am exhausted, run down, coughing, sneezing, and dragging my feet. We moved into a two-bedroom apartment to avoid the toxic dust of construction happening in our 90-yr old house taken over by new owners. We have been schlepping, sweating, organizing, and cleaning, and we're not done. We're sleeping on mattresses on the floor, some with sheets, some without, and have no other furniture except for a small bridge table and a few folding chairs. Our duffel bags and suitcases, overflowing with clothing and linens, decorate the apartment, offering my two-year-old much opportunity for mischief. Having one pot, a few pieces of plastic silverware, and one stovetop burner that works, we have definitely scaled down.
Despite having an overwhelming amount of things to do, I have not forgotten that it is now the three weeks before Tisha B'Av. During this sad time, as we mourn the destruction of the first and second Temple in Jerusalem, centuries of anti-Semitism and violence against the Jewish people as well as the disunity between our own nation, God is not as close to us. There's a distance.
And it is this distance that I feel more acutely as we make our final preparations for our move to Eretz Yisrael.
With our house and car sold, the container of our most important belongings sailing across the ocean, our plane tickets reserved, temporary housing and schools arranged in Israel, and much of our material items thrown out or given away, we embody the definition of transient souls.
Now that it's evident that we're really moving, the goodbyes are beginning. My in-laws returned to Florida with heavy hearts after an extended stay in New Jersey.
"I understand why you want to move to Israel," my mother-in-law shared with me before she left, "I just don't want you to go." And her eyes turned red. "You're tearing my heart out by taking away my grandchildren..."
I tried to comfort her. "Understanding why we're going is a very high level…" but I knew there was nothing really good to say. It's a long and expensive ride to Israel. "But the phone calls will be free!" Our internet phone and web camera will definitely make communication easier. It's not like making Aliyah 50 or even 25 years ago when some families spoke via telephone only once a month for a quick five or ten minutes.
And friends… some I've known from before marriage. We shared dating stories, watched each other get married, have kids. We've agonized together over parenting and school choices. Now they live down the road and while we can't see each other everyday, we're there for each other when necessary.
But not when I move to Israel.
I know we're not pioneers.
Wandering through my old, empty house searching for a couple more pans and the last of the food to move to the new apartment, organizing the remaining stray papers and clothing, my eyes get watery. Are we really moving? Did we really succeed in cleaning out this house? Will I connect to the people in Israel? Will I find what I'm looking for? Will I become the Jew that God wants me to be?
I'm having doubts. Is this what happens when we are distant from the Almighty?
I know we're not pioneers. So many others have made Aliyah before us in very difficult circumstances. Now, with so many resources available and communities to move to, the challenges are greatly diminished.
Still, moving to Israel, transplanting my family across the world to a country, in many ways foreign to us, is a daunting, if not a downright crazy task to accomplish. With no family able or willing to send us off with love and good wishes, and no family to greet us with open arms at Ben Gurion Airport, we can only hope that our trust in the Almighty remains as strong as during the past year. That we're made up of more than just "talk."
We board our plane two days after Tisha B'Av. Shabbos Nachamu will be our first Shabbos. My hope is that just as God promises to bring the Jewish people close to Him after Tisha B'Av, we, too will come close to Him as we begin our journey in Eretz Yisrael. And the comforting, happy feelings one often feels after Tisha B'Av will embrace us all the more so in our new home.