My dream house just went on the market. It has chocolaty hardwood floors, quaint beaded board in the dining room, an oversized family room and even a custom kosher kitchen that looks like it just popped out of Pinterest. It’s located in a vibrant Jewish community in an idyllic seaside southern California town where it’s a short walk to sweeping ocean views. Perfection.
The thing is: My husband and I are the ones selling it. In July, we are undertaking our own personal exodus and realizing our dream of making aliyah (moving to Israel). And while we are lucky to have a lovely place waiting for us in Israel, I can tell you that it won’t have the pottery-barn-perfectness of my American one.
We have been blessed in this house. We have listened to and laughed with numerous friends and even strangers at our dining room Shabbat table. Our yard has been the backdrop for back-to-school brunches welcoming new families to our day school and it’s where we’ve fed hordes of kids butterfly cupcakes after they moon-bounced and piñata-ed at our daughters’ birthday parties. I can still hear the singing of the hundred-plus guests who helped welcome our youngest son home from the hospital for his shalom zachor. We have even had the privilege of hosting the wedding of dear friends, the chuppah gracing our grass as they began a new life together in our yard.
We still get a kick out of our house’s crazy history. After looking for a place for over a year, we bought the house from the Roman Catholic Church when it was ordered to sell off non-essential properties it owned to settle unsavory lawsuits. Five priests were living here when we bought it; it was like a Hillel house for the Catholic students at the neighboring university. I called the décor at the time “priest chic”–white shag carpet, popcorn ceilings and vibrant priestly robes hanging in the coat closet. There was even a cross affixed to the front as well as a mezuzah (small box with prayer scroll inside) on the door, a relic from the original owners that no one had taken down. We joked that the mezuzah was just there, watching over the house and biding its time, waiting for this nice Jewish family to move in. Neighborhood lore tells of some rabbis who knocked on the priests’ door one day to collect tzedakah (charity). The priests informed the rabbis that they weren’t Jewish and showed them the cross, but the rabbis countered by pointing to the mezuzah, not easily deterred.
Since the house was tired looking and its cracked tile counters had served pork tenderloin (on Thursdays, according to the on-fridge weekly menu), we proceeded with an extreme-Jewish-American-home-makeover, kosher edition. Gone were the crosses and burn marks from the trinity candles. I chose literally every knob, carpet swatch and paint chip myself as well as the gleaming white granite counter-tops that envelop the two gigantic stainless steel sinks capable of hiding piles of dirty Shabbat dishes.
We thought this would be our forever home until the amorphous dream of moving to Israel became something more. By the time we get on our flight to Israel this summer, we will have planned our exodus for over a year. We have had plenty of time for our metaphorical bread to rise–to part the sea of Israeli bureaucracy, sign up for school, find a house and prepare ourselves and our kids emotionally for this daunting change, which is really the hardest and most exciting part. While my foremothers left the shackles of slavery with a sense of urgency in the hopes of a better, freer life, I leave the bonds of convenience and complacency, the mellifluous pace of a southern California life where Target is a stop on my carpool route, my pantry is filled with the spoils of Costco, and Legoland is a short ride away.
Many of our friends look at us with a mixture of awe and concern for our sanity for giving up this house, this American life. And I admit that sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and say to myself: I can’t believe I’m doing this! Are we really moving five sweet American kids to the land of the modern plagues of more lice, less nice and tons of unsolicited advice? But I believe, hope and pray that our new life will be spiritually richer–more real, more challenging, more vital.
I know, I know, Israel has more modern and American conveniences than ever before, and still more every day. But for now, we leave you, Pottery Barn America. And we leave our dream house for our dream home, as our homeland awaits.