When I was a senior in high school, my family and I made our first trip to Israel for my little brother’s bar mitzvah. It was then that I decided that I wanted to marry an Israeli. All of my years at Solomon Schechter Day School learning Hebrew would be put to good use, I would get to visit a country I loved on a regular basis, and our kids would be bilingual and cute. All the kids I knew who had one Israeli parent were bilingual and cute. So, how could I go wrong?
I did marry my Israeli, as it turned out. A mutual friend set us up on a blind date and the rest–as they say–is history. We have kids who are cute, though not yet bilingual. They, too, are at Jewish day school, and they are using more Hebrew with each passing day.
Since that first trip 23 years ago, I have developed a strong connection to Israel. And so, on our last trip a year ago, I turned to my husband and said, “What if we moved here for a year or two? Wouldn’t that be amazing for our kids and for us?”
At the time, it seemed like a pipe dream. My husband’s career was in the U.S., though his only family and our nieces were in Israel. Our kids are settled at their school, we love our synagogue, and my family and our friends are here in Boston. But once we had planted the idea in our minds, we were unable to let it go.
Now, a year later, we find ourselves ready to make a decision. My husband’s career has shifted to have more of an Israeli focus. We have introduced our children to the idea of a temporary move to Israel. We have let them know that we may move for a year or two. Their friends will be here when we get back, we will come back for the summer, and they would get to be near their only cousins all the time.
But while I am fluent in Hebrew, familiar with Israeli culture, and familiar with the security situation, when I think about my kids in Israel, I am torn. I can’t seem to move on from last summer’s events.
I have been in Israel during hard times. I rode buses when I was 20 and there were bombs on a regular basis. When I was a counselor on a teen tour, we missed an attack by a matter of minutes. But it feels different now. I was in my 20s then; I was invincible and I was not a mother.
Israelis handled this past summer’s events with grace, bravery, resilience, and strength. Children and adults all over Israel rushed into bomb shelters with every siren and moved on with their lives when the sirens stopped. They were stressed, they were scared, but they were home.
When I hear news of conflict in Israel, it is where I want to be. In fact, on several occasions before I met my husband, I considered making aliyah. But now, with children, there is a part of me that feels scared. We have a choice. Our home is here, not in Israel. We have a sense of security here–the value of which is not lost on us.
We know that conflict and terrorist attacks are inevitable in Israel. Sure, there are quiet periods, and thankfully many of them. But the tragic truth is that conflict is there, either right on the streets happening now or bubbling under the surface waiting to erupt. When I am in Israel, I am on high alert at every moment. Each loud passing truck sparks memories of the sound of the bomb that I narrowly missed in 1997. I shudder, look around, and prepare to hear screams, police cars, and ambulance sirens. It takes me minutes to recover from a truck. What would I do if it were the real thing? Would I hold it together for my kids?
How can I, as a mother, knowingly walk into a situation that could scare, traumatize, and very possibly put my own children’s lives in harm’s way? Would I be scared to say goodbye to them at school? Would I be too nervous to leave them with a babysitter? Would I allow them to walk alone to the corner makolet (small grocery store)?
It is easy to get lost in all of the hype and to start thinking the worst. But, it is also easy to remember why we considered moving to Israel in the first place. It is a place that feels like home to all of us. We can be near family we rarely see. Our kids can play outside all year. They will learn a new language. They will live in a culture that is warm and inviting. They will enjoy freedoms there that they cannot experience here until they are older. They can walk to school alone, ride their bikes around the block without an adult, and they will get out of school earlier. They will have school five and a half days a week; the time not in school is spent with family, enjoying the country, and growing as a person.
Next month, my family and I will be visiting Israel and making our decision. We will visit schools, a synagogue or two, and perhaps even look around at apartments while we are there. If it feels right, we will make the move at the beginning of the next school year.
I know my husband and I are excited about this adventure. Perhaps, though it may take a while for our kids to come around to this sentiment, Israel will come to feel like home. I trust that they will come out of this experience more resilient, mature, wise, and–most importantly–connected to the place my husband and I love so dearly.