by Tova Horwitz
The other day I was waiting for my coffee at a cafe on Emek Refaim St. in Jerusalem. I began chatting with two women who shared that they recently made Aliyah after spending their youth and early adult years in America. They were studying Hebrew at nearby Ulpan-Or and had come to the cafe to practice their conversational skills as part of their course. On this day they were particularly excited as they had succeeded in ordering entirely in Hebrew, something many Anglos living in Israel and particularly in Jerusalem for over a decade cannot do.
My drink came and we parted ways but that brief encounter got me thinking how each oleh has their own unique aliyah journey. Some emerge from those initial months and years with lots of stories they will (hopefully) laugh about later, while for others the journey is smoother. But we all relate to the experience of leaving something behind (for me, that meant sitting in the sukkah bundled up in a hat, gloves, boots and winter coat) and beginning anew.
Whether you arrive as a child or as a senior citizen there are always challenges to be dealt with–learning Hebrew, adjusting to a new culture, making friends. But for older adults in the midst of busy careers and family rearing, or for those thinking about or already in retirement, there are likely more issues and more uncertainty. Health, family, financial and other concerns can put a damper on living out the dream of aliyah.
Fortunately, the holiday of Sukkot provides a soothing antidote to this aliyah-induced anxiety. After all, dwelling in a sukkah reminds us that God is ultimately in charge. While we do our part to build it, decorate it and invite in guests, what happens after that is out of our control. Will it be outrageously hot, or rain, or will the sukkah be overtaken by street cats? Even more so, God commands us to be at our most joyous during these potentially testing times.
So, too, with aliyah. We garner our faith, do our best, and try to smile even when it’s tough. And then, in true Israeli fashion, we say, “Yihyeh b’seder!” (It’ll work out!)