My 40th Aliya anniversary!

Today, exactly 40 years ago, on the Thursday between Bereishit and Noach, I made aliya from England. (The exact date was 13th October 1977, Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan 5738).

In the beginning…

I fell in love with Israel long before I ever saw it, though I cannot explain how or why that happened. Certainly my upbringing played a crucial part in this love story, and my family connections in Israel added to the plot.

My first memories to do with Israel are connected with my grandparents’ first trip to Israel, back in the mid 1960s, when they met up with their siblings who had escaped the Shoah and reached Israel one way or the other. My grandparents came back with stories about Israel that fired my childish imagination, and brought back photos that filled me with a longing that I couldn’t describe at the time, and even now it is hard to understand.

My parents were the next ones in the family to visit Israel, leaving us children behind with cousins – and I was so jealous of my little brother (RRW here’s looking at you!) who went along with them because he was too little to be left behind. My mother described how disappointed she was when she landed in Israel. She said she had been expecting an Arabian Nights type of landscape, with small domed buildings, palm trees and camels. But what she found, already in the 1960s, were bustling, busy (and dirty!) cities.

Not quite camels and domes. Tel Aviv circa 1972

But again, the stories of family visits, and the photos and cine film of their visit ignited within me an intense longing to see this beloved country for myself.

First visit

I finally got my chance in 1972 when we came on a family visit for the summer. My grandfather had by then bought a flat in Petach Tikva to be near my aunt, but summers were too hot for him, so the flat was empty, just waiting for us.

My first impression of Israel was the heat! In those days there was no “sleeve” from the aircraft to the airport building. You had to descend a flight of stairs and push your way onto a bus, where you hung on for dear life as the bus careered across the tarmac to the building. The heat as we left the plane felt like a hot wet blanket across my face. Coming from soggy dull England I was amazed!

We stayed in that apartment for 6 weeks, living like Israelis, going to the corner makolet (grocery store), travelling by noisy, smelly buses (no air-conditioning in those days!), and of course visiting our family. My parents were determined that we should get to know the country properly, so we went on trips all over Israel, sometimes visiting more cousins, and sometimes simply sight-seeing.

Kever Rachel in 1972. Security? Who needed security back then?

Me’arat HaMachpela in 1972. Almost no security back then

That summer was when my love for Israel solidified into something more concrete. I loved the open, relaxed way of life. I loved the scenery, the holy sites, the beaches, the mountains.

I can hardly describe my excitement on our first trip to Jerusalem, a few days into our visit. I felt the excitement building up as the bus crawled up the steep hills (no Route 1 in those days either) and as the scenery changed from the coastal plains to the foothills of Jerusalem. As we approached the Kotel I could hardly contain my emotions. This was the epicenter of my identity, my religion, my whole being. I have never managed to recreate that initial overwhelming emotion, but I have never forgotten it either.

More than anything I was overcome by the fact that almost everyone in Israel was Jewish! From the bus drivers to the shop-keepers to the street cleaners, the guy selling ice-creams or renting deckchairs on the beach, the beggars on the corner – they were all Jewish. When I mentioned this, my mother admitted that she was horrified at this. But I felt that this proved Israel’s normalcy, in line with Ben Gurion’s famous dictum that Israel would become a normal country when its thieves and prostitutes were Jewish too.  Of course that is not an ideal to aspire to, but the reality that I saw didn’t upset me. On the contrary, I felt at home, as if I belonged, and this was a feeling that was never to go away, and 45 years after that first visit, I still feel the same.

Returning back to dull old England I was determined that I would make Aliya at the first possible moment. My work as a madricha (youth counsellor) in Ezra, my hobbies, all were centered around Israel. We returned to Israel several more times to that same apartment every summer, and I also joined a machane avoda (work camp, though not in the gulag sense! – it was volunteer work as a group) in Kibbutz Shaalvim where I had a blast of a time with my friends.

Aliya! Finally!

And at the grand old age of 19, one year out of high school, I went and did it. I got on that plane and flew to Israel- with my parents’ blessing but quite a few misgivings I must add, from leaving my good friends behind, to missing my family, and all the worries about how I was going to manage. But I already had a job lined up, as the secretary to the hospital engineer of the new Shaare Zedek hospital, where the buildings opposite Mt. Herzl were just starting to go up, so at least on one front I was sorted. I settled in to work, finding a flat and friends pretty quickly, which in the words of my uncle, the late Rabbi Yissachar Meir זצק”ל, I saw as a סימן ברכה  – a sign of blessing, that I had chosen the right path.

An Only in Israel moment at Misrad Hapnim

Let me interrupt this story with an Only in Israel moment. I had been living here on a tourist visa for over 2 years because I didn’t want to use up my “zchuyot Olim” (the aliya benefits for immigrants) before I was married with a home of my own. But the Misrad Hapnim started making noises when I turned up to renew my visa yet again.  After 2½ years I decided enough was enough, and on my next visit to the Misrad Hapnim, when the clerk said “Oh, it’s you again!”, I told him I wanted to change my status to an Olah.

Well, the change in the man was quite dramatic! His stern sour face turned into a beaming ray of joy! He opened a cupboard under his desk and took out: a bottle of wine, a packet of biscuits and a small vase with a plastic flower! 😀   He then shouted out “Mazal Tov!”, and entered the waiting room where he poured everyone little cups of wine and a biscuit. It was simply too funny! But so heartwarming.  ❤

The story continues:

Very shortly afterwards I met my husband. He turned out to be almost the boy next door from London, a friend of my brother, but we had to travel 2,000 miles to Israel to meet! We got married in the Holy Land Hotel (alav hashalom, no thanks to Ehud Olmert 😦    ) with the beautiful landscape of Jerusalem as a backdrop to our Chuppah.

Our chuppah at the Holy Land with the view of Jerusalem in the background

My love story with Israel

What does Israel mean for me after all these years?

Well, first of all it means family. I am both proud and humbled at the fact that we have a whole tribe of children and grandchildren living around the country, settling the land that our forefathers built, the Land that Hashem promised us and which for millenia was but a mirage, a far-off dream for our ancestors.

My family, Sabras all ☺

I am delighted that my parents and siblings and in-laws made aliya over the last 20-25 years, meaning that our families are now strongly established with firm roots in the soil of our promised land.

I love living by the Jewish calendar. I love that the country is run on Jewish time, so that for example Friday afternoons workplaces are closed, the streets quieten down, and a wonderful peace descends on the country. I love that as the chagim approach, I hear songs and music related to that festival being played over the sound systems in the supermarkets and shopping malls. I love that doughnuts appear as soon as Sukkot is over, and hamantaschen appears in the shops as soon as Chanukah is over! I love that Christmas passes by unnoticed and unmarked in most places in Israel (with no offence to my Christian friends), but Christians are still free to celebrate their festivals as they please.

I am so proud of our crazy little country which mere decades ago could hardly stand on its own two feet, and now sends aid to disaster zones all over the world, from Haiti to Nepal to Florida and even Houston, Texas.

I love my country for being a world leader in biomedical science and in hi-tech, producing some of the world’s leading drugs, medical devices and technological developments. This is just mere years after having to wait years for a telephone land-line! And not being able to buy decent coffee here!

I am even prouder of our brave little country that extends medical help and aid to our Syrian neighbours, even though Syria is still in a state of war with us and is one of our bitterest enemies. Through our humanitarian assistance we are making friends and good neighbours in a place where we could not have imagined just a few years ago.

I love Israel for the way it treats its enemies, despite what the anti-Semites say. Our IDF is the most moral fighting force in the world today, and no one can change that fact with lies.

I love Israelis for their caring attitude towards each other in times of emergency and crisis, whether on a national scale or on a personal level. They might try to trample you in the queue for the supermarket checkout but they will sit you down and bring you water, and help you to the car if you fall over. They might try to run you down as you cross the road, but you will never be left alone if you trip in the road, or have an actual car accident G-d forbid.

I love living in a Jewish country where I feel that I belong, that I am not just tolerated by a benign host but that I am welcomed here, that I am living and contributing and strengthening my own country.

In Israel I feel that I am part of something much bigger than me. I am living history, creating history in this country.

My son Zvi suggested half-jokingly that my 40 years in Israel are a tikkun (a “correction”) for the sin of the Israelite spies in the desert who reported back to Moses on how bad the Land of Israel was, how dangerous and frightening. The Children of Israel burst into tears and did not want to continue. As a result Hashem punished them with 40 years of wandering in the wilderness.

Maybe Zvi had a point. I remember learning about the sin of the spies in school, and our teacher, Mr. Grunfeld z”l made a great impression on me when he taught us about the absolute “issur” (forbidden-ness) of הוצאת דיבה על הארץ – spreading bad news about Israel. It became a kind of beacon guiding my life after that, and my blog is in fact based on this principle, whether consciously or unconsciously.

But really, to sum my entire Aliya story, I just want to say…

I am home.

This entry was posted in Family, History, Israel news, Slice of Israeli life and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

33 Responses to My 40th Aliya anniversary!

  1. Jeff Polaski says:

    Mazel Tov! 40 years later, Israel has certainly been improved from my own point of view. What a wonderful story and a beautiful family.

  2. Reality says:

    I am quite emotional reading this.Well done you.40 years here is amazing .You should be prould of yourself.May you continue to enjoy our wonderful country with your tribe

  3. DP-PT says:

    You brought back old memories from 1972 with great skill. Do you remember that we had a guide who accompanied us with a Tanach (Bible) and told us in great detail wherever we stood what had happened there in biblical times? I really remember well that bus crawling up to Jerusalem and the growing sense of anticipation at arriving in Jerusalem. Many years later when I commuted daily from Petach Tikva to Jerusalem I was conscious of thinking (nearly every day) what my grandparents and earlier forbears would have given to have had this opportunity.

    • anneinpt says:

      Yes! I remember that guide. He made a huge impression on me!

      Like you, sometimes when I’m sitting in a traffic jam, instead of getting annoyed I think to myself how wonderful and even miraculous it is that we have so many people living here, and all able to buy a car, that we have such jams. Our ancestors only a couple of generations ago would not have believed it possible.

      I don’t know if the younger generations really appreciate the miracle of Israel today.

      • cba says:

        “I don’t know if the younger generations really appreciate the miracle of Israel today.”
        You might have a point 🙂

        • Hadassah says:

          Hey!
          As a representative of said younger generation-
          It’s very much appreciated!

          Can’t imagine myself living in England or anyplace else,&
          I thank g-d that my parents had enough sense to make Aliya when they did.
          Being the firstborn Israeli grandchild has it’s ups &a downs,
          (Bamba anyone?? 🙂 )
          But I wouldn’t have it any other way!

          Thanks mum for your best decision ever!

          • anneinpt says:

            I apologize if I wrongly accused your generation. It’s not that you don’t appreciate it. It’s just that I know that my generation don’t fully understand what our parents went through during the War and after it to get us to the point in our own adulthood, similarly your generation cannot really understand how much Israel has changed, how much better it is than how it was back in the 1970s. Yes, there are still problems, and it’s a work in progress, and your own kids won’t appreciate how much you did your part! That’s just how the cycle of generations works.

            But I thank you for your thanks and compliments. 🙂 ❤

            And yes, you were the first Bamba baby in our family!

  4. Judy Prager says:

    Anne was the first of our kids to come on aliyah followed by the rest of us one after another.We her parents were the last to come after our youngest son decided to stay.We have been here 25 years now I dont know where the time has flown!We dont regret our decision for a minute and enjoy having family all around the country.I love the quiet starting Friday afternoon with traffic easing off for shabbat and all the lovely cooking smells wafting around ,you dont get that feeling anywhere else even in a Jewish area abroad.

    • anneinpt says:

      We were so excited when you finally made Aliya! And it is truly wonderful that you are here, and that our children and grandchildren are blessed to have grandparents and great-grandparents living in Israel. Your parents and grandparents are kvelling in Heaven seeing us living this miracle here.

  5. Wow, interesting to learn these new details! Glad that we became neighbors after my own aliyah. Mazal tov and much nachat!

    • anneinpt says:

      Thank you Hannah. I’m so glad we became friends all those years ago. And do you know, I totally forgot to mention the Gulf War when we met. Or the intifada or even being blown up on a bus! (Back in 1978). It’s not so much that I repressed the bad stuff. I just concentrated on the good.

  6. cba says:

    Literally crying over this. How beautiful!

  7. Pingback: My 40th Aliya anniversary! – 24/6 Magazine

  8. Thank you, Ann, for sharing your Israeli history with us. I, in contrary, was not that lucky to have the chance/opportunity to decide to make Aliya. Fortunately, or “un”. I was born in Israel. It was more than 40 years ago, I traveled all over the world. served my state in various ways. It was fascinating to see the world, but, the best place, for everybody, is Israel. Not just for Jews. I heard it from many people. “Goiim” too. So, you made a very clever decision to join us and I hope that all your decadents will not make aliyah, like you, as they will stay in our beloved state all their lives.
    God bless you.
    In friendship
    Amir

    • anneinpt says:

      Thank you Amir. You were priviliged to have been born here. We had to shlep ourselves over here! But I wouldn’t change my mind for the world. You are right that Israel is the “promised land” for so many people, not just like the Jews. That in itself is a miracle!

  9. brent rubin says:

    Anne, This is a heartwarming story that I enjoyed very much. I appreciate your blog your support of Israel. I only wish all Yiddin felt the same. You are truly blessed.

  10. Joseph says:

    Congratulations and the best wishes on your anniversary from your faithful readers!

  11. Fay says:

    Mazel Tov Anne! I remember you telling us your story when we met in Tel Aviv. Both Matt and I loved Israel and we hope to return one day.

    Wishing you and your family continued success and happiness.

  12. ShimonZ says:

    A beautiful blog post, and a great pleasure to celebrate with you. May all your dreams come true. As for Jewish calendar; I thought it meant always arriving late, and putting off a lot of things till ‘after the chagim’.

    • anneinpt says:

      Thank you Shimon. I still can’t quite believe it’s been 40 years. It feels like yesterday sometimes, and others it feels like 100 years!

      LOL! at your description of ‘Jewish time’. So true! 😀

  13. Dan Livni says:

    Thank you Anne for your blog and all your great views.

  14. Rob says:

    A wonderful, heart-warming story, Anne. Thank you so much. I’ve visited Israel once, but will be back for a few weeks in March next year. Can’t wait! I fell in love with the place, too, though perhaps (as a Christian) for slightly different reasons. What the Jews have been able to accomplish in the space of a few decades in their pocket-handkerchief-sized state on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean is almost (almost?) miraculous, and you are so right to be proud of your achievement. I don’t think the world has ever witnessed the like – although we think we did pretty well here in Australia (insert smiley face). Bless Israel and its people. You are truly the edge of light against the gathering dark.

  15. This is such a beautiful love story. You fulfilled your dream and the dream of many. You succeeded in letting your roots take hold on your new home, which is ultimately the only possible home for the Jewish people. It was my dream once but fate took me to the U.S. Beautifully told. Shabbat Shalom!

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