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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Our Aliyah Essay

Done!!!  After several months of fits and starts, we’re (meaning I’m) finished filling out the online NbN / Sochnut application form – at last!  Paying the $100 application fee felt like the “putting money where mouth is” milestone, but the biggest hurdle tonight was this 4000-character essay outlining why we want to make aliyah, and our detailed “post-aliyah plan.”

Oh, another milestone of this application form:  they asked for given names as they appear on all our Canadian legal documentation… but they also asked what name we prefer to use.  I filled in Hebrew names – Ted’s current name and my yet-to-be-revealed “aliyah” name.

Here’s our best attempt – written by me in close consultation with Ted.  Really, truly… I promise, he was sitting behind me and we were talking about it while I typed:

INTRODUCTION

We may not be a typical “aliyah family,” but in middle age, we are creative, adaptable and flexible – and also, perhaps more than younger couples, better-equipped to deal with unusual situations and take them in stride. This year, we’re moving into a new stage in our lives with the graduation of our older children, and we’re ready to explore new worlds and push the envelope far beyond our day-to-day lives here in Canada.

REASONS FOR ALIYAH

My husband says, “when I was in Israel, I felt it was like a haven for the kind of life that I was trying to achieve.” Having just come out of the holiday of Rosh Hashanah, I [Jennifer] couldn’t help but notice how many times the machzor refers to “Israel” and “Zion” – not theoretical or metaphorical references, but concrete: it’s referring to an actual place, a place where we can live as Jews today fairly easily.

When I became religious years ago after growing up with a largely “spectator” type of religious approach, I wanted to make my Judaism real in every way possible. Aliyah was part of that plan, but more than 20 years later, I’m not there yet. God willing, this will be the year we make it happen.

DETAILED POST-ALIYAH PLAN

At this early stage, to be honest, I have no idea where we’ll be staying immediately on arrival in Israel – hopefully somewhere in the North, according to our current plan. We are currently discussing our options, but it’s likely that one of us will go ahead or stay behind with the two younger children while the other takes care of technicalities of the move (packing, cleaning up the house here, etc).

This period, one of physical transition, will probably take the most creativity on both our parts, along with a willingness to be “up in the air” for a while as we settle details of housing, utilities, medical care, appliances, lift, paperwork, Internet/phone, bank accounts, etc.. This is probably when we’ll need the most support on the ground as well, and advice is always appreciated.

After our physical needs are taken care of (housing and food), our priority will be finding Ulpan / Hebrew opportunities for every family member. I believe the younger children (they will be 8 and 5) are too young for official Children’s Ulpan, but ideally there will be some type of Hebrew program immediately. If not, we will likely find a summer camp for them and hope they’ll pick up lots of Hebrew in a fun, social setting. We’ll also need to use our time during the summer to finalize arrangements for school and research possible chugim [activities] available nearby.

Ideally, we will be “settled” in our community, wherever we find ourselves, in time for the Tishrei chagim [fall holidays]. It would be fantastic to have friends or at least close acquaintances within the community and a synagogue where we are excited to be spending the chagim [holidays] themselves.

We are planning to have our older daughter (not making aliyah) in Israel for the year attending a seminary program, so God willing, she will be able to be at home with us for the chagim. I would like to make this transition as smooth as possible for her. That’s true for our other children, of course, but I believe younger children are probably more flexible, so I plan to work overtime to make sure the older kids feel loved and welcome in our new home.

We know we’re in for a tough couple of years, but easing the transition for all our children is and will remain our top priority – letting them know we are both having an adventure and fulfilling a dream – not just OUR dream, but God’s dream for the Jewish people.

CONCLUSION

It will be difficult to leave beloved family members behind in Canada. It will be difficult to navigate the many hurdles ahead, barriers of language and distance and money and culture, but we’re confident that we are ready to take on this amazing adventure and emerge as better, more fulfilled Jews and as a stronger, happier family.

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