This year, I want us all to come back together.
The last four days, I’ve been squiring my 11 year old niece – and her mum – around a whole bunch of different sites in Israel, in preparation for her upcoming batmitzvah.
We went to Kever Rochel; walked on top of the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem; plunged 40 metres below ground to visit a 2,000 year old mikva beneath the Kotel that still has water in it; did the ‘Journey to Jerusalem’; had a look at the amazing finds from the 1st Temple they unearthed in the Givati car park in the City of David; heard the story of how Nechemia rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem in just 52 days; and ended up today in Shiloh, the place where the Mishkan came to rest for 369 years, and where Hannah’s prayer for a son become our blueprint for heartfelt prayer.
It’s been epic.
Every now and then, when I catch a glimpse of Israel, of Jerusalem, through other people’s eyes, it reminds me of the tremendous privilege I have, of living here.
And that’s what makes it all worthwhile, even tho honestly? Being apart from my brothers, my siblings, and their children and their lives, is sometimes so painful.
I dropped my SIL and niece at Ben Gurion airport a few hours ago, and my niece asked me:
“Are you going to cry when we’re gone? Are you going to miss us?”
I’m a tough old boot, I reassured her. I’m not going to cry.
She looked at me.
“My daddy cried at the airport when we were going home after visiting Uncle A.,” she told me. “Daddy and Uncle A. are besties.”
Her daddy is my brother, and her Uncle A. is my other brother. I see her London-based daddy maybe once a year, if I’m lucky, and Uncle A. lives in the USA, and I’ve never actually met three of his four kids. I’ve seen him twice in the last 15 years in person.
I have another sister in the States, too, who I haven’t seen in six years, and haven’t met her kid. I have another brother in the UK who I also see on average once every three years. (Hey, there’s a silver lining to everything…)
But this is the price of making aliya, of trying to give God what He wants, and of moving to Israel.
Sometimes, it’s pretty lonely. Sometimes, it’s pretty sad.
I lit my Chanuka candles with such a deep sigh this evening.
God, is it too much to ask for me to see more of my family? Should I just cut my losses, and try to focus on my two kids, who Bezrat Hashem will live in Israel with their husbands and children, and then I’ll finally get some extended family within 2,000 miles?
Honestly? Sometimes I get so petrified that my kids will end up moving out of Israel, God forbid, and then I’ll have this awful experience on both ends. I know I’m not in control, I know I can’t guilt my kids or pressure them to live their life in a way that suits me. But if they end up living out of Israel, I’d be heartbroken.
Because already, we’re all so scattered around.
Every family simcha involves massive expense and many holiday days.
I have 3 bar / bat mitvahs next year, all in chutz l’aretz, and I’m trying to figure out how I’m going to pull it all off.
How I wish, with all my heart, that I could just get in the car, drive an hour or two, and meet up with a bruvs, and their family. Just pop in for an hour, a cup of tea, and then come home again.
It’s never going to happen.
This is one of the very painful parts of making aliya.
So, I lit my candles today in a somber mood, wondering if this might be the year that all the divisions, all the distance, all the separations that seem to be keeping me away from the people I like and love – in so many different ways – will finally be smashed into pieces.
That’s what geula is really about, isn’t it?
Us all coming back together, as one people with one heart in one country, and with the psychos doing a 180 degree turnaround to actually be part of the solution, instead of causing the problems….
That’s what I wish for this Chanuka.
That is my Chanuka prayer.
I hope God is listening.