Guess what I was doing on our first aliyah anniversary? Packing! It was deja vu. I was standing in the middle of sea of opened suitcases in my parent’s home and trying to figure out how much we can pack into each bag to maintain the proper weight and size requirements for our trip back to Israel. This was almost the exact same scene from one year ago. There was one huge difference between the two years- last year we made aliyah! Last year, we were leaving everything we knew behind and forging into the unknown. When we arrived at our house for the first time, we were not even sure if we were in the right place. This time, we were just returning from a fun filled vacation in America. This year, we were returning home to the life we built over the past 12 months. Instead of packing blow up mattresses and the essentials we needed to survive until our lift arrived, we were heading back to a fully functional and comfortable home. We were all looking forward to going back to our house, sleeping in our own beds, and seeing our friends. What a huge difference one year has made.
We first planned our trip to America back in June. When we started to discuss our summer plans and a possible vacation to America, I was actually nervous to go. I was not sure how I would feel about seeing all the close friends we left behind and having to say goodbye all over again. I was not sure if I would be strong enough to want to leave all the comforts and luxuries of America for a second time. When we first made aliyah, I was unsure what life would bring, but this time I knew exactly how different life was in Israel. Would I still be excited to come back home? People also scared me into thinking that my children would have a hard time with all the things I just mentioned, and would backtrack on their Hebrew. They were doing so well, I was nervous to break up their momentum.
But my husband wanted to travel to the U.S. for business, and I was longing for some good shopping and restocking of our favorite American items. So we booked tickets to America for a month long trip to see our friends and family. As we discussed plans, the girls made mental lists of all the food and restaurants they missed and wanted to hit up during our stay. They told me about all the friends they wanted to make sure to visit. I put my nerves aside and joined in the anticipation for our trip back to America.
Once we packed up and made it through the exhausting flight, the month flew by! We had an amazing time seeing our friends and family. It was surreal driving down our old block and passing our old house. It felt almost like we had never left. And then, all of suddenly we spotted our good friend and neighbor taking her kids out for an evening bike ride. We used to see them on the street all the time doing the same thing. I jumped out of the car and ran to give her a big hug. Although, I felt like it was normal for me to be back on Cresthill Avenue, it was really not. I had moved away and new people were living in the place we once called home. It was so nice to catch up with her and all our friends that we left behind when we uprooted our lives last summer I know I have amazing friends because I was able to pick up where I left off, and it was as if no time had passed.
One thing that struck me as odd was to see and hear about all the new things that have been going on in their lives over the past year. Although we have stayed in touch with our closest friends, seeing them in person was different. We saw their new houses, additions, and heard about new plans for upgrading their homes. It was hard for me not to compare our small (although wonderful) cottage to their homes and new plans. I listened to them talk about the size of their homes as their families grew, and I could not help but think about our small living space and wonder what would have been had we stayed in America. And that was just the houses. Do not get me started on how amazing it was to drive around in a minivan all month. I definitely miss the luxuries of a nice big car! This trip reminded me of how much materialism we sacrificed to make aliyah. It was not a sad feeling, it was more of a reality check, but those feelings took me by surprise. Although I know how our lives have changed intellectually, I do not feel it on a day to day basis. We are used to our new lives and are happy with what we have. After all, it is just a small price to pay to be able to live in Israel and raise our children in the Jewish State.
After a month of delicious food and amazing Target shopping, we were ready to get back to our real lives. Before we knew it, we were heading back to the airport to return home. Unlike last year, there was no parties, fan fare or Nefesh BNefesh paraphernalia, this time it was just our family heading through the airport. BH, our flight was uneventful and around 1 hours later we were touching down in Ben Gurion airport. When our plane hit the ground last year, I was choked up, excited and scared silly about what we had just done. Getting off the plane to see our family waiting for us was a dream come true. This time, I felt my usual relief to be getting off the airplane. I almost expected myself to get emotional about returning to Israel. Maybe it was the jet lag and traveling with four kids, but it was just another plane landing for me. In a way, that is pretty cool. We are used to living in Israel. It is not something to cry about each time we get home, it is just home. On the other hand, I hope I really appreciate what a gift I have to be calling Israel my home.
One year later, almost to the day, we were going through the same motions we did when we first made aliyah. Although it felt like Deja Vu, life was drastically different one year later. Now, we are beginning year two of our aliyah journey. We are starting school preparations for the second time. I anticipate that this year will be vastly different from last year’s experience. With Hashem’s help, this year should be smoother than last year and we should be able to continue to make it through this aliyah journey with smiles on our faces.