On the Occasion of Our First Aliyah Anniversary

.ברוך אתה ה’ אלוקינו מלך העולם שהחינו וקימנו והגיענו לזמן הזה

Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, Who has kept us alive and sustained us and brought us to this season.

Last Rosh Hashanah, I uttered this blessing in Tel Aviv’s Dan Panorama Hotel, confined to a 20 m² room for mandatory coronavirus quarantine, having arrived as an Oleh Chadash (new immigrant) from The Netherlands only a week prior. My then-girlfriend, Rachel, had made Aliyah from Texas just hours before I touched down at Ben Gurion Airport on the evening of September 10, 2020.

Madly in love and after not being able to visit each other for seven months due to COVID-19, we decided to pack our bags and go ahead with our respective long-held dreams to move to the Jewish state. 

This year, I merited to say Shehecheyanu at our family’s Rosh Hashanah meal in our dining room in Samaria — overlooking the site in Shiloh where the Mishkan (Tabernacle) stood for 369 years. הודו לה’ כי טוב כי לעולם חסדו

The past 12 months flew by faster than an Egged bus passing you after waiting for 45 minutes in the burning heat. Within seven hours after leaving the quarantine hotel, we got engaged — and married just 2.5 months later (read our entire whirlwind love story here). We moved to Eli, Samaria, an immigrant-friendly community about 50 minutes by car from Jerusalem.

For the first weeks, we survived on instant soup made with an electric kettle and ate on the floor of our apartment while waiting for IKEA to reopen after the COVID-19 lockdown. But over the course of just a few months, we went from living out of a handful of suitcases to our first home becoming too small to accommodate our furniture.

Meanwhile, Rachel and I both landed dream jobs, took Ulpan classes, and assisted her family (including her sixty-something grandparents!) in the process of their Aliyah to beautiful Eli. ושבו בנים לגבולם

Thanks to David from OlimCars, we quickly found a car, enabling us to tour Israel. For example, we were granted the unique opportunity to visit Yehoshua’s Altar on Har Eval, considered a closed military zone most days of the year. In March, we literally planted our roots in the Land of Israel by planting fruit trees in Elazar with Unity Warriors, just in time for the Shemitah (sabbatical) year. During our first Pesach as Israelis, we ascended the Temple Mount in Jerusalem — Judaism’s holiest site — under the auspices of Rabbi Yehuda Glick. We marked Tisha b’Av by marching with Israeli flags around the walls of the Old City.

When my dad and stepmom, thanks to the efforts of the Israeli embassy in The Hague, could finally enter the country after eight months, we made up for the lost time by introducing them to local gems unknown to most tourists. We showed them places like Ancient Shiloh and the Psagot Winery — known for its Psagot Pompeo, served at our wedding.

In May, barely eight months after our Aliyah, our family found itself in the middle of an 11-day Gaza war which saw a rocket land across the road from our town. Rachel and I watched from our bathroom window as the Iron Dome missile defense system shot down thousands of rockets fired at central Israel. Tensions in Samaria also grew, and several (attempted and successful) terror attacks took place in the vicinity of our home, further strengthening our dedication to our eternal homeland land and its amazing people.

Three months after becoming Israeli citizens, we cast our first-ever vote in the national elections. To paraphrase Yad Vashem Chairman Dani Dayan: we turned from mere spectators to protagonists in the most incredible adventure of the Jewish people in 2,000 years.

Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, Who has kept us alive and sustained us and brought us to this season.

As I write this blog post, on the eve of Yom Kippur, we’re in the middle of unpacking our shiny new apartment (and trying to reach the fine folks at Bezeq Benleumi, who will ostensibly come and install our WiFi “אחרי החגים” — to be continued). While we faced plenty of hurdles (seriously, how does banking work in this country?!), and many challenges still lie ahead, we can truly say we’ve come home in Israel.

I wish everyone a meaningful fast and גמר חתימה טובה. May all of כלל ישראל be sealed in the book of life, and may we continue to prosper in Hashem’s holy land.

Featured image: Engagement photoshoot by Tzipora Lifchitz

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