[Hodel is leaving on a train for Siberia]Hodel: Papa, God alone knows when we shall see each other again.
Tevye: Then we will leave it in His hands.
- Fiddler on the Roof (1971)
Almost a year ago, we made aliyah with a 15 year-old. We joined our older daughter who made aliyah by herself the year before. This morning, my now 16 year-old daughter walked through security at Ben Gurion airport on her way to Baltimore, and I don't know when I'll see her again.
From the time she walked through the glass doors past where we could no longer follow her, until just a few hours ago, I barely spoke. I craved silence, needing be alone with G-d, to figure out how to deal with the loss of her in our daily lives.
I've left Israel so many times in the past. Always, in the last days and hours, I would gaze with great intensity at all there is to see here, trying to burn images into my brain so I could take them with me. In these last days and weeks before her departure, I had to continuously remind myself that I'm not going anywhere. I confused her departure for my own.
Rabbi Simeon said: "G-d gave Israel three wonderful presents, but each one was earned through pain and suffering: The Torah, the Holy Land, and the World to Come."
I know many people who made aliyah, and I also know many stories of trials and tribulations - economic troubles, legal problems, housing issues, health problems, family challenges. How many times did I hear Anita Tucker, spokesperson for the former residents of Gush Katif say, "You have to be zoche (you have to merit) to live in Israel," implying that it's not for everyone? Rabbi Moshe Lichtman teaches that, just as in shopping, where a more valuable item commands a higher price, many people pay a high price to live in Israel, exactly because it's so valuable.
Today, I faced that dead on.
Kol hatchalot kashot: All beginnings are difficult. We knew full well that bringing a teenager on aliyah was risky. The first few months here were challenging for all of us, but especially for her. As she reminded us over and over, she was the only one in the family who didn't get to choose aliyah.
In response to her early difficulties settling in, her father (my ex-husband), offered to let her come back to Baltimore to live with him. As a result, nearly her entire first year in Israel was spent half-heartedly, with a foot in both worlds.
No one can succeed at aliyah like that. Especially not a teen.
So she flew to America today without a specific plan to return.
Yes, I could have refused to let her go. If you think that would have been a good idea, I'm gonna guess you never parented teens. At least now, she has the chance to make the choice she feels she was denied. If she chooses to use her return ticket in August, she will be choosing Israel for herself.
As a result of my blogging and my work with the Baltimore Chug Aliyah, I regularly hear from people who long to make aliyah. Some need practical advice. Others most need spiritual support. At least a dozen times a week, I share essays and articles meant to strengthen the desire of other Jews to make Israel their home. What I have been able to share with hundreds of other Jews, I have been singularly unable to convey to my own child.
The poetic irony that my own daughter, in boarding that plane this morning. rejected one of Hashem's gifts that I especially cherish does not escape my notice. Lest you imagine otherwise, our parent-child relationship is a loving one and our connection is deep. Hers was not a spiteful act.
I will never stop davening that she comes to understand what it means to be able to live in Israel, that she comes to feel the pride of a Jew who is finally Home, that she opens her heart to Israel and that she comes back to strengthen this Land with her presence.
In the meantime, the fact that she chose Baltimore over Israel this morning feels like my own personal epic fail.