Wednesday, April 17, 2013

ושבו הורים לגבולם - Welcome Home!!!

"What are you doing for Yom Ha'atzmaut?"
"Going to the airport.. My parents are making aliyah!"

I had this conversation maybe 50 times in the past week, and every time I had the opportunity to say the words my excitement doubled. I couldn't stop smiling. I told everyone I knew, including bus drivers and pizza store guys, unable to contain my happiness.

The thing is, my parents are in Israel a lot. In the past few years, they've been here more then they've been in America. It felt as though they were living here already. I couldn't figure out exactly what it was that I was so excited about. What was changing?

My parents met in college. They were set up by a mutual friend, who got tired of hearing them both speak about Israel all the time and figured they should just talk to each other.

My mom was from Detroit, artsy and creative, interested in photography and guitar.
My dad was from West Virginia, still speaking with his southern twang, focused on studying for his tests and going to classes.

They didn't have much in common at first.

What they did share, immediately, was a passionate love for Israel.

They dated, fell in love, and got married. The plan was five years. Five years in the states, and then they'd pick up and move to Israel, make Aliyah, live out the dream. But life happens. A community happened. I happened. (And six other siblings before me, but they're not important here). My parents became an integral part of their neighborhood, they sent their kids to school, and the five year plan transitioned into a "someday dream". New plans came to the forefront. Graduations, weddings, grandchildren. Life was never boring. And then, slowly, one at a time, we all started making our way over here. In the span of 6 years, six out of seven of their children made Aliyah. The dream had been passed along, a fire that wasn't spoken about too often but consistently burned in our home.

Yesterday, on Yom Ha'atzamut, I waited with my siblings and their children at the airport for my parents to come out. We held Israeli flags and lots of signs, some that made more sense then others. And that feeling when I saw them walking through the sliding doors was like none other.

Because it's not just about some papers that declare your citizenship. It's not the Teudat Oleh that my father was holding so proudly, not the benefits or the free cab ride or any of that. It's the realization of a 40 year old dream. The dream that a young married couple had spun together in a little house in West Virginia, finally being actualized with their children and grandchildren around to see them do it.

I realized why this meant so much to me. Why this was more then just another trip, more then just an official acknowledgment that yeah, my parents visit a lot. Because I believe in dreams. I believe in the power of wanting something so much that you won't let the flame of your wish burn out. And now I have proof. It may take 42 years and 21 grandchildren until you see the fruition of what you've been working for. But I've learned from my parents a lesson that I'll never forget. You don't give up. You keep on working on what you want. And you'll get there.

I feel so grateful that I had the opportunity to watch my parents live out their "someday dream".

Mazal Tov Mom and Dad!
I love you :)

Sunday, April 7, 2013

One Day A Year.

Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day.

One day a year, we commemorate those 6 million who were brutally murdered. One day a year, we allow ourselves to look at pictures and videos that will haunt our dreams, hear stories about children who never grew up, let the tragedy of the deaths of millions of Jews enter into our consciousness. We listen to the survivors as they paint pictures of death and destruction, of loss and of tears, of lies and deception. We light a memory candle and tell a story of a girl named Esther who's father was a tailor, who wore pretty dresses and had curls in her hair and got taken in to Auschwitz but never got to leave.

The stories are horrifying. They are terrifying. They are so far from my reality that I cannot grasp their true meaning. I stare into the flames of the bonfire that we have lit to set the mood, and I try as hard as I can to remember those who died, and to wonder why they did. I wonder what we can do to avenge their blood, to be able to stand up and say NEVER AGAIN and believe it to be true.

I wrote a post a few weeks ago, questioning our right to the words "Am Yisrael Chai". I wondered how we are deserving of redemption when we, as a nation, are so far from perfect. In a comment, a friend of mine wrote: "Who says perfection brings the geula? Perhaps it is the fight against imperfection".

This is an idea I can understand. This is how we can avenge the family that we have lost. We are not supposed to be perfect. But every time we struggle with our religion, every time we mess up and choose to try again, it is a slap in Hitler's face. We are living here, here in the beautiful land of Israel. We are in a Jewish country, fighting with imperfection, trying to be the greatest Jews that we can be. Sometimes we fail. Sometimes we fall. But the action of getting back up again, of saying no, we won't settle for mediocrity, we are the Jewish nation and we will survive the way we have survived for thousands of years, that is how we can honor those who died.

The horrors of the Holocaust are too much for my mind to wrap itself around. But I can understand the future. I can understand that we are in a constant battle for perfection. That we have an incredible responsibility to take on - the responsibility for hundreds, thousands, millions of lives that were cut short too soon. Children who would have grown up, gotten married, and had children of their own. Brothers and sisters and uncles and aunts - gone. And yet we are still here. Struggling with our imperfections. Trying to become the best people that we can be.

We give ourselves only one day a year to contemplate these things. One day a year where we can force ourselves to take a look at the past and see how we need to change our futures. Don't let it pass you by.

And now I can say, after all of these thoughts, that if we can accomplish our goal of a continued struggle, if we can pass along the message of Jewish pride and responsibility on to our children, if we can continue to grow for those who cannot - Am Yisrael Chai.

The Nation of Israel lives on.