Sunday, December 05, 2021

On July 8, 2014, Israel launched Operation Protective Edge. We were making Aliyah on July 21, with Nefesh B’Nefesh. People asked, “You’re going? You’re going into a war zone! Are you still going?”

“Of course!” we said. “We sold our house, our belongings are on the lift and we rented an apartment in Jerusalem.”

We had lived in Teaneck for 40 years. We were the first young couple to join Congregation Beth Aaron. We were active in the shul where Kal blew shofar for 36 years, in the local schools, and in other community activities. Professionally, Kal was a consulting engineer and Barbara was a real estate agent.

The day before our flight we received an email from Rabbi Joshua Fass, head of NBN, that our families cannot come to the airport to greet us. Barbara tearfully read that email again and again. What a disappointment! No family at the airport to greet us! There would be no live bands or students singing, dancing and cheering family and friends!

At JFK airport, Rabbi Fass proudly announced that not one family canceled their flight reservations. He announced that a bride, Ilana Barta, also from Beth Aaron in Teaneck, would be making aliyah, toting her wedding gown, anxiously waiting for her fiance, who was serving in the IDF in Gaza, to return safely to her. He also noted that the Feinbergs were finally joining their three children in Israel. Our daughter Debra and family made aliyah in July of 2006, followed by our son David and family in March of 2007, and finally our son Danny and family in August of 2012. After Danny’s family left we started emptying our house of all the accumulated “stuff” in preparation for our aliyah.

We arrived on July 22, on the last flight before the U.S. suspended flights to Israel due to the Gaza war. Our three families surprised us outside our apartment building. Each of our grandchildren held up a welcoming sign. The best one was: “After nine years, our babysitters have finally arrived.”

Now we would see what life was like, not as tourists, but as olim. A few days after our aliyah, our granddaughter asked us if we went into the mamad (safe room) last night when the siren sounded. We didn’t! We hadn’t heard it! That’s when we learned that you have to keep the window open so you can hear the siren.

We had to learn where to shop, especially during a Shemitah year, and how to identify different types of food and cleaning products. We were learning to negotiate the narrow streets of Yerushalayim, designed for donkeys, avoiding drivers who didn’t signal when changing lanes. We’re still using some sign language to communicate when our Hebrew is inadequate. We’ve also learned, unfortunately firsthand, about the healthcare system via some hospital visits.

Five years later, this past week, we commemorated our fifth aliyah anniversary with our children and grandchildren. Both of our sons live in Ramat Beit Shemesh, and our daughter lives in Har Homa, a community in southern Yerushalayim, which is only a 10-minute drive if we make all the lights. Our grandchildren have learned to travel to us via bus. A few weeks ago, our six granddaughters surprised us with a celebratory cake for an impromptu wedding anniversary celebration.

We’ve also learned to navigate the bus and light-rail system. Where else can you hear “Shana Tova, Chag Sameach or nesiah tova” while riding on a bus? Barbara was especially impressed when the bus driver announced “Shalom Aleichem”—until she realized that was the name of the bus stop. Living here we can experience Yom Hazikaron, followed immediately by Yom Ha’atzmaut. Where else can you daven on Yom Yerushalayim on the hillside overlooking Har Habayit, or recite Eichah while gazing at the Old City walls?

Where did the time go? We are blessed to have celebrated three births, three bar mitzvahs, two bat mitzvahs and numerous graduations and siddur parties. We watched babies grow to toddlers, toddlers to children, and children to teenagers, babysitting along the way. Moving to North Talpiot, Jerusalem, an Anglo neighborhood, helped us make many new friends as well as keep up with our Teaneck friends who live nearby. When we’re not babysitting, we attend shiurim, volunteer at various organizations, and take inspiring sightseeing trips to explore our “homeland.”

We’re very happy to be here, seeing our grandchildren grow up and being part of their lives. Every day we appreciate the feeling of “being home” in our ancestral Jewish homeland.

By Barbara and Kal Feinberg


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