By Jessica Cutter
“And on the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing” (Ezekiel 47:12).
From the moment my feet touched the holy ground of Israel as an Israeli citizen for the first time on July 25, 2018, I have found myself circling back to quotes like the above for strength and chizuk in this journey. Moving and relocating is a major change, no matter your stage in life and no matter from and to where you are moving. It requires a lot of inner strength, conviction, courage, and planning. Moving to a new country with four young children requires ten times more of all those things, and even that sometimes isn’t enough. But the aliyah adventures that new Israeli citizens experience, while each story is different in its details, are bonded by one main thing — belief in settling our roots where we belong and will flourish best.
Much like it is expressed in the above quote from Ezekiel, choosing to make aliyah is choosing to root your life in a place in which it will grow best. Plants grow best in their natural environment — outside, with access to water, sun, and natural soil. If given the opportunity to be rooted outside with exposure to natural elements or inside with exposure to mostly man-made elements, a plant would choose the outside, for this is where it will grow best.
For Jews, the land of Israel presents the opportunity for us to live in our natural element. We walk the streets of Jerusalem, where the kohen gadol once walked in his service to Hashem on behalf of the Jewish people, and we drive through the hills, passing the pastures in which our forefathers once walked, setting the pathway for our future. When holidays come around we are enveloped by them. Even the guy who drives the garbage truck waves a friendly “Shanah Tovah” as he picks up garbage on erev Rosh Hashanah. True, we could choose to settle and plant our roots in a nice Jewish community in the U.S. or elsewhere in the world, but nowhere else in the world are we surrounded by all the things that Hashem built just for us and promised to us as his chosen people, so many years ago. To plant your roots in the place that Hashem intended for you is a beautiful and wonderful opportunity for all those who are able to embark on the adventure.
As my personal aliyah adventure continues and I now find myself six months in, I have learned many things. I can pretend I am some wise sage, here to impart all my aliyah wisdom on my readers, or I can admit that I am still just trying my best, constantly reminding myself that what my husband and I chose to do was the right decision for our family. Those who know me well know that I am always honest, both with myself and with others, and the truth is: there are many ups and downs of aliyah, often all in the same day. There are days when I smile at the sound of Hebrew outside and proudly climb the stairs of the bus as I commute to my new job in Israel, but there are also days when I see the bus pull away as I approach it, the next three buses don’t stop for me either, and my daughter calls me crying because a boy pushed and kicked her again during recess in school.
One thing has remained the same for the past six months, though. When I lay my head down on my pillow at night to sleep, I am proud of myself and my family every day for making the choice to live in Israel, to dig in and plant our roots here, and to get up every day and try our best to not only live here, but to grow, flourish, and thrive. Adjustments take time and patience, but I know with all my heart that in time I will truly be at my best here in Israel, because this is where I am meant to be.
Jessica Cutter made aliyah with her husband, Azi, and four children from Long Beach, NY, on the July 24, 2018, Nefesh B’Nefesh charter aliyah flight. Since its founding in 2002, Nefesh B’Nefesh, in cooperation with Israel’s Ministry of Aliyah and Integration, the Jewish Agency for Israel, Keren Kayemeth Le’Israel, and JNF-USA, has facilitated the aliyah of over 57,000 North Americans to Israel.