Last I left off, the papers were filed, organized and packed – all a miracle in itself! Now we pick up with the day it all went down! Six suitcases, 6 duffels, 5 rolling carry-ons, 6 backpacks – and we were on our way!

When the morning of our aliyah flight arrived we awoke with excitement but mostly exhaustion with a capital E. We bid goodbye to our apartment in New York and loaded into the van my brother in law rented to transport us all to JFK. As each minute passed, the excitement turned to anxiety, anticipation and nerves.

Throughout the next 24 hours we would go through all the emotions there could be, but I couldn’t help but smile inside, knowing every step we took was a step closer to finally after all these years coming HOME.

And then – the moment finally arrived. Tears flowed as we said goodbye to our family in the States who came to the airport to see us off. My 7-year-old daughter lost it when it was time to say goodbye to her cousins, and then the reality set in. This is REALLY happening, and it is not going to be easy. It’s hard enough to say goodbye to the comforts of America and the familiarity for us as adults, but to see the raw emotions of how difficult it was for my children, was something no parent can prepare for. My heart wrenched as we walked towards the terminal and said a final goodbye to our family in New York, my daughter’s tears drowning out my thoughts and allowing me to focus on nothing else.

The plane ride after, in all honesty is a blur. The amenities of the Dreamliner Nefesh B’Nefesh (NBN) and El AL partnered to provide for us were luxurious and wonderful. The staff was so accommodating and kind, and it was the most seamless plane ride I have ever taken. As we neared our final destination, the plane was abuzz with excitement. NBN staff circled the plane preparing us and our documents for landing.

And suddenly, as if it was only a 10 minute plane ride – the moment we had all been waiting for arrived. The plane began its descent to our home land, where we would land as OLIM. Nothing, and let me say nothing, prepares for you for the emotions that overtake you when you make aliyah and your plane lands on the holy land of Israel. The usual clapping and singing upon a successful landing in Israel commence, but it’s what happens after that no one can prepare for. For this reason alone I would urge ALL olim to participate in a charter flight – it is the BEST way to land in Israel as an olah chadasah. Truthfully, I get tears in my eyes and a pulling in my heart as I write and re-read this. The emotions then and now were so raw, so real, so RIGHT.

After the plane landed we looked out the window at our homeland and behold thousands of people were there right outside, waving signs of welcoming, cheering, singing – it was the most incredible experience. This must be what celebrities feel like everywhere they go! And today – rightfully so, we and our fellow plane riders were treated like celebrities in Israel. “Kamah Tov Sheh Batem Ha Bayta” — How wonderful that you came home. Armed with many bags, my 2-year-old baby, and a whole lot of pride and bravery, I began to make my way towards the plane door with the rest of my family following. Proudly I took each step closer to the exit and with an incredible amount of joy I began the famous walk down the stairs of the plane.

As I looked across the mass of people that were there and took it all in, tears began streaming down my face. Tears of joy and appreciation, for all those who fought for me to have this very opportunity. The hundreds of lives lost in war against our enemies to fight for the right that we all have – to live freely in our Jewish homeland. Almost as if on the wings of eagles, we were swooped into the crowd carried through by Israeli officials, soldiers, and so many of our family and friends who came to welcome us. So much excitement: Singing, dancing, cheering, and joy.

Often I find myself returning to that one moment, where the emotion completely overtook me as I stood on the stairs departing the plane, and the reality of our aliyah literally took my breath away. I turn back to that moment for strength, or chizuk as some would call it, when I need it most. The beginning of the Aliyah adventure – the Israel side, was a chapter of my life I had been waiting to start for too long – what an exciting opportunity to open up and write about it, but even more so to experience it first hand. Hold on to your seats folks – the real adventure has only just begun! Stay tuned for more on the Cutter Aliyah Adventure – the Israel side!

Jessica Cutter made aliyah with her husband Azi and four children from Long Beach, N.Y., on the Nefesh B’Nefesh (NBN) Charter aliyah flight July 24. 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 more than 57,000 North Americans to Israel. On November 15, NBN will host a ‘5 Towns Aliyah Open House’ at Young Israel of Woodmere Annex for an informal discussion covering a wide range of topics about life in Israel. For more information.

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