I left my heart in San Francisco… and Los Angeles and Munich and Phoenix and Boston and San Jose and San Diego

7 02 2011

Without a doubt the most difficult part of making aliyah is leaving behind those you love.  You can argue all the points about joining in the great Israeli experiment and going forth to build the Jewish future in the Land of Israel.  But, when all is said and done, you are left with the reality that you are indeed far from many of those you love.

Don’t get me wrong!  I am not having second thoughts about moving here.  Indeed, just the opposite.  Israel is my home now and here is where I intend to remain.

But, aliyah is not only about what you are coming to, but also what you are leaving behind.  The first “oleh hadash” (new immigrant) to Israel was Avraham.  Our tradition (Genesis 12) has God telling Avraham:

Go forth from your land and from your birthplace and from your father’s house, to the land that I will show you.

My coming here has focused my mind on this narrative, giving me deeper insight into what Avraham may have been feeling when he left behind his homeland and family on a journey to a land he had yet to see.  While the text in Genesis is silent on what was in Avraham’s heart, the original Hebrew hints to what may have been his inner voice.   “Go forth” is the English rendering of the much more personal Hebrew  לך לך (lech lecha), which  is better understood as “Go for yourself” or “Go to yourself.”  This journey of aliyah is deeply personal, requiring the oleh to dig down deeply into his or her very core.

And yet, I cannot ignore the holes in my heart for my family and friends left behind.  My beloved father and mother, living in Boston and Phoenix respectively, who do not really comprehend my decision to make aliyah, even though I have been talking about it for over thirty years.  I love my parents deeply, and I miss them very much.  I know they are unhappy and fearful about our aliyah.  And, I do understand their sadness and wish there was a way I could make it easier for them.

Then there are my two oldest daughters, Yasmin and Allegra, my precious little girls who are now young women and “launched” into the world.  Yasmin is living and thriving in Los Angeles after having graduated UCLA last spring.  She turned twenty-three the day before we left for Israel.  And my eldest Allegra is on her own adventure in Europe – currently Munich – aiming to take up the exciting and challenging career of gemology.  I am joyously proud of them both for their respective accomplishments in their young lives, and there is not a day that goes by when I do not miss them.

My wife Anat’s family has become my family, too.  And, I left them behind as well.  Her parents Pola and Zvi have always been so loving and supportive of me.  Although they live in the Bay Area, they are Israelis and know what Israel means to us.

Where else have I left my heart?  In Boston with my kid brother Neal.  In Los Angeles with my cousins Avra and John and their sweet little boy Zev.  In San Jose and San Diego with my brother-in-law Micha and sister-in-law Dana and their spouses Kaye and Daniel and all their beautiful children, my nephew and nieces.  In Phoenix with my Uncles Marvin and David and Aunt Marilyn.  And, of course, I left my heart in San Francisco, with all my dear friends.

If you already made aliyah, no doubt you left your heart in many places as well.  If you are contemplating aliyah, you need to know you will leave your heart somewhere.  Yes, it is hard.  And yet, I am at peace knowing that I am home and made the right choice in coming to Israel.  There is no right or wrong answer; one size does not fit all.  Listen to your heart honestly, and let it lead the way.  Maybe, just maybe, you too will לך לך (lech lecha) to this land.

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