Thursday, April 23, 2015

So Far Away- Thoughts from America on Yom HaAtzmaut

I suppose that the timing, this week, of finding out that I will not be back in Israel this summer, is rather fitting. Between the passing of Rav Aharon Lichtenstein, on Rosh Chodesh Iyar, and the distance I feel from Israel on this Yom HaAtzmaut, I find myself feeling so much more than 6000 miles away from Israel, and wondering what might have been.

Almost 17 years ago, for reasons both good, and less good, we left Israel, after living there for two years. Since that time, I have often wondered “What if?”. What would our life, and, maybe even more importantly, our children’s lives, be like? Where might we live? Where would I be teaching?

Today. as I look at pictures, posted by friends in Israel, I think of what my children are missing. It is not just that my kids only get half of a falafel, instead of having a barbecue, and have a regular day of school, instead of having a family tiyul. I think about their education, and wonder where and what they would be learning. Dreaming, I wonder, might one of my children try and enter the Chidon HaTanach? Could one (or more!) of our sons learn Torah, and do hesder in the Gush?

Ah, the Gush! In many ways, it has become my favorite place to visit in Israel. I can almost smell the sweet smell of fruit trees, as I picture myself stepping foot on the beautiful campus. I think back to my first time there as an 18 year-old, oblivious to what I was seeing, hearing, and experiencing. How can I not think of my last time there, last summer, as I finally got the opportunity to attend a day of the Yom Iyun in Tanach? The opportunity to hear shiurim from some of my spiritual heroes, and to catch a glimpse, unbeknownst to me, for the very last time, of Rav Aharon.

So why am I writing this? More than anything, I write as Holden Caulfield, or perhaps the ghost of Yom-HaAtzmaut-future, trying to suggest, no, to urge, my children and students to learn from my mistakes. While there is probably nothing that can fully extinguish my dream that we will someday make it back to Israel, this time for good, the best time to go is when you are young. For some, that will mean shortly after high school. perhaps after a year of yeshiva or seminary. For others, it could be after finishing college, or newly married. Either way, GO! Sometimes, dreams deferred are left unfulfilled. Trust me, you don’t want to be looking back in 20-30 years wondering what might have been.


  1. When we were in Yerushalayim as a newly married couple, each of us learning, I happened to go into a store to get a few things. An Israeli behind me in line struck a conversation while we were waiting, and he grew visibly upset when I told him that we'd be returning to the states whenever our money ran out. As we parted, he said, "You have to make aliyah not for yourselves, but for your children. Don't put the responsibility of aliyah on them." 17 years after that conversation, we made aliyah with our 3 kids. I sometimes wonder what would have happened if we had made aliyah sooner, but then I realize that each person comes when the time is right. The trick is making sure you know that the time will come, and knowing to take advantage of the right time.

  2. Wow, tough read. Good job writing it. Wishing you all the best.