By Micol Bayer, Special to the Jewish Sound
“Are you still going?”
“Are you sure you don’t want to change your mind?”
Even if my friends and family did not voice these questions, I knew what was on their minds throughout the past month. My answer never changed: “Yes, we are still making aliyah.”
In the middle of a war. And no, we are not are not changing our plans. On July 21, 2014, four days after the Israel Defense Forces entered into a ground operation phase of “Tzuk Eitan,” Operation Protective Edge, my husband and I moved our family from Seattle to Israel. We boarded a Nefesh B’Nefesh charter flight from New York with 220 other people: An entire airplane full of families, singles entering the army, a Holocaust survivor celebrating his 88th birthday, and a bride carrying her wedding gown whose fiancé is fighting in Gaza. Not one person on that flight changed his or her plans.
As hard as it was to leave our family and friends in Seattle, we felt we were doing something important for our family and for the Jewish people. All I kept thinking was: After months and years of planning for this, how could I jump ship at a time when my family and friends in Israel are under fire? So, yes, we are still going. Now more than ever! Plenty of pictures on Facebook, memes, and hashtags encouraged us that we were doing the right thing. Even now. Especially now!
We are living our personal dream of 13 years, our national dream of thousands of years. With the help of Nefesh B’Nefesh, we are making this dream a reality. From the moment my husband and I decided that now is the right time in our lives to “live the dream,” Nefesh B’Nefesh walked us through every step of the process. An organization, started 12 years ago by two people with the idea of making it easier for North American Jews to make aliyah, has now become a professional organization that streamlines the aliyah process for thousands of new olim.
During the flight our aliyah documentation was processed by Nefesh B’Nefesh professionals. We made new friends on the plane while our paperwork was being processed so that by the time we landed we would already be new Israeli citizens. We arrived the next morning on the 51st NBN flight, welcomed to Israel by an amazing group of NBN staff.
On every previous NBN charter flight, there had been a huge welcome ceremony at Ben Gurion Airport. This year, things were different. Because of security measures, family and friends were not permitted to greet us. Instead, enthusiastic members of the Nefesh B’Nefesh family escorted us into the airport waving flags and singing. We felt like rock stars!
As a Tel Aviv Crossfit team organized our luggage, we listened to speeches by Israel’s leaders telling us ours would be the most historic NBN flight to date. They thanked us for coming especially now, at this incredibly difficult time. Natan Sharansky, a true Jewish hero, told my kids and me how important we are for the Jewish people and that our coming on aliyah now is the perfect answer to our enemies. That is a moment I will treasure forever!
At the same time, my mind raced. Yes, of course we worry about the war as any parents would. We prepared our children for the possibility of a siren while we were in the airport. Yet, somehow, the fear of that reality turned into pride that we are actually, finally here. There’s nowhere else I’d rather be.
At the very moment I feel the strength of the Israeli people, they tell me how I strengthen them. Every person here, from the banker who opened our account to the taxi driver who drove us to the Kotel to the man who sold us our first appliances, every person told us how much it means to them that we made aliyah now. Many thanks to everyone who has welcomed us home with open arms and to Nefesh B’Nefesh for making our dream a reality. Keep those hashtags coming!
Micol Bayer is a third-generation Seattle native. She is a papercut artist voted Best Ketubah Artist by JTNews readers and will reopen her Micol Designs studio in Israel. Her husband, Rabbi Aaron Bayer, served as Judaic principal at Seattle Hebrew Academy for the past two years. They will be living in Efrat with their three children.