Yesterday at noon we saw off our eldest child at Newark Airport. Josh boarded El Al’s afternoon flight to Tel Aviv. He arrived early this morning local time, a brand new citizen of the State of Israel. This afternoon he and the members of his Gar’in (pre-army aliyah group) will be welcomed to their new home just outside of S’derot in a celebratory ceremony. Those are (s0me of) the facts.
With pride in our hearts, we (along with his brother and sister) accompanied Josh as far as permitted and then hugged and kissed and cried as he crossed the barrier and stepped into the TSA line. Josh has dreamed about this day for many years, and in truth both of us had imagined and dreamed about similar days for ourselves years ago. Yesterday, after months of planning and preparing, he did what I merely imagined; my son chose to make aliyah and to serve in the IDF. I couldn’t be happier for him. Yesterday at noon I felt elated.
Getting ready for yesterday’s departure has been a whirlwind, particularly in the past few days. A special Shabbat celebration and blessing, followed by an open house on the first day of Hanukkah (also Christmas Day this year), and then last minute shopping, organizing and packing. On very little sleep, we got up early to be at the airport by nine in the morning. And by noon we, Josh included, were exhausted. As that enveloping tiredness settled in my bones a profound sadness began to emerge. Nomi and I already miss Josh terribly, and his siblings miss him even more. We’ll see him, of course. My next trip is a mere six weeks away, and more, many more, will follow. On a daily basis, however, we’ll be here and he there, navigating his path, building his life, living his dream. And so, yesterday at noon, I felt sad.
Ibim, the youth village that will be Josh’s home for a few years, adjoins the western Negev town of S’derot. S’derot has been in the news far too much in recent years. It lies all of a couple of miles from the Gaza fence and has far too frequently been the target of rockets fired by Islamic militants on the other side. S’derot has enjoyed a quiet year or so, but in the Middle East one never knows. We sent our eldest off to the ‘Gaza Envelope,’ the area of small towns, kibbutzim, moshavim, and Bedouin villages that surrounds the Gaza Strip to the north and the east. And so, yesterday at noon, I felt worried.
Elated and proud, joyful and sad, exhausted and worried, all before lunch! Yesterday at noon as our family squeezed in that one last group hug before Josh stepped forth we held all of those seemingly competing and contradictory emotions together. Some of it, I’m sure, is simply what it means to parent a young adult. Some of, I suspect, is very specific to the experience of one’s child choosing to make aliyah. All of it came home with us from Newark Airport yesterday afternoon.
During Hanukkah’s first days, the skies grow darker as the moon disappears. The turnaround happens on day six, always Rosh Hodesh Tevet, marking the first crescent of the new moon. Only a few more nights to go; I’m looking forward to it.