One Has Flown The Nest
Yesterday was a day of such highs and lows – with the emotional metronome switching back and forth between the two. I hadn’t slept in days, neither had my son, but the night before his Aliyah I tucked him in, and left a soft kiss upon his brow – something I hadn’t done in years.
We said good bye to Aryeh, as he and 126 other young people like him made Aliyah, with the intention of joining the IDF. His Nefesh b’Nefesh charter flight was full of others making Aliyah. The soldiers, the families, the singles, the retirees – all together over 300 people changed their lives for the better yesterday. Some of the girls were cute too – I hope he got their numbers.
We were up at the crack of dawn yesterday to get ourselves to JFK. My son was so excited that he was practically vibrating with joy. Arriving at Terminal 4 and seeing all the other youngsters waiting in line – well, that kicked it up several notches for him. I exchanged several understanding looks with the other moms there. Aryeh had wanted to be there so early and I was grumpy about it. Getting there so early, we were still about 50th in line. So yeah, my son was right.
It took about an hour for him to get through the registration, security and check in, snagging a cool T-shirt along the way that they gave to all the young people going to the army.
We then had about two hours left to wait for the farewell ceremony to start. Aryeh’s father and great-aunt joined me, the KoD and my boys, and we took lots of pix and spent time with our Aryeh. He was busy greeting friends left and right, and giving interviews to various different publications. He was bouncing with excitement.
There was a farewell ceremony which featured short speeches by all the important folk, and ended with all of those assembled singing Hatikvah. I was fine until that moment. Singing Israel’s national anthem undid me. I peeked at my son – his tears were flowing too. His dream was becoming a reality. [Note to self: teach the younger boys the words].
Many hours later, this video was posted online, of Aryeh singing Hatikvah at the Welcome Ceremony in Israel. He’s the dude in the flag.
Before I relinquished him to his friends and the flight into his future I blessed him as I do most Friday nights. I said out loud the bracha of Shehechyanu – thank you God for bringing us to this moment. There, in the swirling maelstrom of hundreds of people saying goodbye, I reminded my son how very much he is loved, and how very proud we are of him.
The pride in my heart waged war with the sadness of goodbyes. My first son to leave home. My eldest. Surrounded by loved ones who came to wish him well he took this big step. He hugged us all and waved goodbye. One of the next pictures I had of him was him landing in Israel with the biggest smile on his face that I have ever seen. His joy is my joy.
My other boys held my hand, and put their arms around me and were so solicitous as we walked to the car, the KoD providing a strong shoulder for me all morning. I didn’t expect the thump of sadness that was delivered to my heart. It hurt to leave, it hurt to say goodbye. But that smile on his face? I knew he’d be ok.
Being a blogger and a social media person, I have blogged and Facebooked this whole process, from the opening of his Aliyah file, to him landing at Ben Gurion. I have tweeted and updated and shared this whole journey with the world (with my son’s blessing).
Many people have reached out to me saying they never considered how it felt for their parents when they made Aliyah and left them behind. They felt that sharing in my joy (and sadness) and my real-time updates gave them a better perspective. They appreciated how supportive we have all been of our son – not stopping him, not giving him guilt, just encouraging him and helping him. In my mind there was no choice. He knew five years ago when he first stood at the Kotel at the age of 13 that he needed to come home. As he said yesterday in a radio interview – he felt that God had tapped him on the shoulder. In his mind this was his only option. I’ll never forget his surprise at how moved he felt at the Kotel that day.
His younger brothers will follow. It’s all they talk about. He has paved the way for them – shown them it can be done, and with the right kind of help and support they can make Aliyah too. I’m told that saying goodbye to subsequent children is still just as hard as saying goodbye to the first.
In the fullness of time I will watch each of them walk through that wall of love that greets Olim when they arrive in Israel. Please God one day I will take that walk too.
ETA: My brother just called to tell me that my crying face made it onto the national news broadcast in Israel tonight….Oy! LINK HERE.
Ynet article in Hebrew including an interview with Aryeh and myself, with another video embedded – click here.