We started the first step of Aliyah, the trip to the airport from Logan, on 25th December 2016. During the night a heavy snowfall dumped ten inches of wet snow. I went out just before sunup to shovel our driveway and sidewalks, and after, learned our flight would be delayed at least three hours because of the weather. If not exactly at the time planned, we were to go from heavy mountain snow to Mediterranean breeze.
Both tension and excitement, joy and sadness accompany travel, even more poignantly during emigration. I’ve wondered at the way the last minutes before a departure endow clarity. In those fleeting moments at home in Logan, when I stopped to lean on the shovel and look up at the snow-covered mountains, breathe deeply of the crystalline air, I realized with new eyes my children, grandchildren, and friends were nearby and other family and friends were at least in the same country. Replete with gratitude and yearning, I longed in those moments to be in two places at once. My community in Logan and my sojourns/previous stays in Israel seemed to have fallen on me through no credit of my own. As a poet whose name I can’t remember said, “[it felt] like a miracle come down on the breakfast table”.
Love and amity: a gift.
In the same moment of thankfulness, I knew I had at least two homes. I knew that in Israel I would yearn toward Utah, to be with our middle son and his wife and children, with the widow of our eldest son and their children, with friends, and within fairly easy reach of other family. And once in Utah I knew, in turn, I would yearn towards Israel, our youngest son and our many friends in cities, on kibbutzim, in towns and in the army.
Utah. Family dinners, days with the grandchildren and children; Shabbat studies with our havurah; snow!; visits with our good and generous neighbors, hiking the Bonneville trail, Brith Sholem nearby . . .
Israel. Sharing our youngest son’s life; visiting the Kotel where, with thousands of other names, all our children’s names rest in hope for safety, with thanks, and, for the lost one, in grief. Israel, where the land meets the sea and reflects the restless stability so much a part of almost any human’s existence and the sweet moist air softens the skin; where Friday, Shabbat, and Sunday dovetail in a triumvirate and more of beliefs, and we spend the weekend with friends on the kibbutz. Israel, where everywhere I turn, Hebrew, which I work so hard to recall from deep in my memory —
all of this, I’ll leave it too and I’ll feel the same gratitude as I felt leaning on my shovel knee-deep in the snow of the Bear River Range.
Emigration/Immigration is a choice, a difficult choice because when you arrive, you have also left and when you leave you also arrive.
Many don’t understand, but it is your life to love Utah and to love Israel, and you travel, ever thankful, ever aware a person may have more than one home, and so, will carry them always on the compelled journeys of a whole and divided heart.
In the poem “Renascence,” Edna St. Vincent Millay wrote:
. . .
The world stands out on either side
No wider than the heart is wide.
Above the world is stretched the sky –
No higher than the soul is high.