When we got to JFK I was paged. My first reaction was that someone was going to tell me that it was all a mistake and my mother was okay. My sister’s in-laws, bless them, came to the airport to keep us company during the five-hour wait for our connecting flight. They brought a closed package of Tam-Tams because they weren’t sure what else I would eat. We arrived safely in my home town and got through the funeral and shiva. I found it was very important for all of us to be together. Being the only unemployed sibling, I was elected to stay on with my handicapped father until my sister could return and arrange care for him. After that I went to NY. I was feeling so lonely (more from my aliyah than my mother’s death) and needed to see my friends. But they were all busy with their own lives and I felt like I was imposing. I couldn’t have been very good company either, even though most people were sympathetic. I did run into one acquaintance who asked, in reference to our aliyah, if we were back already. I explained that I had come back for my mother’s funeral and he said, “Oh, how are things in Israel?”
We came back to Israel, reluctantly. Everyone was getting ready for the Gulf War. Saddam had threatened to fire missiles on Israel if the US attacked Iraq, and although no one could quite believe he would do it, we got the gas masks and baby tent and sealed up our room against chemical and biological attacks. I don’t think we had much faith in them but we did what we were told. My new friends in the community were all panicking and did not seem to be in better emotional shape than I was. One scud landed nearby early on, and I decided to take the baby and visit friends in the Jerusalem area for a few days. One night she needed to use the mikva and left her kids with me. She had a hard time explaining why she had to leave them. Naturally the siren went off, but her children were able to help each other with their masks. My husband and hers were driving home together and didn’t realize the siren had gone off until they saw all the cars stopping. They pulled over until the all-clear. When the satellite determined that a Scud had been launched from Iraq, there was an up-and-down siren. We would go into the sealed rooms and listen to the radio announcing which area of the country was affected. The all-clear was one level tone. In most cities in Israel, a siren goes off on Friday afternoon to signal candle-lighting. This siren was canceled during the war. It took about a year before I could hear any kind of siren without my heart palpitating.
Eventually the attacks lessened. They stopped coming during the day so people felt freer to walk around and didn’t take their masks with them everywhere. Finally, on Purim, the war ended and we rejoiced. I figure if I could get through aliyah, the unexpected death of my mother overseas, a new community with no one I had ever met before except for my husband’s relatives (who were wonderful), pregnancy, and a husband’s super-stressful job, I must be a pretty resilient person. One effect of my mother’s death was that I had one thing less pulling me back to America. Afterward, my husband and I acknowledged that during the war we both thought, separately, that perhaps my mother had died before the war so that she wouldn’t have to see terrible harm come to one of us. I will never be able to make sense of it.
Fast forward to 15 years later. We are living in the same community. I have moved on past my mother’s death although I don’t feel that I have every really dealt with it.We have a few more kids, and try to help others settle here. I even learned how to drive a stick shift (but don’t have one now). My father is still living although not in good health. The rest of my family is also still in the US but my nieces and nephews are starting to visit. I’m not the biggest Zionist on the planet and wouldn’t dream of talking someone else into coming here. On the other hand I couldn’t imagine living in the US. Israel is where life has taken me, and I hope I am doing the best I can to raise my family and contribute to the community.