Monday, August 10, 2020

Celebrating Fifty 50 Years in Israel, Part 1

I've chosen this photo to head my celebratory post, because it's "dreamy," and for me life in Israel, the Holy Land is definitely living a dream.     
next to the boat
next to the ship

Some of you may have read my husband's post about our aliyah, move to Israel,  Fifty Years to Our Aliyah.   I promised friends and family my version of the story. My "version" isn't to disparage my husband's. It's just that everyone knows that we all remember things slightly, or sometimes not quite "slightly," differently. Each perspective adds to the richness and accuracy.

Neither my husband nor I come from  a Zionist family. Not only wasn't the idea of moving to Israel an ideal we were raised with, but the idea was never even mentioned. My Uncle Izzy had been one of the American volunteers on the pre-state ships defying the British bringing Holocaust survivors to the Holy Land, but he didn't talk about it at all. 

It was only after a few years of my being a member and office holder in NCSY-National Conference of Synagogue Youth and a prominent activist in SSSJ-Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry that a high school friend, Dennis Avi Lipkin, introduced me to the concept/ideology of "aliyah-moving to Israel, the Holy Land, the Land of Israel." Dennis brought me to a Betar Zionist Youth Movement meeting, and I was hooked. 

The more I had learned about American History, the more I was convinced that the United States was a Christian country. I wanted to live as a true Jew in the Jewish State. Aliyah was the perfect solution. My time during my final high school year was split between becoming more Torah Observant, campaigning to rescue Soviet Jewry from the communists and preparing myself for life in Israel. As you may well imagine, that left little time for studies. I even skipped my GNN'67 graduation, because it was interfered with NCSY National Convention. Priorities!

Betar prides itself on being welcoming to all Jewish youth, regardless of their religious observance or not. I quickly imagined that a religious Betari would be just perfect for me, although during that first year as a member, nobody seemed to fit the bill. The following summer, between high school graduation and the beginning of my studies in YU's Stern College for Women, I attended SSSJ's "Fast-In for Soviet Jewry" on the Tisha B'Av fast. That's where I met  "Winkie" who is today known officially as Yisrael Medad and is now my husband. He had just returned from a year in Israel.

Just under three years after we had met for the first time, we got married and two months later we boarded the Greek Lines Anna Maria along with over five hundred others making aliyah to Israel, the Jewish Holy Land. We were all set to live the dream.

with family, our bon voyage party
our bon voyage party, with family

Family and friends accompanied us onto the ship for a rousing bon voyage party. We were full of smiles, though not all the family felt the same. We had made the arrangements, and even had a job lined up. It was a fait accompli for sure. Fifty years down the road we are still in Israel, as are our children and grandchildren.

We weren't the only ones traveling on the Anna Marie to begin new lives as Israelis in Israel. Over five hundred other Jews were with us. Besides friends and family wishing all of us a bon voyage, there were news crews. I was interviewed for a television news show. I remember explaining that as a Jew I needed to live in a Jewish country not a Christian one. Our families reported that they featured me and my answer on TV.

For close to two weeks we enjoyed the vacation facilities, three meals a day, movies and entertainment on the ship. They provided lots of kosher food. Not only was there a separate kosher dining room, but a sizable section of the main dining room had been roped off for kosher food only. We were assigned to a table in the main dining room which we shared with a family moving to Jerusalem. 

There were a few other newlywed couples, pre-children, like ourselves, and we enjoyed their company. Towards the end of the "cruise" there were two stops, Lisbon and Piraeus, so we got to tour a bit. Finally we docked in Haifa Port after Shabbat, September 5, 1970.

Jewish Agency and government Aliyah clerks boarded the ship to register us as "Israelis." There were also journalists excited to write write up the historical unprecedentedly large aliyah from the USA. In addition we were greeted by a young New York Betari, Barry Liben, who was on the program my husband had been on four years earlier. Barry had been entrusted with the responsibility of finding us accommodations for our first night together in Israel. He joined us on the special bus to Jerusalem and then snuck us into the dormitories of Machon Limadrechei Chutz L'Aretz, where he was studying. Barry had convinced one the of the girls to give me a bed and my husband was in his room. A few years later, Barry married my husband's cousin and built a thriving travel business

hanging laundry, Maon Betar
hanging laundry in Maon Betar

The job we had was actually in my husband's name. He was the dorm counselor/director of the Maon Betar in the Old City of Jerusalem. Residents were university students, singles and special cases... 

We were given a one bedroom apartment with minimal kitchen and furnishings. It didn't have a washing machine, and I'd fill the bathtub with laundry, which I washed by hand. Then I'd hang it on the unfinished terrace. After a few months the terrace was closed off and roofed. So my husband began hanging it on the domed roof of the building, which puzzled the Arab women who hung their wet laundry on the neighboring roof tops. 

I think this post is long enough as an "introduction" or part 1. Gd willing, I'll write more in the future about our first year in Israel as Israelis.


Anonymous said...

Hello Batya,

First of congratulations to you and your husband on your 50 years in Eretz Israel. May you soon see, along with all the rest of the world, the coming of Mashiach, Amen.

I read of your 50 years first on My Right Word. And it was interesting to read the details of your aliyah along with the beautiful pictures posted there, and now on your blog too.

You were then, and to date even now, a beautiful, person, wife, mother and grandmother.

Hashem bless you and all your family. Amen.

Thanks again for a nostalgic and wonderful read of your Aliyah.


Batya said...

Thank you so much

Ester Katz Silvers said...

Very interesting. Could you label the pictures?

Batya said...

With this new stuff on blogger, picture labeling isn't working well.

HDG, Yerushalayim, E"Y Shlemah said...

Mazal tov, Batya!!!

Here's the link to your husband's version of this post. I tried getting there through your link, but it appears that your link doesn't work, so I looked it up:

May your next 50 years be as merry; may your family grow exponentially and may you both live to see it; may your family and all of us see the coming of Mashiah!


Batya said...

I'll try to fix the link
another 50 years and I'll have surpassed 120

ester said...

Your brother (?) sure looks like Gani. 馃槉

Batya said...

Winkie's cousin