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  • kchanaharris

Our Exodus: Part 2

The isolation of homeschooling without a break to play with friends. The fear of going into any store for necessities not knowing if I was going to catch the virus. Worrying if the stores were going to run out of food. Even worse, what if the already underpaid and unemployed people in my neighborhood started to riot? I had already heard gunshots on my street that year; I didn't want to be a part the breakdown of society. My parents and brother who lived nearby stated very clearly they were not venturing out of their houses for anything, not until this had blown over, and we didn't know when that would be.

We just didn't know.

I remember sitting in my car and crying as hard as I could. I sobbed and sobbed. I cried out to God, please help me. This is too much. I’m scared, I don’t know what to do. Please help me get out of this.

That Shabbos my husband woke up with a strange feeling. Over lunch he asked me, what if we went to Israel?

Now we had been living in Israel for almost 10 years before we moved to Cleveland. We fully intended to move back some day. But America has its advantages. My husband loved his job. I could understand my kids teachers. My parents and brothers were close by and I got more help and support than before. That July we moved into our own house, renovated the kitchen, and I had just laid the dirt for a vegetable garden. We'd even adopted two adorable kittens. After a long, hard winter, spring was coming. We weren’t moving anytime soon.

What if we left? He said.

Like, for good?

He was serious, he implored. Maybe just for Pesach. Maybe forever. This is going to get worse. And I think if we don’t leave now they’re going to close the borders and we’ll be stuck here. Plus if the stores run out of food and people can’t work, there will be riots in the streets, he argued.

This felt insane. We couldn’t just leave. We had a house. We didn’t have any plans, or tickets, or where to go in Israel. The apartment we left behind was sublet to a couple expecting a baby; they weren’t just going to leave.

Let’s decide after Shabbos, he said. But I really think this is it.

By Saturday night, my husband was convinced. He started checking the prices of tickets to Israel. One way tickets were cheapest, especially if we didn’t know when we were coming back.

What?! What was this madness? What do you mean we don’t know when we’re coming back?

We called our Rabbi in Israel. He agreed with my husband, and he told us to get on a plane as soon as physically possible. We called my mother in law who still lives on the Kibbutz where my husband grew up, where we met.

If we show up there, can we stay at your house?

Of course, she said. Simple as that.

(Now at this part of the story, it might seem like people were teaming up against me. It's not true. My greatest dream is to live in Israel. The entire time I was in America, I dreamed about going back home to my garden apartment, with my lemon trees, my friends, the sun. But everything was just so sudden. I think many people felt like this at the beginning. Like all of a sudden their lives weren't the same anymore, almost overnight.)

I started to get really nervous now. This felt real and altogether unreal at the same time. I called a very close friend from Cleveland. She didn’t think I should go. I told my parents and they lost it. They were convinced if we left we were going to get the virus en route and possibly die.

I think they also understood that if we left now, we might not come back.

The entire next day was a blur. I cried for the entire day, completely unhinged. We bought tickets. I did laundry and packed our suitcases. My kids kept their distance. When my husband asked if they wanted to leave for Israel, their answer was a resounding YES. No questions asked.

For my entire life I have had a recurring nightmare. There is a disaster, a war, and I have to pack in a hurry and escape with my family. What do I take? A winter coat in case we need to live outside? A knife to protect myself? Food? Water?

That Sunday was my nightmare in real life. I didn’t know if I was packing for two weeks or if I would ever see this house again.

When we bought our house and moved to Cleveland, we had only suitcases, our candlesticks, challah board and my husband's tefillin. We furnished the house with all second hand furniture. My incredibly generous parents bought new toys for the kids. In a year and a half, we had accumulated an entire three story house plus a basement full of stuff. A lifetime worth of things.

I couldn’t think about those right now.

All I could think about was that we were leaving. We were getting on a plane to Israel amidst a terrifying plague and going to the Kibbutz for an undetermined amount of time.

My parents were utterly devastated and terrified and tried everything to convince us not to go.

I cried and packed.

To be continued.

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