Aliyah, life, war and being a single mom in the Shuk Jerusalem, Israel
by Elisheva Aron
Three times in the Torah, Jews are called the “stiff-necked” or stubborn people. It’s also in Judaism that three times isn’t just a charm, but rather is called “chazakah” - by becoming strengthened in our sense of self, that stubborn-ness becomes a permanent aspect of life. Lucky for me, being stubborn has stuck with me and helped me with the many challenges of building a life in Israel.
Growing up in Texas, I knew only that it was important for me to find a place to celebrate the Jewish Holidays and traditions - a place where I would not feel strange, or have to explain why I needed the day off.
After my first visit to Israel , I knew it was my home.
In Texas, I was taught to be strong and polite. Strong in character yet polite enough to steer my way through in spite of others telling me I couldn’t do the things that I dreamt possible - things that might seem simple to others, like going to college and learning to live on my own. Being stubborn, I was determined. I did it all anyway - working myself through University, then working to visit Israel, and eventually working to make my life here possible.
When I finally got to Israel in a program learning for a few months, I knew almost immediately that I would get back to America and apply for aliyah. Back in the 1990’s, when many Jews were coming from around the world to find refuge in Israel, I had to be accepted.
After watching the attack on the Twin Towers on 9/11, and experiencing bomb threats at the synagogue I managed for the community in Chicago, I packed up my small apartment, left my job, and literally started my adventure of making aliyah.
I was 28 years old, and many friends and family told me not to go. Of course I didn’t listen, and contacted airlines and travel agencies who were then reluctant to sell me the ticket after 9/11. The airlines absolutely would not sell me a “one way” ticket! I was so determined, I bought a round trip fare and in October 2001, I arrived in Jerusalem then ended up in mystical Tzfat.
Years later, after the paperwork had been filed and I began to find myself at home in this homeland, I found just enough work to get by. The intense experiences piled up on one another… In 2006, during the 2nd Lebanon War I had to leave my rented apartment which was hit by two katyusha rockets while I was at work. The feeling of having just been missed did not escape my mind. Suddenly, I had no place to live and work, and I went to live in the Shuk area of Jerusalem - the poorest and cheapest neighborhood, one a single Olah like me could manage. It is amazing to see the changes that have happened these many years later...
I was blessed to become pregnant but felt challenged and scared by the idea of this new change in my life. And then I remembered that stubbornness that had driven me this far in my life, one I felt so lucky to be living even with all of the hardships. I named my son after my grandfather, an appropriate name, Ben Tzion or “Son of Zion” for the Aron Family coming back to our roots in Israel.
Years later, things were never easy - adjusting to Israeli culture, keeping a job and an apartment, raising a kid by myself. I had no family in Israel and worked constantly. For years, life was putting out multiple fires of relationships, bills, job, kid, school system, learning Hebrew while sounding like an idiot, and all the red tape of Israel that is unnervingly logical to many native born Israelis.
With time, things did get smoother, I learned the best ways to survive and learned to find all the free kid friendly things to do with my son. Israel’s family-friendly society and understanding of parents made raising a child in Israel extra easy and a dream of sharing my family’s history and religion.
I also learned to get by with food from the shuk for next to nothing and enjoy life in Israel with the holidays, free concerts, parks and events. The government gave me benefits of a low priced daycare and I had help with discounts from taxes. Most of all, thankfully, there was always an organization, making sure we got free honey or an appropriate item for the holidays at no cost.
My son now is 10 years old, and it is he who has taught me the most - about myself and what is truly important in life. Together, we have enjoyed our adventures next to the shuk in Jerusalem, living and breathing the essence of this amazing capital city of Israel.
Today, I am thankful I never listened to others, or made excuses. I chose to make my own path here in Israel, and I myself, own the successes and failures. Lots of failures really helped me to learn, and I’m happy to share any information or resources with other moms or dads out there, coping with life in Israel.
Remember to listen to yourself, go for your dream, and never stop or look back. I’m here. Thank God I was “stiff-necked”, and that I’m permanently home in Israel.
Elisheva Aron recently restarted her career and is now interning for Israel Forever Foundation in order to work in Graphic Design, Social Media and to do more proactive work for israel. Born and raised in Houston, Texas and living in Tsfat and Jerusalem for the past 17 years now, she is raising her son next to the Shuk Jerusalem. She photographs the shuk and Jerusalem.