Guest post by Caralee Mahlab Harwood
As a little girl and a young woman, I dreamed of getting married in Jerusalem. Never thought how this would come about as I was growing up in Sharon, MA and San Jose, CA. My dad had moved to Israel in 1950 from Iraq/Iran, and my mom had come to Israel for the year in 1962 to help the young State. They met, married and moved to America. I grew up on stories of their wedding in the not yet finished synagogue at the Givat Ram Campus of the Hebrew University, the cantor showing up after sundown, so their Hebrew anniversary date didn’t correspond to their intended wedding date, the food rationing and everyone bringing their eggs so the festive wedding meal could be prepared. I just thought that one is supposed to get married in Jerusalem.
I came to Israel for the year to learn Torah after teaching high school math for the year at YULA. I was in the process of becoming an observant Jew. (The hand of HaShem in my becoming observant and making aliyah is another story, only partly.) I didn’t know where the Israel year experience was going to lead me. But, before leaving for the year, I asked my parents if I wanted to make aliyah would they come, too. I was an only child, and I didn’t want to be 10,000 miles away for the rest of their lives. They gave me a great gift, and said yes.
While at Nishmat that first year, we had a class on Eretz Yisrael and lots of classes whose content included the mitzvah of living in Eretz Yisrael. Suffice it to say I ran as far away from these classes as possible. Somehow I found myself organizing the Tu B’Shvat Seder for the Shabbaton in Shalavim. As I was leading the Seder with my friends, I was spouting the ideology of the interconnection and dependency between the Land of Israel, the People of Israel and the Torah of Israel. It was a moment of revelation. I knew which path I wanted to take within the People of Israel. I knew I wanted to make aliyah, though I had to make sure I was doing it for me because I had just started dating this American guy who wanted to make aliyah. Who knew if he would still be around a year later after I had already made aliyah? Fifteen amazing years later with four scrumptious daughters, we’re building our family in the heart of the Land of Israel amongst our people. By the way, I had that beautiful wedding under the Jerusalem sky.