Rabbi Leah Kroll has been dreaming about living in Israel since she was a teenager at a Jewish summer camp in California, and now at 55, she has said goodbye to her mother, three adult children and one grandchild, boarded an El Al jet and made aliyah.
The Los Angeles native comes from a long line of Zionists, but it was the little emotional tugs that helped make up her mind.
“Every time I visited Israel and landed at Ben-Gurion Airport, I would stand in the foreign visitors line and look with envy at the people standing in the Israeli citizen line,” she recalled, sitting in her spacious Sherman Oaks home crammed with cartons and suitcases just before her departure.
“In Israel, I feel my soul nourished,” she said. “I feel nourished when I go to the supermarket on Thursday and complete strangers greet me with, ‘Shabbat shalom,’ and when cab drivers wish me, ‘chag sameach.'”
She had a less-elated feeling when she spent time in Israel 2006 at the outbreak of the Second Lebanon War and saw American tourists scurrying to the airport to get out of the country.
“I was embarrassed as an American Jew,” she said. “We always talk a big game; we proclaim that we are one, but now when the chips were down….”