My wife Karen and I made aliyah from New York to Ra’anana last month with 22 other new olim. In the weeks leading up to our move, we had heard the news about the virus that was coming out of China and we realized that it was likely to come to America. In fact, the first case in New York was in a community very close to where we lived.

Suddenly, the synagogue we attended started to make changes to the prayer schedules, and limit the number of people who would be praying at once. As we got closer to the departure date, things in NYC were starting to become much more restrictive in terms of movement and gatherings.

We became a little concerned about deciding not only if would we be able to leave, but also did we want to leave right now? Our healthcare in the United States was already well-established and we didn’t know exactly what our health care situation would be in Israel. However, the overriding feeling we had was that if the illness was going to reach us either way, we felt we would rather be in Eretz Yisrael.

I’ve always wanted to make aliyah, and had the idea constantly in the back of my head - especially now that we have a daughter, her husband, and their new baby living in Israel already. As one of my friends advised me: If you plan on coming to Israel, the longer you wait the more you’re missing out. I knew this was the place I wanted to be, so there really wasn’t much further consideration about staying back in the United States.

Nefesh B’Nefesh was wonderful in terms of keeping us informed about the status of our aliyah flight, and The Jewish Agency was very helpful in getting us all our paperwork so that we could qualify to be on that flight. Everybody who was involved in helping us get to Israel had done their part, and now it was just up to us to do our part and get on the plane.

When we found out that we were going to be in quarantine for 14 days, it didn’t seem like a significant hardship. After all, having moved to a new place, there was probably going to be lots to do within the house in terms of setting it up, getting acclimated, and getting some well-needed rest from the exhausting process of moving to a different country. I personally was looking forward to a few days of rest and relaxation while we set up our humble little apartment in Ra’anana.

In reality, being here has not been such a daunting task at all. We found the neighborhood, our friends, and what few relatives we have here all extremely supportive of our acclimation. They offered us the ability to request what we might need in terms of food or medications, and offered to converse with us to help improve our Hebrew. We also have a dog who people in the neighborhood have very graciously taken for a walk. 

As far as spending two weeks in a room with my wife, she pointed out that it is sort of like camping when we first met. One of the first things we did when we were together was to go camping for five days. Of course, now we had a stove, a refrigerator, and a nice bed to sleep in, but it is a matter of getting to relearn how to cook food with one meat pot and one dairy pot, and just two sets of dishes and two chairs. Someone pointed out it’s sort of like being in a yichud room when you first got married. We went from the chupah to just the two of us in a private room with a little food.

Our biggest concern now is knowing that the whole world is now struggling, and we’re constantly thinking not only of our friends and neighbors but everybody else struggling with the effects of this virus.

With that said, we couldn’t be happier to be in Israel during this time. I can remember many times when I was living in the United States, and Israel was going through some major conflict, and I would think about stopping what I was doing to go to Israel and help out. This time I actually have an opportunity to be here during one of the biggest world crises and am I doing what I can to help.

David Weinstein and his wife Karen made aliyah from Queens with Nefesh B’Nefesh, in cooperation with Israel’s Ministry of Aliyah and Integration, The Jewish Agency for Israel, Keren Kayemeth Le’Israel and JNF-USA.

By David Weinstein