…his beautiful wife and their beautiful daughters landed in Israel this morning. That’s it – they’ve come home. Not to visit – never again will Yaakov be a visitor here. Then again, I’m not sure he ever was. There were two things in Yaakov’s heart – for as long as I have known him (okay, three). One was his family; two was Shoshana; and three was Israel.

I’m once again feeling sad for his parents and thrilled for me. As when Chaim moved here, there is a part of me that aches for their mother just as the rest of me celebrates.

Yaakov was the first of his siblings (at least that I know of), who made it clear Israel was to be his home. I might be wrong about the order – it’s kind of hard to tell – but as of about 6:00 a.m. Israel time – Yaakov’s parents now have four Israeli children (and four Israeli grandchildren). Four out of four…they’ve all chosen to live in this land and while I know it is hard for their family in America…I’m walking around feeling so happy.

Yaakov looks…amazing. They all look amazing. I’ve seen pictures, but the girls are even more beautiful than the pictures. There is a special look that someone has when they are whole again. I remember leaving my heart in Israel when I was 16 years old and then living for another 16 years with this divide. When I landed, my husband met me with flowers…and my heart stood behind him asking what had taken me so long.

For a long time, there was a part of Yaakov’s heart that belonged here and each time he came here, I think he left more and more of it. I lived that way for years – my heart in one place, my body in another. It was something I recognized in Yaakov right away, which is, I think, why I have always felt this special connection with him.

My children have never know this feeling, of having a fundamental part of themselves in some distant land. To be whole, in body, soul and heart is an important thing. If you’ve ever lived without your heart, I think you can recognize it easily in others. Some people want to come to Israel; some people NEED to come.

I can’t describe what it feels like to know something fundamental to your being is missing – within reach, but so far away; and I can’t describe the feeling of what it is like – that moment when they come back together and you finally feel whole. That’s the look I saw on Yaakov’s face today when he smiled.

Elie first met Yaakov the year after he finished high school. Yaakov went into the army; Elie moved to a different pre-army program, but Yaakov remained his friend and quickly became part of our family, part of our lives.

I learned so much from Yaakov and he didn’t seem to mind that it was all new to me – that army business, the concept that soldiers come home tired and starving. I didn’t know about those army ceremonies – but after his first ceremony, I never went to another ceremony without a ton of food.

Yaakov told me he would be coming back to Israel…I hoped he would; I believed he would. Yaakov and Chaim (and their sisters) are very devoted to their parents – wonderful people who should be so so proud for having raised such amazing kids. And from the start, we knew that Yaakov was devoted to Shoshana and that they would marry. They’ve got two daughters.

This morning Yaakov asked me what they should call me…offering me variations on grandmother in Hebrew. Wow…I have to talk to his mother about that one but what an incredible honor that he even thought to ask. It is his way of saying I am as much a second mother to him as he is a …well…second/fourth/first adopted son to me.

I am much better at giving love than accepting it – to know these guys love me, love my children and consider them brothers and sisters fills me with awe.

And I love how they did what they did this summer. Chaim is spending the summer in the States with his mother and father…this eases the fact that he lives here now and that today, their last two children came to a place they have longed to be and consider home. He could have been here to greet Yaakov; instead, he chose to be there so that the shock of having their last two children move across the world was softened by the knowledge that home is always where their parents are…and also the place where they choose to live.

I love the fact that Chaim thought to be there to ease this slide into a new reality – and I love the fact that their older sister was there to greet Yaakov on this side of the ocean. And one of the best scenes of all was watching Mera’s two little girls…and Yaakov’s two little girls together jumping, playing, hugging.

I’ve been really preoccupied with myself lately. I woke early to go to the airport and suddenly thought – maybe we should leave earlier (thankfully, we didn’t because we still waited 2 hours after we got there). And then I thought…I did nothing for them…so I went to the kitchen and made chocolate chip cookies (I did that when Yaakov was in the army) and brought them.

That helped – but I still forgot so many things. I tell my kids not to go anywhere without water (it’s a very hot country and you have to get used to always taking water!)…and this morning, I left for the airport without water! Luckily, Mera (their oldest sister) thought of everything – including the signs to welcome them!

My operation is next week – this Shabbat, I am desperately hoping to host all of them … minus Chaim unless he wants to fly home for this…I haven’t even counted the numbers yet – 4 of them, 4 of them, 3 of them, 2 of them and 2 of them and 4 of us…that’s 19. I can do 19.

Today, Yaakov came home and my heart is smiling because he was smiling so much at the airport; there was such joy. He spoke Hebrew right and left to people – more proof that he’s come back.

If there is one memory I will carry with me of this day, it will be Yaakov’s smile. It was so loud, I could hear it and even as I looked, I knew I was seeing straight through to his heart smiling.

Yaakov is home and I know that Israel is better for it!

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