Sometimes we’re gifted with a dream; it floats in front of us, sparkling, and occasionally dancing to its own enchanting tune. The dream will play with our imagination and grow to glorious sizes as we stare at it in admiration. Eventually a day comes when it stops, and seems to lag behind. Then a sudden moment where we realise that we must grab onto the dream with urgency, or it’ll fade away and never live in the real world.

That moment came to us while we were sitting in our Toronto apartment, researching our life options. Mendy and I had one little toddler, and another child on the way.

“Let’s do it.” Mendy said. “Let’s go.”

I couldn’t help but break into a big smile. “We have four months to get on a plane. After that I’ll be too pregnant to fly.”

The last time I left Israel, I felt a piece of my heart stay behind. I had spent a wondrous year in the Holy Land, and I didn’t want to leave. In my heart of hearts I knew I’d be back soon. The dream of building a new village was dancing ahead of me.

I met my husband shortly after and we began to dream together. We needed a new community for young Chabad families to live. A place where everyone could live their happy lives, while contributing to the world on a large scale. A community that felt like family and supported each other through the good and the bad. A village that understood the wisdom of old chassidic values, and knew how to bring it to life in the modern world. We let our dream grow and grow, until it began to fade in the face of reality.

Israeli bureaucracy is hard enough for people who are fluent in Hebrew and have connections. Our Hebrew was barely there and our understanding of politics was just enough to know how complicated it is. We were doing fine in Toronto with our basic jobs, family nearby, and predictable future. The dream was too wild.

We decided to give it one last shot. Research told us that the most likely place to build was in the Negev. Perfect. I loved the Negev. We called up a representative from Nefesh B’Nefesh’s Go South faction. We told her about our dream; she encouraged us on. Call Yehuda, she said. Yehuda works for the president’s office in Be’er Sheva. In the settlement faction. He’ll help you.

Our Hebrew wasn’t good enough to call Yehuda. So we emailed him. We wrote up our plan, carefully translated it into broken Hebrew, and emailed him. We didn’t know if we’d get a response, but it was worth a try.

He replied. “I’m happy to hear this idea. Come to Be’er Sheva and we will discuss it.”

He also wrote that we should gather a strong-willed group, and be prepared for up to ten years of struggle.

That was our moment. We’d grab it now, or never. The next day we were at the Toronto office of the Jewish Agency. The lady smiled at our dream. We filled in some papers. Our Aliyah file was open.

Be’er Sheva – the largest city in the Negev.

There were many times when we could have given up. My mother was born in Be’er Sheva, meaning she had Israeli citizenship – and so did I. Her parents left with her when she was six weeks old, meaning she knew nothing about her documentation. I needed to gather all the information from her and my Bubby, just so that I could get my mother’s passport. Then I needed to get my parent’s marriage certificate from Argentina, in order to fill in the information on my passport. Argentina bureaucracy is whack, and so we had to hire someone in the country to get the papers for us. It took months, and I was only getting more pregnant. We knew that if we didn’t get on the plane before I entered my eighth month, we’d have to wait another year until our baby was old enough for such a move. And dreams fade. We needed to run with it.

We finally had all the papers we needed to get my Israeli passport. We drove for an hour to the Israeli consulate. My mother came along to sign her documents. I was seven months pregnant. We had made it just in time. Or so I thought.

“You need this marriage certificate translated from Spanish to Hebrew by a notarised Israeli translator. I don’t know if there is one in Toronto.” The woman behind the counter seemed only a little sorry to be saying those words. To me, they were crushing.

So my overwhelmed pregnant self began to cry. “But I need it now.”

I sobbed and told her about all the work we did until now.

“Wait here for a few minutes. I’ll see what I can do.”

My mother told me to sit down. I refused. This couldn’t happen. I needed that passport now. Ten minutes later the woman was back. She was smiling.

“Here’s your mother’s passport, and here is yours. Welcome home.”

I wanted to hug her. There was music in my head and my heart was dancing again. We booked our flight tickets for two weeks time.

It was the Shabbos before our flight when we realised what we were doing. My husband began to wonder if we were really doing the right thing, or maybe just caught up in something crazy. Were we really flying to Israel on Monday? To Be’er Sheva where we knew no one? To build a village in the desert? We had gathered a nice small group – but what were we bringing them to? Were we ready to work through some intense bureaucratic mess and all the politics it entailed?

The Rebbe always wrote good advice to people. Maybe if he read through the Igros Hakodesh he’d find advice written to someone in a similar situation. What would the Rebbe say?

So Mendy opened up the Igros and began to read. He had opened up to a random page, but the letter was quite interesting. It got more interesting as it went along.

“It is surely unnecessary to emphasise at length the urgency of the project under discussion, for it concerns new Olim from a certain country, who arrive in the Holy Land with a great deal of enthusiasm and receptiveness. But unless they be contacted soon after arrival and given the opportunity and facility to translate their inspiration into concrete and tangible experience in their daily life, they are in danger of being swept away by undesirable forces, with the result that their enthusiasm might quickly evaporate and give way to disenchantment, which would then make it much more difficult to set them on the right track. And although these “derailed” Olim must also not be given up, and as our Sages of the Mishna declare, “To save even one Jewish soul is to save a whole world,” nevertheless, it requires far less effort to do the job at the right time and thus being able to use the excess effort in saving so many more souls. I need not elaborate to you on the importance of conservation and the most efficient utilisation of resources.

“Now that we are about to celebrate the festival of Mattan Torah, we are once again reminded that the first word of our accepting the Torah was Na’aseh – we will do – and then V’nishma, emphasising the principle of immediate action in all matters of Torah and Mitzvoth.

“May G‑d grant that you should have good news to report in all above.” 

(Read the full letter here)

The urgency. We needed to keep that urgency. Just do it. We’ll figure out the details as we go along.

“Wait.” Something looked too familiar. I had read Mendy’s grandfather’s book, A Place of Their Own. This letter looked like it could have been written to Zeide Kalms. “You have to show this to your Zeide. Ask if it was written to him.”

It was. The Rebbe had rushed Zeide Kalms through building a community for olim. And with that sense of urgency, we clutched onto our dream, and boarded our El Al flight to Israel.

A week later we were at Yehuda’s government office door.

“We’re here to talk about our new village.”