I have been mulling over the theme of family and belonging lately, and I started writing about it last week.
There are so many ways to define family. Most of us think of family as our closest relatives - spouse, children, parents, siblings. Then, there are some families who are very much enmeshed with a larger circle of relatives - aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents. Some, and I have been lucky enough at times to enjoy this, even embrace second cousins and beyond. I have second cousins and second cousins once removed dotting this country up and down. MOST are in the Jerusalem area, but some are even here in the North. I have first cousins here in the North too. All of this is great. Sometimes we'll be out somewhere and bump into one of those 100 or so cousins (first or second, no matter), and then the country feels like one big family to me.
Other days, we feel like we're all alone. And that's where the other "family" comes in. Those people whom you adopt as your family. We have a small group of homeschooling families, from all around, 1/2 an hour or so in every direction, who get together regularly. In a way, we have become family.
How can I say this? No, it's not that I take the definition of family lightly. But let me explain. When I first made Aliyah (yes, I've done this twice), I really really wanted my sister to do so with me. She didn't. (This was about 20 yrs ago.) So, I went to university here, and made friends with the other olim (there were quite a few, even 20 yrs ago), and we all took care of each other, like family. We didn't have a "home" to go to like our Sabra counterparts, when we were sick, or on vacation, or just to rest on Shabbat. So we made our own little homes, and carved out our own little groups who acted as family.
So when one of our homeschooling friends told us she was pregnant, and worried about feeling all alone right after the birth, we all decided to pitch in. Some people live really close to her, and have been able to help out with her older kids. Some of us cooked up a storm and are storing food in our freezers for her, which will be delivered later in the week... We all call, and sent gifts, and we're all trying to fill in for her absent family. I truly hope that she, and other olim, no longer have to feel alone. We can all support each other, even just emotionally...