My husband Yosef and I are both returnees to Judaism. We discovered the beauty of a Torah lifestyle rather late in our lives, but as the saying goes, better late than never. Now that we’re approaching sixty and considering early retirement, what finer place to retire to than our ancestral homeland of Israel?

But we still have family and close friends back home, and it won’t be easy to leave them all. We decide to rent an apartment in Jerusalem over the High Holidays, to get a feel for what it will be like to actually live here. Maybe at the end of our holiday, we’ll make the big decision which will impact the rest of our lives.

First What finer place to retire to than our ancestral homeland of Israel?comes Rosh Hashanah, a most meaningful experience, followed by Yom Kippur, truly awesome in every respect. I’ll never forget the sight of all the people dressed in white like angels, drawn through the streets in holy silence on their way to shul . . .

Then comes the joyful sound of hammers ringing as sukkahs are built throughout the city. I love sitting inside our frail little hut, the sheltering warmth of the Shechinah, G‑d’s Presence, like a shawl around my shoulders, as stars sparkle above in Jerusalem’s night sky.

During the intermediate days, I go for a walk while Yosef is schmoozing with a friend. The view from the top of the hill in this neighborhood is breathtaking. Sitting down on a bench to admire it, I wonder what I’ve done to merit being here. What might my ancestors have given for even one moment in Jerusalem?

I think about my Alte Bubbe, my great-grandmother, who left this world many years before I entered it. But I know her name—Rochel Leah—and feel proud to be her namesake. At home I have one treasured photograph of her, an aged woman with a lined, resilient face, dark hooded eyes and large, strong hands.

Though her life was so different from mine, sometimes I try to imagine all the hard work she did with those big, capable hands. Plucking feathers and kashering chickens, cooking meals from scratch on a cast-iron stove, washing floors, scrubbing laundry, expertly braiding Shabbat challah bread and her little daughter’s hair, sewing all the clothing for her entire family.

What would it be like to have a conversation with Alte Bubbe if she could visit me on this glorious day? With the sky glowing blue and the magnificent Jerusalem skyline spread out below, I visualize Alte Bubbe coming to sit down beside me, sharing this amazing vista.

“My dear Rochelle, my great-granddaughter,” she exclaims. “I’m so happy to meet you! Is this really Yerushalayim Ir HaKodesh?”

“Yes, Alte Bubbe,” I assure her. “This is Jerusalem, the holy city. We’re still waiting for the redemption, but it’s a beautiful beginning.”

“And you’re here, meriting to see it? What a blessing! Have long have you been here, my child?”

“We “How long have you been here, my child?” came just before Rosh Hashanah, Alte Bubbe, and this view never fails to amaze me.”

“As the saying goes, ‘May You build up Jerusalem, the holy city, rapidly in our lifetimes.’”

“I think exactly that too, Alte Bubbe!”

“And our holy Kotel (Western Wall)? Can you see it from here?” she excitedly asks.

“Not really, but do you see that tall building sticking up with a point at the top? The Western Wall is near there.”

“And you go to pray there?” she asks eagerly.

“As often as we can, Alte Bubbe!”

“So tell me, my dear granddaughter, what is life like here now? Everything looks so beautiful. You don’t have those terrible pogroms like we did in my day, do you?” she asks anxiously.

“No, Alte Bubbe, but unfortunately we still have problems with some of our neighbors. They hate us and try to hurt us, just like the Russian anti-Semites in your times.”

Tears come into Alte Bubbe’s deep dark eyes as she shakes her head in sorrow. “Oy vey, even now,” she remarks sadly.

Then, across the street, we see a family of young children, sidecurls and tzitzit flying, scampering beside their parents on a Sukkot outing to the park.

“Ah, such sweet little children,” Alte Bubbe comments wistfully. “They look just like my little ones, but nebbach, unfortunately, not all of mine lived to grow up,” she sighs deeply.

“Thank G‑d, we have good doctors and effective medicines now,” I tell her, sharing her pain for the children she lost long ago. Remembering how my younger son Dani had been sick with strep throat but how quickly he recovered with antibiotics, I feel deeply thankful to be living in this era, rather than in Alte Bubbe’s precarious one.

Then we notice two women walking and talking together. They could not be more different from each other—one a sturdy, blonde Russian woman, the other a slender, dark Ethiopian. As they walk along, they converse in fluent Hebrew. Alte Bubbe is amazed and impressed.

“This looks like the ingathering of the exiles,” she comments.

“There are already Jews here from the four corners of the earth,” I tell her. “In this neighborhood alone, we were told there are families from all over the world, even distant places like South Africa and Australia.”

“Wonders and miracles,” Alte Bubbe murmurs.

Gazing admiringly at the apartment buildings with a sukkah built on every porch, she smiles. “At least the sukkahs still look about the same, though in my little village in Lithuania they were freezing cold or wet with rain!”

“Sometimes it can get uncomfortably hot in the sukkah here,” I point out.

“Ah, that’s one of the many problems with this world. In the next world, it’s never too hot or too cold, it’s always perfect,” she smiles contentedly. “Now tell me, my dear one, what are those peculiar things moving along so quickly on that road down there? Are they wagons?”

“They are similar,” I try to explain. “They’re called cars, and we ride in them.”

Alte They’re called cars, and we ride in themBubbe shakes her head in wonderment. “So many new things,” she says. “I could never get used to them. Well, it was wonderful meeting you, my sweet great-granddaughter. I have to be going back now, but first I want to give you a blessing that everything will work out well for you and your husband. Take every opportunity to do good deeds. Moshiach is coming speedily in our days, so I will see you again soon.”

B’ezrat Hashem, with the help of G‑d, soon,” I echo fervently.

The skyline of Jerusalem is still glowing across the horizon, but my visit with Alte Bubbe, which feels strangely real, is over. Yet I continue to sit there on the bench, trying to decide our future. Should Yosef and I simply return to New York after Sukkot ends, or should we come back to live in Israel permanently? Was Alte Bubbe’s message a hint that we should stay here forever? Finally, I rise from the bench and start hurrying home in the bright Sukkot sunshine.