The Story behind “from Bogota to Madrid to Jerusalem”

Chaya Diane Hager’s first book, From Bogota to Madrid to Jerusalem, is a memoir where she explores how she slowly began her search that finally led her to make Aliyah (in three days). This book is a quest for authenticity, a sincere and personal story, which describes an awakening to her hidden legacy. It explores the observance of Judaism from an apparent simple perspective. However, through its personal story and in between the lines, it slowly turns into a profound contemplation which will lead the reader to ponder deeply about all which ties him to his legacy.
     The book describes the first five years of the family’s Aliyah as she narrates her journey which begins by describing how challenging it was to take the first steps and decide to leave everything behind, and continues through the first years of her family’s life in Jerusalem. It is a book that you won’t want to put down. This story will make you think, will make you laugh, will make you cry, and most certainly, will make you dream.

“I knew that we could not have a house like the one we had in Madrid! I knew that if we truly wanted to make Aliya, I must accept the fact that we would live a completely different lifestyle.

At that moment my lips involuntarily formed these words: ‘A house is no more than bricks and cement. What you build within, what you make of it is what counts. What good is a grand house if my children want to leave? I would a thousand times rather a small house surrounded by my family, than an immense, empty one. Bricks and cement. A house is no more than bricks and cement…! But my lips said one thing and my eyes something else entirely. ‘Are you blind, Diane? Can you really imagine bringing your children who are used to living in such large house, here? How will they even fit into such tiny apartment? In Spain you always gave them the best-how can you give them so little now? …then finally my heart decided to intervene openly. Perhaps even the taxi driver heard its beat. “If you buy a house in Eretz Yisrael, you are not buying square feet. You are buying a neighborhood and friends for your children. With all its streets to play in, your children will not need much room. If you buy a home in Eretz Yisrael, you are buying a synagogue nearby and the prayers that you will hear through your window. You will be buying the unique atmosphere of Shabbos in Jerusalem. You will be buying the most beautiful thing a child can grow up with: freedom. For only a few square feet in Eretz Yisrael, your children will have the freedom to play, grow, and develop as Jews without having to hide from anyone. They will aspire to establish their own Jewish homes one day, and thus your grandchildren will also be Jews. You will be buying neighbors, Jews like you, united by no less than three thousand years of history, with everyone belonging to the Land, celebrating all its festivals, and laughing and crying over the same things.

      When you go up to live in Eretz Yisrael, you are buying your own authenticity—you will be true to yourself. This has no price at all; were you to appraise this, the richest millionaire could not afford it. Listen to me, Diane, to your heart; don’t let yourself be deceived by a pair of eyes blinded by luxury and comfort. What you leave behind in the Diaspora is so little compared to all you will gain from life in Eretz Yisrael. Can anything be more important than the education of your children? Can you give them something greater? Of course it will be hard, very hard, with you and your husband starting from zero, but the hardest thing to do is to plant. Once the hard season of sowing is over, what rewards you will reap! Diane, your eyes are blind, seeing no further than the superficial and the present. Think about the future and listen to me, to your heart. Come to Israel, Diane, come soon!”

“Hashem,” I thought, “a tiny little house, no garden, not even a terrace, I’ll plant my flowers in the window…but let it be pretty, let it have light… Hashem, help me…I feel so lost. What shall I do? How shall I know what You want of us? How shall I know which path to choose?”

       This book was written with the intention of helping those who’s yearning for the land of Israel is still dormant; it was written with the intention of helping those who are in the process of making Aliya by sharing so many precious anecdotes, some difficult, others funny, all sincere. It was even written for all the living in Israel. “Now do you understand what living in Israel is all about? Yes, living in Israel is hard. We all know that. But it’s also very, very beautiful. It’s a beautiful feeling to belong, to plant with your own hands, knowing that sooner or later you will see crops. It means being true to yourself, living a life full of meaning, with a clear purpose. It means bonding with its people and with the land, in order to feel complete. It means reaching your highest goals and maximizing your potential, because potential blossoms with challenges, and Israel is definitely a challenge. Challenge yourself to be authentic. Challenge yourself to be real, because what we regret in life are the opportunities we didn’t grab.”