Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Why should I make aliyah?

A reader has asked me to address the question: why make aliyah?

It’s a good question. Why do people come to Israel?

They don’t come because they can earn more money in Israel. Generally, they don’t.

People also don’t move to Israel because Israel is such a happy place to live. Given the news you read, you’d think Israel is a very unhappy place to move to. But it isn’t.

According to the most recent World Happiness Index, Israel ranks 11th of 158 countries for ‘happiness’, as defined by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, an organization which has worked with the United Nations on Happiness and Well Being (“World Happiness Report 2015 ranks happiest countries”, sciencedaily, April 23, 2015).

Compared to Israel (at 11th place), the US (15th), Germany (26th), France (29th), Britain (21st), Russia (64th) and South Africa (113th) all rank lower than Israel in happiness (John Helliwell, Richard Layard and Jeffrey Sachs, “World Happiness Report 2015”, The Earth Institute, Columbia University; Sustainable Development Solutions Network, 2015).

Israel is a very happy place to live. But that’s not why people move to Israel.

So why do they move to Israel? Here are three answers to that question. These answers come from three different people, each of whom has created either a list of reasons or an essay about those reasons.

Certainly, those of us who have already made aliyah have our own reasons for having done so. Our reasons almost always show up on these lists.

As you read these ‘lists’, ask yourself a question: which of these reasons make me think about where I should live?

The first essay is from Tzvi Fishman, “50 Reasons to Make Aliyah”, Arutz Sheva, May 8, 2012:

1. To get closer to G-d.

2. To fulfil the Torah commandment to live in the Land of Israel.

3. To perform the mitzvot in the place they were meant to be performed, and not in a place where we do them as reminders, so that will still remember how to perform them when we return to the Land.

4. To live in the Land of our Forefathers.

5. To live in the Land of Prophecy.

6. To live in the Land that Hashem promised to the Jews.

7. To break free from being a despised stranger in gentile countries.

8. To escape gentile cultures and the spiritual pollution of the Diaspora, which clouds and distorts pure Jewish thinking and prayer.

9. To play a part in the ingathering of the exiles.

10. To play a part in Israel’s Redemption.

11. To play a part in the rebuilding of Jerusalem.

12. To actualize our daily prayers to return to Israel and thus be true to the words that I pray.

13. To make my wish, “Next year in Jerusalem” a reality.

13.  To have a government of Jews.

14. To have a Jewish army.

15. To live in a country according to the Jewish calendar.

16. To live in a country where the official language is Hebrew.

16. So my children won’t intermarry.

17. So my grandchildren won’t intermarry.

18. So my great grandchildren won’t intermarry.

19. To forget about Xmas.

20. To erase the Chillul Hashem of living in a foreign land, where the gentiles mock G-d, saying that He doesn’t have the power to keep His People in Israel.

21. To live amongst Jews.

22. To live in the place where prayer ascends directly to Heaven.

23. To live in the place of the Shechinah, the Land that Hashem watches over from the beginning of the year to the end.

24. To live in the Land where Avraham, Yitzhak, and Yaacov lived and are buried.

25. To live in the Land where every place I walk earns me a higher place in the World to Come.

26. So my children will grow up to be proud Jews.

27. So my children will grow up without dual identities and schizophrenic complexes.

28. Because Israeli women are the real thing, not trying to be like shiksas, and Israeli men aren’t teenagers who never grow up.

29. Because Israeli mothers still cook meals for the family.

30. Because there is more Torah in Israel than anywhere else in the world.

31. Because there are more Torah Gedolim in Israel than anywhere else in the world.

32. Because there are more frum communities in Israel than anywhere else in the world.

33. Because there are more yeshivot, heders, Talmud Torahs, religious colleges and schools for girls in Israel than anywhere else in the world.

34. Because the Kohanim bless the congregation each day.

35. Because of the extra mitzvot you can only do in the Land.

36. To become a bigger Jew, ready to give up “the good life” in the Diaspora in order to build our Nation in our Land, even if it means sacrifice, rather than living a small solipsistic life motivated by my own personal interests and pleasures.

37. To live in a place where my taxes support yeshivot, Tzahal, Jewish charity organizations, terror victims, Jewish hospitals, the city of Jerusalem, the ingathering of the exiles….

38. To be near Jerusalem.

39. To be near the Kotel.

40. To be in the place where the Jewish holidays are naturally tied to the climate of the Land.

41. Because of the beautiful biblical scenery.

42. Because the food is great with the most delicious kosher pastries and cakes in the world.

43. Because you can get bagels there too.

44. Because radio broadcasts begin in the morning with “Shema Yisrael.”

45. Because of the modern apartments and fantastic villas.

46. Because of the thriving economy.

47. Because Israel’s an international leader in high-tech.

48. Because of the excellent medical care.

49. Because of the respect for the elderly.

50. Because that’s where I truly belong and where G-d wants me to be.

The second of the three lists comes from Yoel Meltzer, “Why Make Aliyah?”,, January 7, 2010:

… 1. Percentage-wise the best chance to find a Jewish spouse is in Israel.

2. Statistically the lowest rate of intermarriage is in Israel.

3. Within a few short hours one can hike in the desert, swim in the Mediterranean, ski on the Hermon or float in the Dead Sea.

4. Jewish holidays are a natural part of the life-cycle here.

5. There is no Christmas shopping season in Israel.

6. The cost of Jewish education in Israel is a fraction of the cost in the US.

7. In Israel there is a feeling of "home" for the Jewish people.

8. Israel is the only Jewish country in the world. There are no others.
9. In Israel a Jew does not have to integrate into a non-Jewish society.
10. Although like any country there are many problems and issues, at least they are our problems and issues.

11. Mitzvah observance and their significance take on a whole different meaning in the Land of Israel.

12. There is only one Jerusalem in the whole world and it is here, in the Land of Israel.

13. After a few thousand years, Hebrew, the language of the Prophets, is once again heard throughout the Land of Israel.

14. Israel boasts the fastest growing Jewish population in the world.

15. After a long respite of nearly 2,000 years, Israel is once again the physical and spiritual center of the Jewish people.

16. History is literally unfolding here in front of our eyes. All that has transpired here during such a relatively short time period is nothing short of mind-boggling. As such, there is an incredible and unique opportunity available to any Jew throughout the world to come to Israel and to actually have an impact on the shaping of history.

Finally, this is the third of three essays to answer the question, ‘why make aliyah’. Personally, I like this essay the best—but that’s just my opinion. The essay is by Tamar Yonah. It’s called, “Top 10 Reasons Jews DON'T Make Aliyah”, Arutz Sheva, September 5, 2007 (I've done some light editing):

I've heard it all.  Excuses, excuses, excuses. [People refuse to make aliyah because they’ve decided], "I'll make aliyah only under MY conditions...  not G-d's." THAT is what it comes down to…

Today, I went to cover the Nefesh B'nefesh flight that came into Israel's Ben Gurion Airport this morning.  It was carrying 210 new immigrants from the US and Canada. They broke through their fears and material desires to take their place in history and join the millions of Jews already here in our homeland.  They have chosen to BUILD the land and nation of Israel, not stay behind in the dying Exile.

Almost 100 of the 210 new immigrants on the flight today were singles.  I also came when I was single, but I didn't have the Nefesh B'nefesh fanfare, and my aliyah was a lot more difficult.  I'm not complaining though.  Our ancestors had it a lot harder than any of us Jews today.  Swamps, malaria, British rule, Turkish-Ottoman rule, food rationing, third world standard of living.... I can go down memory lane with you if you like, listing all the hardships we have had to suffer in the past, but that's not what I want to write on this blog entry.

Today, hundreds of Jews attained their goal of coming home, and planting themselves in the Holy Land of Israel.  I don't say they made a dream come true, because in order to dream, one has to be asleep. I am talking about people who were determined to make aliyah a conscious goal. They yearned for Israel, and they came.  

What our brothers and sisters did today was realize the aspirations of our ancestors for the last two thousand years.  They have left the Exile and are now going to start a dynasty of their family right here in our homeland. Their grandchildren will say, "I'm an Israeli today because my grandfather (fill in your name) and my grandmother (fill in your name) left the 'Old Country' and came to Israel.  You will be remembered for generations for changing the destiny of your family line.  Your future seed will now be Israeli because of the goal you set for yourself.  And it is not always easy to make aliyah. Though it is luxurious to live in this Land and have virtually all your neighbors be Jewish, with the country celebrating Jewish holidays, and every Friday before the Sabbath the air takes on a different feeling, you are coming as someone from a different culture, one that is NOT Jewish.  Here, you will learn what it really means to be a Jew.

I often hear a lot of excuses from our brothers and sisters in the Western Exile how they don't want to come to Israel because of X, Y, or Z.

Here are just a few of the examples I have been given by Jews who make excuses why they can't or won't make aliyah...

1)  The government is not to their liking.

2)  They won't come until there is peace.

3)  They don't believe they are obligated to live here until the Moshiach comes (I think that Tzvi Fishman has proven that wrong with the Torah sources given on his blog.)

4)   They won't come unless they know they have a job in their field waiting for them.

5)   Their kids are too old

6)   Their kids are too young

7)   They're waiting until they retire

8)   They're waiting until they are dead and need to be buried

9)  Their furniture won't fit in these small apts.  - Honest to goodness, this was an excuse.  One American woman looked at my parent's dining room when they were here touring Jerusalem on a pilot trip and the woman said, "I can't make aliyah, I see that my dining room table would never fit into an Israeli apt. that I can afford".

10)  I have old sick parents or I am divorced and I can't take my kids with me.

Of the above 10 reasons why most Jews don't make aliyah today....  only number ten has any merit at all.  I personally sympathize with divorcees that want to be in their children's lives, and cannot do so if they are forced to leave them in the Old Country.  I also understand how someone who feels they cannot come because they are caring for their elderly parent who cannot be moved or travel such a long distance.  However, even these two excuses can be argued.

The fact is, that most of our Jewish brothers and sisters who don't want to make aliyah is because they are prisoners.

They are prisoners of their fear and prisoners of the golden cages they have built for themselves.  They are attached to their materialistic life styles and cannot escape.  They THINK that they are free, but they are slaves.  Slaves to the American dream, wealth, success, materialism, and their THINGS.  Nice house, nice car(s), nice shopping.  They are living in affluence and they can't extricate themselves.

We KNOW this to be true.  I will prove this to you right now.

When one doesn't make aliyah for idealistic reasons, it is for one of two other reasons... 

1)  Anti-Semitism,

2)  Their host country's economic situation is very bad, and it is better in Israel.

When we look and see why we had aliyah from the Soviet Union back in the 1970's, it was because they were living under an anti-Semitic and Communist regime.  A Jew could not practice Judaism there under the anti-Semitic USSR, they couldn't get jobs they deserved because they were Jewish, and so they applied to emigrate and come to Israel (or the USA).

Today, Jews from France are making aliyah [note: this essay wasn’t written in 2015; it was written in 2012]. Many other French Jews are buying homes here in Israel in preparation for a near-future aliyah. They are leaving France to escape their unsympathetic French government in denial about anti-Semitism, and the rising anti-Semitic attacks on Jews from France's immigrant Moslem population.  It has convinced Jews that they have no future in France anymore.

In the early 90's, we had a massive aliyah from Russia after the Soviet Union broke up.  This time it was because the Russian economy was so bad.  Israel offered a much better lifestyle and standard of living, and so they made aliyah.  (And what a blessing that was for us here in Israel.  It is always a blessing for us here in Israel when Jews make aliyah.)

Later, we had a large aliyah from Argentina.  The Economy in Argentina suffered a crisis of enormous proportions, and thousands of Jews from that country chose to come on aliyah.

The largest Jewish population in the Exile is in the USA, but they don't want to come for the ten reasons listed above.  They are too comfortable.  Most Jews in the USA are pretty much removed from Torah.  They are Jews who belong to a Conservative or Reform synagogue and do not know their own mother tongue - Hebrew.  Most have never learned Torah and many want to shrug off the 'burden' of being a Jew. I want to address the religious Jews who should know better, and should want better.

Jews are weighted down like a heavy bird in the golden cages of the Exile.

We KNOW that G-d gave us this land as our homeland.

We KNOW that the future of the Jewish People is going to be here, in Israel, and not in New York, Monsey, Los Angeles, or London.

We KNOW that we cannot do all the mitzvoth (commandments) unless we are living in Israel.

We KNOW that we were punished in the desert because of the spies who rejected the land of Israel.

We KNOW that G-d wants us to live here and that even today, He is gathering us from the four corners of the earth in line with what our prophets predicted.

And, we KNOW that if anti-Semitism rose to a level that was uncomfortable and too dangerous for Jews in the USA, they would leave America.

And we KNOW that if the economy in America would crash, or that things would be very bad, that these same Jews who are crying out the above 'ten excuses not to make aliyah', would all be converging on the aliyah offices in America and trying to get here. 

If you are not yearning for Israel, there is something FUNDAMENTALLY wrong with your Judaism.

So, to my Jewish brothers and sisters in the West who are belly-aching about this reason or that why they can't or won't or don't HAVE to come on aliyah and return home, --some tough love here for yuh....  if things got bad there where you are, you WOULD come.  Because the minute that Israel would offer you better than what you have now, you'd be scratching your heads and saying to your spouses, "maybe we should move to Israel.  I hear they have it easier over there." Jews would be flocking to Israel from the West like all the other mass emigrations and aliyahs in history.  America will be no different.

No, you won't have the perfect government.  You will have to come here and build the nation with us and vote in a better government.

No, you may not come to a country that has 'peace', but America is under threat of massive mega-terror as well.  Better to be in a country where almost all the Jews have a gun, know how to use it, and can defend themselves.

No, you will most likely not have a guaranteed job waiting for you, calling your name.  You will have to come and interview for jobs just like our own families do here in Israel.

No, your kids aren't too young or too old. This is our home.  We are your family.  Your kids will adjust. They'll make friends, pick up the language and you'll be asking THEM to help you with your Hebrew.

Don't wait until retirement or until you are dead.  You needn't die for Israel.  LIVE (here) FOR ISRAEL.

Let go of the weight that keeps you in the Exile. Get out of your slavery to comfort and materialism.  Open your golden cages that you have imprisoned yourselves in and come home.

If you consider yourself a Torah believing Jew, then you should AT LEAST be YEARNING to come to Israel.  Maybe you feel you can't because of your fear, or your family obligations for elderly parents or lack of custody for your kids, but a Jew should at LEAST be YEARNING to make aliyah and move to Israel. You should at least be saying, "I'd LOVE to come to Israel, but alas, I cannot, I have to care for my sick, elderly mother who can't be moved".    ...And if you are not yearning for Israel, if you are not dreaming of the day when you can come home, and instead are very happy in the cage you live in, there is something FUNDAMENTALLY wrong with your Judaism.


My comment: we don’t generally make aliyah for financial, physical or welfare benefits. We do it for a religious reason—or, because we feel coerced to move, as Tamar Yonah discussed, above.

If you’re Jewish, you don’t belong in exile. Exile isn't happiness. It's punishment.

If you say that’s crazy, go look at any Holiday Musaf Sh’mona Esrai. It says there very explicitly, ‘because of our sins we were exiled from our land’.

Exile is punishment. Why do you live in punishment?

Come home. You belong here.

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