Archive for the 'Idealism and Aliyah' Category

Concerns about investing

The following is a response that I wrote to a family of olim that is considering moving to Ariel. They, as others before them, expressed their concerns about moving beyond “the green line”. So, how DOES one approach the question of how to approach the geo-political issues related to investing in a home in Ariel?
I would suggest approaching the issue at hand in one of two ways: “practically” or “faithfully”.
1. Practically – certainly an intelligent approach. The reality of the situation – at least as I see it – is that everywhere in the world there is a degree of uncertainty about what the future may hold. There is a sense (not a statistical fact but a “sense”) that the degree of uncertainty is greater in Israel than in America. Indeed there is a “sense”, influenced and fed primarily by media coverage and framing and somewhat by governmental policy (or lack thereof), that the degree of uncertainty is even greater within certain regions of Israel. One such “region” is none other than the nation’s capital – Jerusalem. Another such region is that of Judea and Samaria.
The informed analyst will take things even further, and examine the subdivisions of “degree of uncertainty” within the aforementioned regions. As such, there are what I would consider “indicators” – no guarantees, but indicators as to what may be in the future. The foremost indicator is what’s termed “the security fence”. The fence is seen by most as an initial form of a border between the State of Israel and what may some day become a Palestinian entity – if such an agreement is ever reached. Accordingly, those areas that are on the Israeli side of the fence, also referred to as “on the inside”, are considered safe from the threats of land concessions in any final agreement. There are 3 regions which are beyond the “green line” (as the 1967 borders are often referred to) and yet within the fence: Ma’aleh Adumim, The Etzion Bloc and The Ariel Bloc. Though the fence hasn’t yet been completed, with a question mark remaining regarding certain communities, the fence around Ariel has already been built and the city is “within the fence”. 
There are other indicators, one of which is building permits. Building beyond the “green line” currently requires central government permission. Those communities granted permission to expand are considered to have a lesser “degree of uncertainty” concerning their future. Due to the complexity of Israeli politics building permits require a lot of effort, however the City of Ariel continues to build with permits (currently there are several projects throughout the city, 4 of which are new residential developments).
Yet another indicator is the infrastructure in the region. Perhaps Israel’s best highway, highway 5 which goes from Tel Aviv to Ariel, has just been completed. Most of the highway has been in use for several years, but the work on the final 3 kilometer stretch was opened on November 10th. Many consider this significant investment to be a strong indicator of Ariel’s promising future.
2. Faithfully – personal beliefs are no less a part of a decision making process than rational thought. For example, no logical assessment of the situation will convince those who are diametrically opposed to living beyond the “green line” due to their political views to consider Ariel as their home. If their belief system is antagonistic to the city and everything that it represents then they will most likely feel uncomfortable here. However, those who are committed to the Jewish Homeland, the security of Israel and the right for a Jew to dwell in areas of Israeli sovereignty will naturally lean towards building a home in Ariel.
Beyond the natural magnetic pull of Ariel for Jews from around the world, there are those who are drawn for idealistic reasons. More than any other place, the City of Ariel embodies each of the primary objectives of the modern Jewish movements that see the State of Israel as a meaningful aspect of Jewish history:
a. dwelling in the Land
b. advancing a healthy orientation towards Jewish practice and belief amongst the residents of Ariel
c. creating a healthy interpersonal and inter community dynamic amongst Israelis, notwithstanding their different views and lifestyles.  
For some, the city’s idealistic pull may overshadow other considerations, because their decision making process is primarily driven by their inner commitment which may either supersede or perhaps even tint their theoretical analysis of the geo-political situation.
As mentioned, it really depends on how you approach the subject. If you’re looking at the dry facts on the ground it certainly looks like Ariel is here to stay. The “degree of uncertainty” is very low, though it does exist.
It is my opinion that olim need to keep both the practical and the faith-oriented considerations in mind. First I suggest asking yourself if you’re comfortable or perhaps interested in moving beyond the “green line”. In the event that you are you’ll then want to consider what “degree of uncertainty” you’re comfortable with. It is my belief and understanding that Ariel really is safe from the concerns that you mentioned,  due to the points mentioned above as well as others. My wife and I purchased our home here as many others continue to do on a daily basis. Indeed, Ariel has even become a hot spot for real-estate investors and the demand continues to grow.
So, to sum up – I suggest coming here and seeing for yourself. It’s by far the best way to get a real feel for what life is really like here.
Awaiting your visit,

Cry for Help

Fear of AliyahOur Ariel Aliyah members and fans really pitched in for this one. Last week I recieved the following letter from a family that’s considering aliyah:

no word… I am on the verge of a crash too much… going on… my wife made a list yesterday.. basically minimal living in this country is 14,500 shekels per month schools… the killer is the car… what insurance and reg. are sick… she is freaking out big time……mix the cost with ulpan … sure disaster… G-d help us…. i will keep you posted……. she is really worried

I asked the family for permission to post their letter on our facebook group , and they gave me the go ahead.

Some people responded with words of encouragement, others with practical advice. Some spoke of teamwork and communication between spouses and others of faith in G-d. [To see the discussion group and the responses click here].

Several things seemed to stand out:

1. People really wanted to help this family in whatever way they could.

2. The letter seemed to hit a vaguely cord in the hearts of olim, drawing on their personal experiences and evoking genuine responses.  

3. The resounding chorus seemed to be that as long as both parents are committed to aliyah they will manage to make it into a reality.

In my mind the letter written was a microcosmic representation of the “pro-aliyah but not quite there yet” aspect of Diaspora Judaism. The responses were, on the other hand, a microcosmic representation of the spirit and dedication of successful Aliyah-Judaism.

“Pro-aliyah-but-not-quite-there-yet Diaspora Judaism” is in a tight spot. It wants to see Israel as a place to live, but finds the practical side of things either daunting or difficult to fathom.

“Successful Aliyah-Judaism” has been there, seen it, done it, lived through it and is ready to tell its story. Noone said it was easy, and yet noone said that it couldn’t be done. Each person, with his own tools, his personal commitments and his belief system managed to make it – and continues to do so.

The pre-aliyah narrative is, at least in some way, about concerns, fears and stress. The post-aliyah narrative is about commitment. Decide to make it happen, and it will.


Yom Hazikaron – Most Original Sight

Russian World War Two MedalI saw quite a bit today, on my Yom Hazikaron travels. Today, Israel’s Memorial Day for it’s fallen soldiers and terror vicitms, has been very meaningful for me.

After Shacharit (my morning prayers) at the Netzarim Yeshiva here in Ariel they recited a special “E-l Maleh Rachamim” (prayer in memory of people who passed away) for the martyrs of the Netzarim community, when it was in Gush Katif – including both Netzarim residents and fallen soldiers. My day opened with a genuine sense that every person who fell defending the State of Israel had not only a name and a family but also a purpose.

Later this morning i was in Petach Tikva for some time. On my way back home to Ariel I passed several Yom Hazikaron ceremonies being organized. The siren wailed while I was on the road – each of the cars pulled aside and each of the drivers stood aside in silent memory and honor. It was a powerful and meaningful moment, though not a suprising one. Only upon my return to Ariel did I see something that made me do a double-take.

After I dropped off the soldier that hitched a ride with me (whom I was pretty sure shed a tear while we were listening to the Har Herzl memorial ceremony over the radio) something rather unique caught my eye. On the opposite side of the road was an elderly man, wearing a sport jacket with civilian clothing – decorated with more medals and badges than I’d ever seen at one time before. Had I not been familiar with Ariel’s Russian war veteran’s museum I would have had no clue as to what was going on. It was, however, clear to me that this man was donning the medals that he recieved over many years of service in The Red Army. But in Israel?, on Yom Hazikaron?

It turns out that I missed the main event. There were many Yom Hazikaron ceremonies throughout Ariel, but one of the more original and interesting ones was in Ariel’s primary commercial center. There, the deputy mayor, along with city residents, paid tribute to Israel’s fallen soldiers. Some of the decorated war veterans from World War II were present. They were, and are Jews, who served in the Red Army in the fight against Hitler and the Germans.

It’s still somewhat surprising to me – the Red Army and Israel’s Memorial Day. Intellectually the correlation between the two seems to be a stretch, at best. And yet, for the war veteran’s there was a natural and necessary connection between the two. As though they were basically stating “we fought as Jews the best way a Jew could fight”. Their affinity to the Israeli Defense Forces is something they carry with them with every one of their medals.

I guess what struck me most about the whole thing was the seam between different stages of Jewish history. These men and their families lived and fought through one of the most profound shifts in the history of our People  – from the depths of the exile to the beginning of the Redemption. 

It’s absolutely amazing to me. As Jews, something deep down inside tells us that everything we are-  our personal experiences, our collective history – it all becomes meaningful when we build our lives in Israel. Sometime along the process of experiencing our Aliyah it finally becomes clear: everything we’ve been through is the basis of everything that we will be.  

The Four Sons

Four SonsWho is the BEST of the four sons? Which of the sons is the one we’re meant to emulate? One of the people looking for information on aliyah to Ariel introduced himself to me via email as “the simple son”. It seemed to me that he did so in an attempt to downplay the significance of his straight-forward questions. Well, I must say – of the four sons “the simple son” is by far my favorite.

Sure- the wise son is wise. He’s got a head on his shoulders. When it comes time to ask the fancy question that his parents paid a heavy tuition for him to come up with he’s ready to go.

The wicked son – well that’s easy. He’s removed himself from the Jewish people. Anyone who is detached from his people is not worth emulating – especially when his people is The Jewish People.

What about the son who doesn’t know how to ask? Is it his fault? No one ever taught him to really ask questions. He was trained to think like the rest of society, to do what everyone else is doing – to go with the flow. Well – I’m afraid I can’t pull together all that much respect for someone who lives his life according to the accepted norm.

Well – what’s so great about the simple son? True – he’s not refined. True – he doesn’t necessarily conform to the accepted standards of scholarship. And yet – and yet in his “simplicity” he is not afraid to challenge – he is not afraid to ask. His question is clear and straightforward: “Mah Zot?” – literally translated as “What’s this?”. In today’s vernacular we would translate his question as “What in the world is going on here?”.

Is there any better question? Is there anything more REAL? “What’s going on?”” Everyone is sitting around the seder table, talking about redemption.

“What’s going on?” What are you sitting around for? What redemption are you waiting for?

“What’s going on?” Didn’t you hear about airplanes? Didn’t you hear about the Ministry of Absorption?

“What’s going on?” Why don’t we drink from the 5th cup – the cup of “Vehayvayti” (“And I shall bring you to the land”). Is that because we refuse to comply?  

“What’s going on?” What’s all this lip service about? What’s this “next year in Jerusalem” talk all about? Are we going out of our way to limit the purpose of the Exodus? Are we trying to ignore the engathering of the exiles?

My friends- the question of the simple son is the most powerful of all. It holds within it the audacity to challenge the lives that we’ve built for ourselves. It does not limit itself to the borders – to the “Meyzarim”/”Mitzrayim”/Egypt that we’ve built for ourselves. It challenges us to break out of our self imposed bondage – to realize the true meaning of Redemption.

The “simple” son is only one translation of the term “Tam”. The other definitions include “genuine”, “perfect” and “complete’.  

May we be blessed with the strength to be genuine, complete and simple. May we continue to challenge ourselves, ask the basic questions, and succeed in making our lives worthwhile.

The Jews of America

Israel AmericaDuring my recent recruiting trip to America I spent Shabbat in a large Jewish community of international renown. After discussing Israel and aliyah with a number of the people in the community I turned to my host and said “my experience in shul this morning was very upsetting”.

I explained what I meant:
It would have been comforting if everyone in shul was talking during the davenning. Then I could have said “Oh, those Jews in America- all they do is talk in shul”.

It would have been comforting if the davenning was rushed. Then I could have said “Oh, those Jews in America- they don’t even know how to daven with proper kavannah (intent)”.

It would have been comforting if people would have ignored me and wouldn’t have said “hello”, “goot shabbos” and “where are you from”. Then I could have said “Oh, those Jews in America- they’re so rude”.

But that’s not what happened.

The davenning was quiet. The shul was imbued with a sense of respect and intent. Almost everyone – young and old, was kind, friendly and warm. That, I explained, is very discomforting. Sure – it’s great that there are Jews conducting themselves in accordance with the principles of common courtesy and Jewish law. The problem isn’t what they’re doing – it’s where they’re doing it.

We need Jews – all Jews – in our Home-Land. The more the Jews know how to act as Jews, the more we need them. The Jews of America have built an amazing culture, society and community. The problem is that they built those things in the wrong place.

It’s not the first time this happened. We’re about to celebrate the the Exodus of the Jewish People from Egypt. Egypt was the first example of many – the world’s superpowers, designed, developed and enhanced by the Jews living in their lands. Yoseph made Egypt the world’s superpower at that time, only to find his descendants enslaved by the country that he created. There were the Babylonians, the Spanish, the Germans and many more – each of whom prospered through the work and commitment of the Jews in their midst. Today it is America: with 40% of World Jewry amongst them the United States of America continue to prosper.

I am not discussing the ultimate demise of America, nor the ultimate need for Jews to leave their temporary place of dwelling – those, though forthcoming, are of no interest to the motivated and committed Jew.

Instead, I am addressing the logic of the American Jew, to his internal sense of purpose and to his need to make his life worthwhile. The question is all too obvious. While everyone seems busy building a beautiful Christian society for the people of America, who is building a society for the Jews? Who is cultivating our Land, our People and our Torah? If the Jewish People are so talented, moral and refined shouldn’t they be investing their traits and G-d-given gifts towards their own development – towards their own survival?

We need the Jews- all of the Jews – to invest themselves in building our Home. When we all Return to the Land, when we join together, we will see what it means to live as the Jewish People, in the Jewish Land. As for the other nations- don’t worry about them. Once we begin tofunction as a developed society they will learn from our example.

Join our forces, and make the world a better place.

I Wonder…

Engathering of exilesWe often wonder what the world would be like “if”…

We wonder about things because we think big.
We wonder about the world because we know that it can be a better place.
We wonder about life because we strive to realize the potential that’s inherent to who we are.

During my travels through the United States of America I spoke with a number of people regarding a number of issues. Of course, all topics and all conversations tended to focus on Israel and on aliyah. Over the course of a conversation with a long-standing Rabbi of a significant conversation I made mention the importance of North American aliyah to Israel, to the Jewish people as a whole and to the entire world. It is my impression that the Rabbi felt somewhat uncomfortable about what I was saying, as do many Jews that reside in America – particularly those who are committed to Judaism.

The Rabbi’s response to my comments was very interesting. He said “Sometimes I wonder what would happen if all the Jews were to move to Israel.” Out of respect for the Rabbi I did not respond, but I did think to myself: “Sometimes I wonder what would happen if they don’t”.