Thursday, October 27, 2005

American Aliyah and Cupid's Arrow: A Match Made in Heaven or A Recipe for Disaster?

I have been following with great interest the debate that has been raging over: Is Religious Zionism Destructive For Orthodox Singles? by Passionate Life. I strongly recommend reading the post in its entirety, as well as all of the comments and responses that it has generated.

There is so much that I would like to respond to of what Passionate Life wrote, but I will limit my response to two ideas that were raised:
If someone believes they can only have happiness in Israel and they would be unhappy here, then of course what else can they do but move to Israel.

My main point is how did they get that burning desire in the first place. When there is an indoctrination such as that a Jew MUST live in Israel, do the teachers and proponents realize the damage that is being done to the single population by splintering it? (Taken from Passionate Life's response to this post)

From these words, one might get the impression that Jewish educators were committing a heinous crime by educating their students to live in Israel. As if to say that the yearning of every Jew, both as an individual and as part of the greater Jewish People to return to Israel is something foreign to Judaism (as opposed to part of its very essence). This must truly be an upsidedown world, if those who remain true to the heritage and traditions of the Jewish People, who really mean it when they pray to Return to Zion, are labeled as the guilty party, while those who willingly choose to remain in Exile are portrayed as the innocent victims of Aliyah fanatics.
Singles should be encouraged to state:

“I would love to live in Israel but I won’t allow that one issue to get in the way if in most other ways we are compatible.”

Can we all agree on that statement? (Taken from comment to original post)

No, we can't all agree on that statement. At least, I can't agree with it.

Living in Israel is not just another issue that might appear on someone's checklist of what they are looking for in a prospective spouse. A person who says that they want to live in Israel is not merely saying that they would prefer to live in one location instead of another (for instance, someone insisting that they will only live in Brooklyn or Toronto), but of someone making a statement that they can't live a complete live as a Jew without being in the center of the Jewish world, of Jewish history and of the Jewish future, namely, the Land of Israel.

Someone who says that they want to live in Israel is saying that they want to take an active role in shaping the destiny of the Jewish People. They are saying that they want all future generations who will come from them to be born and raised in the one true home that he Jewish People have. Someone who insists upon living in Israel is saying that they want to leave the Exile and take part in bringing the redemption of the Jewish People closer.

This person, who truly wants to make Israel their home, can not possibly be satisfied by finding a nice guy / girl and settling down in Teaneck or the Five Towns. There will always be a gaping void in the heart of this person, they will be living a life full of potential unfulfilled, of an essence that is being forcibly locked in the closet.

I do not doubt that it is difficult for singles today, and the frustration only grows with artificial barriers that only separate potential Jewish couples instead of creating them. However, Aliyah is not on the same level as someone who will only go out with someone who uses a white tablecloth on Shabbat, or even, as someone who will only go out with someone who is willing to learn in Kollel...

According to the Talmud, living in Israel is one of a very short list of Mitzvot that are equivalent to all the other Mitzvot in the Torah combined. Aliyah is not some type of whim or personal fancy, but something that each and every Jew should be aspiring towards - whether in the short or long-term.
You might ask, why shouldn’t I consider moving to Israel as well? For myself, and I know for many other men and women, the notion of moving away from friends and family, our shiurim and rabbis, from our hard fought and well established careers and livelihoods, from our community and chesed involvements, and most of all not being able to see our darling nephews and nieces grow and blossom, is counterproductive to the kind of lives we seek.

For those who share this outlook, the issue is not of Jewish educators teaching their students to make Aliyah, but that they haven't been taught this message themselves.

True, there may be particular circumstances that prevent the individual Jew from making Aliyah (and this should be discussed with ah halachic authority - preferably one who lives in Israel or recognizes the centrality of living in Israel), but let us not mistake those exceptions to the rule with Jews who have grown complacent and comfortable in the American Exile, and let us not place the blame of the singles crisis at the feet of those who still have the courage and idealism to follow their hearts and take an active role in fulfilling the destiny of the Jewish People - in the Land of Israel.



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