Aliyah & The Blue and White Elephant
There have been so many great Aliyah posts of late (McAryeh, Jameel, If You Will It, Jack's Shack, Hear, O Israel), as well as an article on Aliyah in today's Jerusalem Post by Judy Montagu, that I just felt compelled to throw my hat in the ring (or my post in the J-Blogsphere).
Yesterday, January 9th, marked my 3 year Aliyah Anniversary, but since I began using the Jewish calendar as my primary calendar at some point over the last year, I will save my "Reflections on Living in Israel - 3 Year Aliyah Anniversary" post for the 6th of Shvat - just under a month from today.
In the meantime, I will address an idea that was raised in the Jerusalem Post article, which struck a chord with me, and if that's not enough to satisfy your Aliyah-post cravings, then I strongly recommend reading the other posts I linked to above, as they are all written from the heart and are full of both the passion and challenge that life is Israel represents to so many Jews.
About living in Israel and losing friends
You make aliya to Israel, and it's what you wanted. You're an exile who's been ingathered, and you're living the life you've chosen among those who are your kin. But that doesn't mean shunning friends from your former life, whom you've known for decades. You'd like to stay close.
I've really wanted to do that, and with some friends I've succeeded, albeit from a distance. But with two of my oldest associates, one from school, the other from college, both Jewish - as they say in Yiddish, "it doesn't go." Anytime I talk to either of them I'm conscious that there's an elephant in the room named the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
I am fortunate to have friends and family who not only live in Israel, but who made Aliyah to Israel about the same time that I did. Friends and family who shared the passion and dream of making Aliyah, and who recognized that they, as Jews, could only actualize their dreams and potential by living in Israel.
However, at the same time, I do have friends that for a number of reasons, are unable (or unwilling) to make Aliyah. As much as it pains me, I can't help shaking the feeling that when I am talking to them that there is an "elephant in the room". This "elephant" is not the "Israeli-Palestinian conflict" as is the case with Judy Montagu and her friends living in the UK - for me, there is a blue & white elephant in the room nearly every time I talk to my friends who live in America, and the elephant's name is Aliyah.
For better or worse, and as is evident from this blog, I am consumed by the challenges facing the Jewish People and State and in what ways we can work to overcome them (especially now that the Giants are out of the playoffs). These issues are always on my mind, and are more often than not, the topic of any given conversation that I am involved in. Now, right or wrong, I have difficulty discussing such issues (especially Israeli politics, which is really Jewish politics because what happens in Israel concerns and affects every Jew in the world) with my peers who do not live in Israel, simply because I do not feel that we are on the same page.
The page to which I refer should is not one where everyone I talk to is expected to agree with my beliefs and ideology on any given issue, quite to the contrary, as I welcome discussion and debate. The page to which I refer is relates to the issue of where it is that the Jewish People can (and are meant to) actualize their potential and destiny as a people, and through my limited understanding of Judaism, there is only one place that fits the bill - namely, Israel.
This is not to say that Jews who live outside of Israel don't care about these issues, that they are bad people, or that they don't want to live in Israel. I know many committed Jews who are proud of their Jewish identity, who are genuinely concerned with the challenges facing the Jewish People and State, and who truly want to live in Israel but are unable to for whatever reason.
Yet, at the end of the day, I can't get rid of the elephant. He's always there (don't ask me how I know it's a male "elephant", you'll just have to trust me on this one) making his presence felt.
There is a natural (or perhaps unnatural) tension in the conversations, on how best to deal with the elephant, which everyone knows is in the room. Do I try to ignore the elephant, try to make meaningless small talk, about issues that I am not really interested in, or do I try to talk to them as if they did live here, knowing full well that they don't, and that they can't possibly have the same understanding / appreciation / concern for what's going on here that I do? Over the course of one any given conversation with one of these friends, I invariably keep asking mysel the question of why they aren't living in Israel, and if there is anything I could do or say to help change that.
I feel at times, as if my friends and I are living in two different worlds. Their's is the world of Jewish theory, and mine is the world of Jewish reality - a world where one is challenged over how to incorporate Judaism into his life on more than just a personal level, but on a national and even global one. They may be genuinely concerned about the issues confronting the Jewish People and State, but so long as they are there, and not here, they are on the sidelines, living as spectators or even as fans, if you will, rooting for the HOME team, but who, at the end of the day, win or lose, will be returning to their other home.
I don't really have any good suggestions as to how to deal with this issue between myself and my friends living in the US, which explains why, in many cases, I have just avoided it altogether, causing many of those relationships to suffer as a result.
If the "elephant" could talk, I wonder what he would say, since he always seems to be there, listening and watching, with that sad & knowing look on his face.
So, Mr. Elephant, what do you have to say?
I'm all ears.