Sunday, January 01, 2006

When seeing is ALMOST believing...

All too often, during, or immediately after someone visits Israel, one will hear that individual say something to the extent of:
Israel is such a special place. I feel such a connection to my roots / Jewish identity / People / G-d that is possible nowhere else in the world.

This is hardly surprising, for a number of reasons, but the most obvious one being that Israel is in fact the place in the world where a Jew can feel most connected to his roots / Jewish identity / People / G-d.

The fact that people come to this conclusion while visiting Israel is also hardly surprising, as the Talmud teaches us, that "the very air of Israel makes a person wise".

So, for the life of me, what I have a hard time figuring out, is what happens?

How can it be, that these Jews, who clearly felt something very special while in Israel - felt alive as a Jew in ways not possible anywhere else - are able to return to their lives outside of Israel and continue living as if nothing had changed?

Is it not being a tad bit intellectually / spiritually dishonest to do so, when one knows full well, from their very own experience, that they can't actualize their full Jewish potential anywhere but in Israel?

I am well aware of the challenges involved both in living in Israel, as well as the process of making Aliyah, but are these challenges truly so daunting today (as compared to previous generations), that one is able to convince themselves that the light that they thought they saw while in Israel is nothing more than an optical illusion, or if not, an elusive pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, which in spite of any efforts they'll make, they will never be able to attain it?

If not for the fact that these sentiments were expressed so often, and by well intentioned, honest and sincere Jews, I wouldn't be so vexed by this phenomenon.

Anyone have any insights into this perplexing Jewish paradox?


In a twist of the classic saying:

If you are not a Zionist at the age of twenty, you have no heart. If you are not a fat cat sitting pretty in Long Island by the age of forty, you have no head.

Ze'ev - it is all very well appealing to people's hearts, but generally people will listen to their pockets and their bank managers.

If you want to encourage aliyah, Israel needs to prove that we are more interested in creating a fair, equal and prosperous society here, as opposed to putting other interests ahead of the health and prosperity of the people. (I think you know what I am talking about).


By Anonymous H, at Sun Jan 01, 09:32:00 AM GMT+2  

A lot of people put their spirituality and connection to Israel and the Jewish people behind their concern for physical and financial well-being. Israel is not an easy place to live in, though it may be much more fulfilling. But that's not the choice everyone makes on a regular basis.

By Blogger Shoshana, at Sun Jan 01, 09:37:00 AM GMT+2  


I do not have the same problem as Ze'ev - i can easily easily understand why someone would choose to live in America over Israel. My question is - why do these people call themselves Jews? Would the grandson of a frenchman who had the right and ability to return to france but stayed in America be called French?

Is a Jew not a citizen of Judea (now called Israel)?

All classic sociologists and anthropologists agree with Lenin's understanding of what makes a people, a people:

Land, History, Culture, Language.

If someone lives in America, doesn't speak Ivrit, celebrates American holidays and does not play a part in the shaping of Jewish History, are they Jewish?


By Anonymous H, at Sun Jan 01, 10:22:00 AM GMT+2  

"Everyone needs to do what is best for them" is the line so many people have used when I have asked them if/when they are making aliya, and yes, that is correct, to a point.

My aliya can not be explained to anyone that doesn't understand the Israeli concept, the burning desire to live here and fufil their lives here. In the same tone, I find it hard to understand those that want to live their lives out in Chu"l and consider retiring here.

Yes, do what is best for you, but surely the G-d given land has to be pretty damn good?

Aliya isn't easy, I have been here close to a year, and my Mum, in her fifties, is uprooting and making the move in less than two weeks.

If you will it, it is no dream. Herzl was right. You have to live what you belive in, not just stroll down the path of comfotability forever.

By Blogger ifyouwillit, at Sun Jan 01, 02:58:00 PM GMT+2  

Maybe they'd rather live in a country committed to the well being of it's citizens. A country that dealt in kind, violence for violence, with any terrorist attacker. A country that actually puts a murdering jail for life ... or even executes him ... instead of returning him to his terrorist buddies so he can kill some more. It's all well and good to detect G-d in the air but if the politicians are a bunch of craven, corrupt oligarchs what good is g-dly air? Israel isn't ISRAEL. It's a chopped up little piece of ground the UN loaned to a few Jews who don't like each other ... on a limited time basis. It's not a nation. It's a suicide pact between people who would rather argue thier selfish desires than serve G-d and each other.

By Anonymous scott, at Mon Jan 02, 08:54:00 AM GMT+2  


Great topic.

For me it was simple. First time I came to Israel was for 6 weeks over the summer when I was 16. I immediately felt that I belonged here and knew that I wanted to live here. After those 6 weeks, I returned to suburbia and my life was different. I felt totally out-of-place. Sometimes you don't know that you are missing something until you have it for a bit. 6 months later was the gulf war and no matter how much I pleaded with my parents they refused to let me come to Israel during the war (my brother and friends came). I knew once again that my place was in israel. A year later, I had an oppurtunity to come to Israel for a week on a solidarity trip. I had to miss my Senior class trip to Florida, but I figured that "I could always go to Disneyworld", but Israel....

Suffice it to say, I came to Israel for that week and it solidified my desire to stay here.

Six months later, I graduated high school and came for the year to study in Yeshiva and have been here ever since.

Not many people come to israel at 18 and stay, but for me there wasn't even a question. I knew that I felt connected to the land and didnt want to be anywhere else.

Having read a number of H.'s responses , I have to say that you have quite a misunderstanding as to teh difference between Jews and other nations. We are the only nation that identifies with a land, language, a common Jewish history and Jewish Culture (halacha can even fit into that category). A frenchman will possibly feel a connection to France because he was born there or his father was born there or even his grandfather, but our connect to Eretz Yisrael (not Israel) goes back to our forefathers Avraham, Yitzhak and Yaacov.

Jews share a religion besides being part of the same nation. What other nation has survived in the world for over 3000 years? The Romans? Greeks? Philistines? Palestinians?

So, H. please stop comparing the Jewish Nation to other nationalities.

Sorry for going so long, Ze'ev.


By Blogger Jerusalemcop, at Mon Jan 02, 04:04:00 PM GMT+2  

Jerusalem, thanks for sharing your story, and for your response to Haim - no apologies needed on writing long comments.

By the way, where did you go to Yeshiva for your year in Israel?

By Blogger Ze'ev, at Mon Jan 02, 04:08:00 PM GMT+2  

Funny, a good friend who is in Israel for the week just said almost exactly that...

By Blogger Ezzie, at Tue Jan 03, 07:58:00 AM GMT+2  


The Chinese, Inca, Aztec and Inuit peoples all have longer histories than we do.

Given that I reject the idea that there is one Jewish religion (are karaites part of the same Jewish religion as rabbinic Jews?) and I reject the concept of religion as foreign to Jewish culture and heritage - being a hellenic invention (what is the word for religion in Ivrit?); it is hard for me to understand how our "religion" is what makes us unique.

I will gladly accept that the Jews are unique in that they have survived exile from their land longer than any other people. But that is part of the content of our national history - and in this sense, all peoples are unique. I revel in our uniqueness - as I would expect a chinese person to revel in what is uniquely chinese. I am also very happy to accept that our relationship with Eretz Yisrael is significantly different to other nations' relationship with their land - both because we have tied our geographical narrative to our divine narrative, and because our connection is a result of longing for what was missed as much as creating a connection through centuries of direct attachment. But do you not consider it an insult to the Ukrainian people, who have written long, complex, detailed love poetry about their black soil to claim that their relationship with their land is not also unique?

My claim is not that the nature of Jewish peoplehood or nationhood is in any way the same as other nations - has v'shalom. My claim is that we need some definition of who is in and who is not in our people - now I accept that you will accept the halachic definitions set down by your rabbi - I just think there needs to be something more objective and substantial - after all, your definitions will include such subjective components as "who was the rabbi who conducted the conversion?" or "what did the 3 talmidei hahachamim believe about torah m'sinai?"

So in short - this relates to Ze'ev's posts above - I cannot be expected to accept your definitions of what makes someone Jewish and what is the nature of Jewish peoplehood. As you believe that the rules you play by are eternal, even though there is no evidence of them before the time of Yohanan Ben Zakkai and even in his time, it is certainly unclear whether rabbinic / pharasaic Judaism was a majority or minority belief within Jewish peoplehood. So if your entire identity is based on Torah She B'al Peh which is only say 2000 years old, and mine is based on the entirety of Jewish experience - 3800 years - what gives you the right to decide who is in and who is out?


By Anonymous H, at Tue Jan 03, 09:28:00 AM GMT+2  

rabbinic judaism and torah she baal peh are two different things. Torah she baal peh was also given at sinai along with the torah she be'chtav. The rabbi's found the need to write down the T.S.B.P. because it would've been lost had it not been written down.

BTW, with your views of Judaism, why live here as opposed to Peru? What differentiates us Jews from the rest of the world in your eyes?


By Blogger Jerusalemcop, at Tue Jan 03, 01:05:00 PM GMT+2  

Jerusalem Cop,

I am sorry, I forgot I was in kindergarten - thank you for explaining to me that rabbinic Judaism and Torah Sh' B'al Peh are different things - I forgot that because I don't agree with you, I must be in an ignoramus who knows nothing and can therefore be patronised.

I know full well that you CLAIM that Torah Sh'b'al peh was given on Sinai, but can you prove it? In fact can you prove that belief in a Divine Torah Sh'b'al peh was common before the time of the destruction of the Temple? No, you can't, because if you could, you would be far too famous to come chat with us here on Ze'ev's blog.

As for why I live here - I am Jewish, this is the Jewish State. By my definition, if I were to live in Peru, I would be Peruvian. If you were to live in Peru, according to you, you would still be Jewish. So the answer for me is clear - if I want to be Jewish (which I do - and if you ask me why I want to, then that is a long answer about psychology, and parents and childhood trauma, etc, etc) then I have to live in Israel.

But JCop - why are you here, when you could just as easily be a Jew back in the States, according to your definition?

By Anonymous h, at Tue Jan 03, 04:54:00 PM GMT+2  

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