Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Why my aliyah?

This is a response to Westbankmama's request to add my story.

This summer will be 36 years, double חי meaning twice "chai," life (18 in gematria), since we boarded the boat and "sailed" to Israel.

In Hebrew it's called: לעלות ארצה to ascend to the Land. The concept predates the modern founding of the State of Israel. There were always Jews in the Holy Land, but until just over a hundred years ago, they didn't exhibit "nationalism." That was the very important contribution of Zionism, the "nationalism."

Now for the story...
Not only didn't I grow up in a religious home, even when I first began learning about Orthodox Judaism, I never heard anything about aliyah, neither the term or the general idea. It wasn't included in the NCSY program in those days, even though it was a theme at one of the national conventions. I remember a phrase in the program booklet, written or at least edited by Rabbi Pinchas Stolper, which quoted the mishneh that "it's better to live amongst evil men in Eretz Yisrael, than among righteousmen abroad."

But nobody spoke of aliyah.

Somehow I did hear about it. It could have been from Dennis Lipkin, one of the Jewish activists in my high school (Great Neck North), and it also could have been from the late Leah Weiner, Z"L, who taught me Israeli folk dancing in NCSY. It was probably some combination of the two.

Dennis dragged a bunch of us to the Betar Manhattan Moadon in the fall of 1966, and that became our regular Sunday activity. We became Zionists, the elite of the activists. The Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry, (SSSJ,) and my NCSY activities, even though I was a national officer at the time, weren't enough.

It all seemed so right. I never felt that America was a good fit. America was a strongly Christian country at the time, even in New York. They gave us rights, and the schools is Jewish neighborhoods were closed Rosh Hashannah and Yom Kippur, but it was more pragmatic than religious. Too many teachers requested or demanded the days off.

As I became more Orthodox, more observant, the Zionism was another mitzvah to add. And that's how I explained it to my parents:
"Just like I eat kosher and keep Shabbat, I'm going to move to Israel."

I knew that a reason like that could not be debated, at least by them. And if anyone tried to say that "lots of religious people stay in New York," I had a very simple reply:
"They're sinning."


westbankmama said...

Great ending to your post Batya!

wendy said...


Batya said...

Thanks, mama, though I'm sure that not everybody will agree!

Wendy, I'm glad that you're enjoying my saga.

ifyouwillit... said...

Thought provoking.

Rafi G. said...

great reason and a great response abou t people who don't make aliyah!

Batya said...

thanks and thanks

It's the "great divide" in Judaism, more than the mechitza!

Anonymous said...

No jobs,no ability to start a business,no ability to defend yourself from Arab thugs, getting treated like a second class citizen if you move there after age 25,taxation that will devour your USA based retirement.

Aliyah is an Idealistic hobby not many Jews can afford especially if they have families.

Batya said...

What a strange comment to make. Is my life an illusion?