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Aliyah Musings

"1 By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion.

2 Upon the willows in the midst thereof we hanged up our harps.

3 For there they that led us captive asked of us words of song, and our tormentors asked of us mirth: 'Sing us one of the songs of Zion.'

4 How shall we sing HaShem'S song in a foreign land?

5 If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning.

6 Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, if I remember thee not; if I set not Jerusalem above my chiefest joy." Psalm 137

I have written about my love affair with Israel on many occasions. There are times when reading Eicha feels overwhelming. There are times when my not being there has been among the great heartbreaks of my life.

This is a topic that has been covered a number of times. The most recent that I am aware of was over at MCAryeh's place. He did a very fine job of listing many concerns that I share, but since this is my blog I should spend a few minutes outlining some more of my thoughts.

It is a little more than 20 years since this love affair began. A little more than 20 years since I returned from one of most powerful experiences of my life with lifetime of memories and a keychain of asimonim.

In truth I think that part of why this is so hard to write about is because to a certain extent I am ashamed that I let life and circumstance prevent me from following my heart to learn if Israel was home or just a place that will always occupy a fond place in my heart.

You see, when I visited Trumpeldor's kever in Tel Hai and read Ein davar, tov lamut be'ad arzenu ("Never mind; it is good to die for our country") I really bought into it.

I was 16 and so very free. It was June when we arrived and August when we left Ben-Gurion. When I left I was ready to return to the states but only because I thought that I would be back for college. It was a dream that never became a reality, just the fantasy of a kid.

I came close. I was accepted into a program that would have sent me back my freshman year but it wasn't something that my family could afford. I was ready to try again my junior year but love of a different sort got in the way and I foolishly passed it up.

In the years that have passed I have been back twice. Each trip involved a healthy chunk of time and each time I came back to the states with a heavy heart. But there was the promise of the future and as an adult it seemed to be more real than it had before.

You know, it is funny as I sit here typing I know that I have this dreamy look on my face and a parade of images in my mind. And I imagine that out there some of you are wondering if there is this much affection what is holding things up for me, why wouldn't I try and explore this further.

In my case I think that it is a series of things, family, fear of the unknown, the challenge of convincing a spouse to try to make the move, what would I do for a living, questions about my children etc. So let me try and address some of them in more detail.

My children are among my biggest concerns and I say some of this with great guilt. But if we were to make aliyah I would not be the one facing time in the IDF. I am not the one who would potentially be placed in harms way and there is part of me that says that my job is to keep them safe to the best of my ability.

If we don't make aliyah it is less likely that they will ever serve, not impossible but less probable. And I feel guilty for saying this, for saying that it is better than some other parent face this than I. It would be different if it was me, it would be different because it is my choice.

From a family standpoint it is not all that different than many others. In Los Angeles my children are surrounded by all of their grandparents and a large percentage of aunts, uncles and cousins. We have family throughout Israel and could make it possible for more to come, but there are older relatives such as my own grandparents for whom it would be an impossibility.

What would I do? How would I provide for my family? I am one of those people who really needs to be employed in a position that I enjoy. I really do not do well working in a situation that I hate. I am not suggesting that others do, but some do better with it than I do.

Perhaps I am succumbing to the path of least resistance, but maybe not. My gut is that the day will come when I will make the move. I am not so sure exactly when that is, but truly my heart tells me that the time will come when I will look out the window of my home and it won't be in Los Angeles.

Life is one hell of a crazy journey.

Comments

Ze'ev said…
Jack, I obviously believe that Jews should live in Israel, but at the same time, I recognize the challenges involved in making the move.

I believe that what you are feeling right now is no small thing - it shows you that your heart is i nthe right place, even if your body isn't, and thats not something to ignore.

As for some of the issues you raise - having your children serve in the army can't be easy - I havne't had to worry about it yet, but I think it can also be viewed as a privelege and a sense of pride.

What values are you hoping to impart to your children? There aren't many values greater than having the ability to protect and serve the Jewish People and State - yes, there are risks involved - but its the type of expeirence that can really change the course of their lives (and your own) - give them a strong sense of purpose and meaning.

It's not to say that one can't find meaning living in the US - but, as a Jew, israel is the only place where the Jewish People can fully actualize their potential and their destiny.

Do you know if your wife is against Aliyah? Have you ever spoken to her about it?

What type of work are you involved in? Is it the kind of thing that you could do in Israel?
Stacey said…
I visited Israel in 2000 for 3 weeks and it left a mark on my soul. It felt so good to not be an outsider...to be one of the majority. And the pull I feel to that land is something I didn't expect, but it is there.

Having said that, I love America. I love that my grandparents' dreams of America are what saved my family. And I love living the American dream that my grandparents sacrificed fo so that I could have.

I am Jewish. And I am an American. And I love being both.

So for me, what would be ideal would be to own a condo in Israel and live there half the year and here in America the other half. This is my dream for retirement.
Irina Tsukerman said…
That is EXACTLY how I feel on that subject. I cannot make the move right now, but one day, I'm hoping to leave part-time here and there... and make the most of both worlds!
Air Time said…
If you want to move, there are more resources now then their ever were before to help you make a successful move.
Unknown said…
I wonder if that first place abroad when we're 16 is when we fall in love? I fell in love with NZ...it's my home, my family, where I should be. While I don't share your place, I know how you feel.
Jack Steiner said…
Ze'ev,

I agree with you about the privilege and the honor service in the IDF, but if you'll forgive me, if you haven't got any children you probably are not going to be able to understand the full import of what I said.

I don't mean that to sound obnoxious, but there is no greater treasure than your children and it is hard to consider placing them in situations of danger.

But let us set that aside for a moment as there is more than a decade before it even becomes an issue and much can happen within that time.

The other issues I mentioned have more immediacy, family, employment, housing. These are things that have to be answered before I could begin to make this happen.

None of these are nonstarters, but they are more complicated then they used to be.

Stace,

That sounds like a decent compromise.

Irina,

See above.

AT,

I have noticed that.

Z,

If we are lucky we get to have a moment such as yours and mine. It is a special time and place that we can smile back upon.
MC Aryeh said…
Jack, I do not have children yet, but I can understand your fear of them serving in the IDF. As I read this post, I was mentally checking off each thing as something which is also keeping me here in the states.

Israel is a part of me wherever I am, and it sounds like it is that way for you, too.

Sales is a very good field for Israel, so you have a leg up on the parnassah front, but the other issues you raise really have no answers that I am aware of.

It felt good to read this post - to know that there are others out there with the same dream, the same longing for Eretz Yisrael, while also making a life for themseles where they are. So, thanks for that.

In many ways, I think Stacey's compromise would be the ideal....
Air Time said…
I don't think that Stacey's compromise is the ideal. Think about it. You want to live in Israel, and raise your children there, but because of a number of legitimate considersations, you end up waiting until your children have grown up and become adults themselves, and then move at a time in your life when you are less of a contributor to society.

I'm not saying it is a bad compromise, you end up being in Israel for long periods of time, but you end up spending your entire life building a community in Cleveland or Detroit or LA or wherever you happen to live and neglecting the contribution you could be making to Israel.

And I wonder how realistic it is to make Aliyah, or split time in Israel, when you reach retirement age. At that point, there are grandchildren to consider, friends you have spent a life time cultivating, and a community that you are significantly more entrenched in than if you break away at a younger age.

For some, Stacey's compromise is the best that they can do, but as I look at some of the older members of my congregation, I see them spending winters in San Diego or Florida, and moveing down to Boca Raton. Is that compromise something that people can really do?
Jack Steiner said…
Hi MCA,

Yes, Israel is with me wherever I go. My son is in the second year of a special Hebrew immersion program at his preschool. His comfort and comprehension is phenomenal. I intend for my daughter to go through it as wel.

AT,

IMO, there are very few times in our life when age prevents us from contributing to society.
Stacey said…
There is no right or wrong. This is a deeply personal issue and it all depends on the individual.

I do not live in Israel now, but I support it heavily...with my vote, with my $$$, etc.

Jack will figure out what is best for himself and his family. And what is right for him would logically not be ideal for someone else.

Living there part of the year would be perfect for me. I very much love the U.S. and would never want to leave permanently. And being from a cold-winter climate I have many friends and relatives who do the "snowbird" deal and it works well for them.
Great post.

I too have a love affair with Israel, and want to live and die there one of these days. It is a place where I think I will feel the most comfortable, and accepted, and long to live among my people.