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*** THE ALIYAH REVOLUTION ALBUM ***

Friday, February 19, 2010

Lori: Practicing what was preached





Once upon a time Malkah posted a clip from Aish Hatorah's Lori Platanik where she praised her students for making Aliyah, but felt that was only possible because she, personally, stayed behind in America. So as much as she wanted to make Aliyah, she was needed where she was in D.C.

Yechiel (Jonny) posted a followup post where Rabbi Pinchas Winston rebuts that argument. The Rabbi explains that it's not her personally that is needed in D.C. but her role. And that Rav Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg, shlita, explains, just like Hashem decided the role was needed and then filled that role with her - if she made Aliyah Hashem will find someone else to fill that role, if that role was indeed still needed. He speaks from the experience of his very own Aliyah when he asked his Rosh HaYeshiva for advice.

Well Rebbetzin Platanik just spoke about Aliyah again. She remarks how it's hypocritical to teach our children how important Eretz Yisrael is but get upset at them when they decide to make Aliyah. An excellent point and a very good watch.

Check it out above!

I just wonder if it's also hypocritical to teach our children about the importance of Eretz Yisrael, not get upset when they make Aliyah, but still not make Aliyah yourself?

At Kumah, we hope to greet Lori and everyone else in the airport when they make Aliyah very soon! Amen!

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Zionism, not Cynicism


Israel has lots challenges: We have two hostile Iranian outposts on our borders, not to mention Iran itself building a bomb with our name on it. When we fight to defend our citizenry we get the Goldstone Report. The world is trying to stop us from building in our capital. We have a hostage in Gaza and we are being asked to release murderers for his freedom. We have very few friends abroad, and inside Israel we are often divided.

It is not surprising that in such an atmosphere, some people succumb to cynicism. But just as the darkness seems to have the upper hand, suddenly there are bright moments that delight us, remind us what Israel is all about, and shoo away the cynicism. Aliya is just such a cynicism buster. Aliya shows us that Israel continues to attract Jews from all over the world to take part in the most exciting project of the Jewish people in two-thousand years...

However, two recent articles in the Jerusalem Post seem bent on putting a dark spin on aliya as well:

In an op-ed entitled "What American aliya?" (Dec. 16) Haviv Rettig Gur wrote :

...Aliya as a phenomenon, as a movement, as a national project, has come to an end. Some 3,000 American olim come to Israel every year from a community whose population is at least 4.2 million strong... for all intents and purposes, North American aliya is currently at zero.

Then, as a follow up (Dec. 29), Michael Hirsh wrote "American aliya - an exercise in futility" stating:

I ask the well-meaning people at NBN and the Jewish Agency: With which powers of persuasion do you believe you were endowed that will sway someone to whom Israel is an afterthought into leaving everything behind and becoming an oleh? Perhaps that explains the current rate of "success," one-10th of 1 percent.

What negativity! This year was the first time in a decade that there was a rise in the number of new immigrants to Israel: 16,200 compared with the previous year's 15,440. 2009 also saw the largest number of Jews (3,767) make aliyah from North America since 1983. Amazingly, with all of Israel's challenges, aliya is on an upward trajectory - so why knock it?

Nay-sayers won't tell you that North American aliya has already become an economic success for Israel. According to a recent Deloitte audit, the entire population of Nefesh B'Nefesh Olim (6,493 households) has generated government revenues of 989 million shekels while the estimated costs of bringing them were only NIS 528 million. Also, the estimated contribution of American aliya (between 2002 and 2008) to the Israeli tourism industry (parents and pals coming to visit olim) is calculated at NIS 347 million, which brings the net contribution of recent North American aliya to a jaw-dropping 808 million shekels!

And North American aliya is bound to keep growing because immigration has never been easier: Israel has finally gotten the bureaucratic process right through the advent of Nefesh B'Nefesh. At the same time, amazing Anglo communities like Modiin and Ramat Beit Shemesh have sprouted up, making absorption a walk in an ever-more-manicured park. And as though Providentially, just as Israel's bureaucratic and community infrastructure are in place, the economic climate in the US has made aliya more attractive then ever before. In fact, measurable interest in aliya has more then doubled since the onset of the global economic crisis.

The aliya cynics point to the paltry 3,000 Olim a year and conclude that North American aliya is a failure. But since when do we value people as merely numbers? If the dream of gathering in the Exiles is happening only 3000 people at a time is that worthless? When one greets new immigrants one sees the faces of children kissing the ground, the faces of elderly rabbis crying, the faces of El Al pilots glowing with pride. "Total failure"? More like total ecstasy!

In the late 70's there were only 3 million Jews in Israel, now we are approaching 6 million. We have doubled in the last 30 years! No other country can claim that. Yes, it's mainly due to Russian Aliya, and a relatively high birthrate. But the point is that Israel wants to grow, and every Jew counts. Therefore, we must tirelessly continue to push aliya from all parts of the globe - and with special focus on American Jewry, the last major bastion of the Diaspora.

However, aliya cynics do have a point when they tell us that American Jewry is entrenched. It is. But that is not a reason to give up on our Jewish family back in the old country. To the contrary - it is precisely now, when the wheels of North American aliya are finally turning, that we must redouble our efforts to encourage Western Jews to come home.

THREE PRACTICAL IDEAS

It is in this spirit that I present three positive ideas of how to help galvanize Western Jews to seriously consider aliya:

* Aliya Day. There are well known state holidays which are used as springboards for massive educational undertakings. Yom Haatzmaut is a national celebration, but it is also a day of award ceremonies, concerts, and gatherings. Yom Hazikaron has its cemetery memorials and the siren that so powerfully reminds us of the IDF's sacrifice. Yom Hashoah educates us about the horrors of the Holocaust.

The time has arrived to unveil a new state holiday called Aliyah Day. Aliyah Day will be celebrated in Israeli schools with children getting up and telling the tale of their family's aliya. On TV, the stories of the various communal and personal immigrations will be told. Prizes will be given out to aliya activists, absorption workers and immigrants who have made a difference in Israel. Each year a different community will be featured and celebrated.

Simultaneously, Aliya Day will be celebrated in all pro-Israel institutions in the Diaspora. There, the discussion will focus on the importance of aliya, and the centrality of Israel. Aliya Day will use the proven model of a State holiday to celebrate the fact that we are all immigrants, and put aliya back onto the national agenda.

* Aliya Rally. There is a powerful force in Israel which, so far, has been totally untapped. Western olim, immigrants to Israel, are typically the most vocal supporters of continued Western aliya. If you enter the home of an oleh and broach the topic, you will find that from Raanana to Kiryat Arba, Western olim are highly enthusiastic about aliya and would like to see Jewish emigration expedited. We should harness the great passion of these people, and give them a platform to be heard.

Many rallies are held in Israel every year, but most of these rallies are anti-something, like calling for an end to some government policy. However, the aliya rally is different – it is positive and reaches out to Diaspora Jews with love and encouragement.

In a large venue in Jerusalem, like Teddy Stadium or the Sultan's Pool, the rally will be a professional production, with musical acts and speeches by well known personalities. Participants taking part in the rally will hold up placards that read: "Come Home My Brother / Sister", or posters of an Israeli passport with the words "Your Name Here" on the front. From the stage and in the crowd, we will call on our fellow Jews to come home and be our neighbors. The rally will raise aliya consciousness amongst Western Jews, empower olim in Israel who feel strongly about aliya, rekindle love of the homeland in native Israelis, and show the world that Israel still calls on all her children to come home.

* Aliya Boat. For American Jews in the US, the occasional press article or video clip about American aliya fails to persuade them that aliya is the future. It's just something they can brush off. We need to change that – we need to make the movement of Western aliya so spectacular and evocative that world Jewry will not be able to ignore it.

Enter the Aliya Boat. Evoking the nostalgia of old-world Jewish immigration, the Aliya Boat, this generation's 'Exodus', will bring 3000 Olim to Israel in just one journey. A plush cruise liner, the Aliya boat will sail for two weeks from the northeastern coast of the U.S. to one of Israel's port cities. Throughout the journey, an Israeli naval ship will escort the Aliya Boat as both security and honor guard.

While on this 'cruise' the almost-new immigrants will be busy: they will begin their Hebrew training at the on-board ulpan, take care of governmental paper work, and begin preparation to deal with their new home and environment. On the boat, children won't be strapped into constrictive seats for hours; instead, they will be 'enrolled' in an Israeli gan. Elderly folks can rest and play shuffleboard. Adults will begin friendships that will last a lifetime.

The romantic retro-iconography of the Aliya Boat will make news for two weeks straight. Embedded reporters and a documentary crew will record the epic tale. In Israel, a massive confetti welcome will make the arrival of the Aliya Boat one of the most moving spectacles of our time. It will be just too awesome of an event to minimize, and it will force every Jew in the world to rethink his or her position onaliya.

Indeed, this is not the time for cynicism. It is a time for Zionism. It is a time to think big and act big. If you will it, it is no dream.

Yishai

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Thursday, January 07, 2010

Look for the Shofar Guy








Sunday, December 27, 2009

Ezekiel's Vision of Today's Ingathering



Who do you think the two kingdoms are discussed in the 37th chapter of Yechezkel? (It was this past week's Haftora) Do you think it's talking about Lost tribes?

When I was in college I realized that this passage is actually talking about today. The vision of Ezekiel is that the time will come (in the end of days) when there will be, once again, two Jewish kingdoms - two great centers of Judaism. There will be a great rift between them, but in the end they will have to consolidate into one. I realized in NY that the time had come to make this vision come to pass. American Jewry and Israeli Jewry must reunite in Israel...

Read it carefully and you will see that it must be talking about today. The passage before, the famous Dry Bones vision, is the description of the Holocaust and the rebirth of the nation in the Holy Land. Then, in the next passage (below) is the vision of the ingathering that follows the rebirth. This is not about the Second Temple - it's too big.

I know what a hard time we are living in. When a father of 7 is murdered by killers who were already in prison once - it stings and makes us wonder whether we are really 'home'. But, the bottom line is that we are home, and that with all the challenges and pain, the vision is coming into focus.

Where are you in this picture? Are you part of the vision? Are you reuniting the Jewish nation on the Land of Israel? American Jewry, that other great center of Judaism must make its way home. Read the Haftora below with this understanding of who the two kingdoms are and decide whether you want to be part of the new grand coronation of the nation!

16. "And you, son of man, take for yourself one stick and write on it, `For Judah and for the sons of Israel, his companions'; then take another stick and write on it, `For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim and all the house of Israel, his companions.'
17. "Then join them for yourself one to another into one stick, that they may become one in your hand.
18. "When the sons of your people speak to you saying, `Will you not declare to us what you mean by these?'
19. say to them, `Thus says the Lord GOD, "Behold, I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel, his companions; and I will put them with it, with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they will be one in My hand."'
20. "The sticks on which you write will be in your hand before their eyes.
21. "Say to them, `Thus says the Lord GOD, "Behold, I will take the sons of Israel from among the nations where they have gone, and I will gather them from every side and bring them into their own land;
22. and I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel; and one king will be king for all of them; and they will no longer be two nations and no longer be divided into two kingdoms.

23. "They will no longer defile themselves with their idols, or with their detestable things, or with any of their transgressions; but I will deliver them from all their dwelling places in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them. And they will be My people, and I will be their God.
24. "My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd; and they will walk in My ordinances and keep My statutes and observe them.
25. "They will live on the land that I gave to Jacob My servant, in which your fathers lived; and they will live on it, they, and their sons and their sons' sons, forever; and David My servant will be their prince forever.
26. "I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant with them. And I will place them and multiply them, and will set My sanctuary in their midst forever.
27. "My dwelling place also will be with them; and I will be their God, and they will be My people.
28. "And the nations will know that I am the LORD who sanctifies Israel, when My sanctuary is in their midst forever.""'

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Make Aliyah and Help Save Israel



By Michael Berezin: We are at a turning point my fellow Jews. The meager support we once had here in Israel stemming from Europe and America, is quickly slipping away. They have bought the Arab narrative or at the very least are choosing to support the Arab side, based on their own domestic demographic based fears. What this means is that our enemies have become emboldened. They know we can't use our fancy killing devices because of the hard work of proud capos such as Goldstone. So as a result they demand more for nothing and stockpile better weapons to one day kill us with.

Wait wait it gets better. At the same time that our enemies are both threatening to destroy us and mocking us with an all or nothing peace approach. We are fighting with our own people and telling them that for this charade they can't extend their porches or complete houses already paid for. How can this be? Where is the outrage? At what point are we going to realize that either we stay and fight for our right to be here, or we say forget it, pack up and leave. Perhaps we can join the ex Israelis in Forrest Hills. Or maybe downward to Sydney. From what I hear its a great place to enjoy the sun and learn Hebrew from the locals...

The silly post Zionists will have you believe that if it weren't for these pesky roaches I mean settlers peace would reign supreme. Never mind that if the Arabs wanted peace they would have had it at any time in the last 40 years. I mean who can forget all the wonderful goodness, the Arabs were bestowing on us prior to 1967. You know the famous 29' massacres notice how the number 29 comes before 67? or the independence war of 48'. Lets not forget the celebration of Hamas celebrating 22 years. All our concessions have really helped stem the tide of terrors popularity.

Ok we get it. The situation sucks. Why should we want to be a part of it? What will making Aliyah do to help any of this?

Back to the turning point. Now if you follow the news you will see how there seems to be two Israels. One which bows down to the farce of democracy, fears world isolation--> not G-d and sees the land as a commodity to be offered around, the other says "no and to hell with world pressure (which wouldn't go away anyhow) this is our land and we aren't going anywhere". You might recognize them as being referred to as crazy extremists.

Once upon a time it was not only good but it was inspiring to be called a settler. Many might not know this but Petah Tikvah was a settlement, actually the first one. Nobody would ever call that place a settlement now or think of it as occupied illegal land. Except, and here is a little secret the Arabs actually do see it this way. What's even crazier is that they don't keep it a secret they say it all the time. We for some reason can't hear it no matter how loud they say it, act it, and live it.

This is where you come in. By making Aliyah you are letting the world know that this land is your right and that you are here to stay. Now since the whole country will always be treated as a settlement enterprise, pissing off those who hate us anyway, you can live anywhere you want! Doesn't matter if its Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, or Gush Etzion. Eventually we will internalize the fact that they are after the whole thing. When that day comes will you board the plane then?

We are at a critical juncture. Either we embrace Palestinian Nationalism or we embrace our G-d given right to be here. Everyone who values holding on to this land needs to be here and make there presence felt. You could have all the best of intentions about Israel but if you don't wake up here in the morning then it doesn't do much for the cause. All this nonsense of demographics would be put to rest if more Jews from America and beyond could see the writing on the wall and take the plunge.

This would pave the way for a national consensus built on the notion that we are all settlers and thats a good thing. Don't wake up on the wrong side of history, make Aliyah this week!

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Monday, December 21, 2009

The Aliyah Revolution Album gets a great review in Makor Rishon



The Israeli newspaper "Makor Rishon" (my favorite Hebrew paper by far) wrote a great review of our new album. They see it as part of the cultural revolution of the Aliyah movement, and I agree. The Aliyah Revolution will bring about a burst of cultural renewal, for as we come home, we reunite with our people, our land, and our traditions, and fuse Israel with what have learned in the Diaspora. It's all happening. (Click on the photograph to enlarge and read the article for yourself)

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Thursday, December 03, 2009

Crisis Spurs Migration to Israel



By SARA TOTH STUB of the Wall Street Journal

JERUSALEM -- Immigration into Israel and the Palestinian West Bank is surging after the financial crisis and economic downturn evaporated jobs elsewhere.

After years of a brain drain from the region, and despite the lack of a peace settlement, by the end of this month about 4,000 North American Jews will have immigrated to Israel this year, an increase of 33% over 2008 and the most in one year since 1973, according to Nefesh B'Nefesh, an organization that oversees and assists with immigration to Israel from North America.

Immigrants to Israel often have a longstanding desire to move, but the economic crisis has pushed them to make the jump this year, said Danny Oberman, executive vice president of Israel operations for Nefesh B'Nefesh. "The economy has a lot to do with it," Mr. Oberman said.

The crisis is also having an impact on the West Bank, which is seeing the return of hundreds of Palestinians, mostly from the Persian Gulf, looking for work as the economy there sours. The West Bank economy -- separate from Israel's -- is expected to grow 5% in 2009.

No official figures are available yet for how many Palestinians have made the move, but the International Monetary Fund is planning to study the issue over the next month.

"The economic crisis worked to our advantage," said Bashar al-Masry, a Palestinian real-estate developer overseeing an $800 million project to build a new Palestinian city north of Ramallah. "We're seeing more and more people willing to come back."

Amjad Sandoka, 36 years old, a civil engineer from Jerusalem, said he went to work in Dubai seven years ago, but came back in October and found a job in Ramallah. He took a job in the West Bank because he figured he would likely lose his Dubai post, after watching hundreds of people around him being let go.

"I started to feel the crisis there; on the other hand, I heard there was lots of work in the West Bank," Mr. Sandoka said.
More on Israel

Israel's economy, fueled mainly by the software, biomedical, weapons-manufacturing and diamond sectors, has grown at least 4% a year from 2004 to 2008. And Israel has a lower unemployment rate than the U.S., at 7.8%, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics, next to 10.2% in October in the U.S. The Bank of Israel has raised interest rates twice since August, to its current level of 1%, at a time when banks around the world are cutting rates or leaving them low.

Israel also has almost no exposure to Dubai debt because the Arab League boycott prevents Israelis from investing there. That boycott also lessens the impact the Dubai crisis might normally have had on Israeli exports.

Palestinian Minister of National Economy Hassan Abu-Libdeh cautions that the Palestinian economy might ultimately suffer from the downturn in Dubai, because many Palestinian families rely on remittances sent from relatives working there. Oussama Kanaan, IMF representative in the West Bank and Gaza, said Palestinian remittances made up 10% of Palestinian gross domestic product in 2008. Income from Palestinians working in Israel makes up an additional 12% of Palestinian GDP.

Any impact of lower remittances would most likely be softened if those workers find work in the West Bank. With a building boom under way in Ramallah and other Palestinian cities, fueled partly by international aid money totaling $1.7 billion in 2008, many returning from Dubai are finding jobs.

In Israel, North American immigrants are making significant contributions to the economy, according to a recent study by consulting firm Deloitte Information Technologies Israel Ltd. U.S. immigrants who came between 2002 and 2008 have contributed directly 989 million shekels ($262 million) to the Israeli economy, the study said.

Zumi Brody immigrated to Israel with his wife and four young children in August. Mr. Brody, a vice president of a bank, said he had to sell his home in St. Louis for less than what he paid for it to make the move, but paying at least $10,000 per child to attend Jewish day school would have been burdensome. In Israel, his children can attend a state-funded school and still learn Hebrew and Jewish studies.

The increase in immigration from America also shows a change in the image and economy of Israel. The country is in the process of entering the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and has been upgraded from a developing to a developed economy, said Glenn Yago, an economist at the Milken Institute in Jerusalem.

This wave of American immigration suggests that Israel is shifting "from its primary, historical role as a refuge of last resort to a human- and financial-capital destination of first resort," Mr. Yago said.

Separately, on Wednesday, Israeli police arrested the mayor of a West Bank Jewish settlement after protesters blocked security forces from entering the community to enforce a construction freeze, the Associated Press reported. The showdown was the most serious incident of settler unrest since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week announced the 10-month building freeze, which bars the construction of new homes in West Bank settlements.

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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Why Aliyah Is Important For You?



by Michael Berezin

Wherever you might be right now there is one thing that is certain, you are a Jew. You might be a Jew living in New York, you might be a Jew living in London, you might even be an accountant. Its even possible that you might be looking for a whole new way to identify yourself, either way no matter what, you are a Jew first and a Jew last. It is important to clarify that because by speaking of Aliyah and its importance we need to understand what being a Jew and living in Israel has to do with each other. There are many countries and regions in the world filled with all kinds of people. There is but one country promised to one people, explicitly stated by G-d, and that is the land of Israel for the Jewish people...

We just read the Torah portion of Chayeh Sara which starts off with the acquisition of a plot of land. The reason explained for this seemingly unimportant monetary deal to be stated so explicitly is that it was in fact important. Avraham wanted it to be clear that this land purchused in Chevron was in fact acquired fair and square so that there could be no future claims on it. Despite Avraham's best intentions, Hevron is a place that is constantly under siege by an enemy surrounding it.

So what does that mean to you?

It means something incredible! You have an inheritance to claim! So heavy it gets two exclamation points.

Ok great, heard it all before, but I am happy where I am.

How does one argue with happiness?

The answer is that if you really think you are happy it might be that you are. Now imagine being even happier and being on the right side of History. Sure you can wake up in your comfortable suburban town. You might even be making decent money although these days probably not. One thing though is that you are missing out on being a part of connecting the dots to our past, present and promised future. Our destiny was not France as it was not Spain, England, Germany, or do I even dare say the United States Of America. The one thing that all the places where we once flourished have in common was that they either persecuted us or threw us out just when things seemed to be going so well.

History is not linear there are lessons to be learned and miricles to be realized. The modern state of Israel although far from perfect is our destiny. Why because it's about the land. The land that was promissed to our forefathers. there is no other reason to explain how after two thousand years of exile, would we have the wherewithall to vanquish our enemies time and time again when there numbers far outnumber ours as well as their resources.

Does anybody think the Jews of Berlin the most assimilated and progressive Jews of the world could have ever dreamt of a reality where they would be viewed as Jews first and dealt with accordingly?

We are on the cusp of a whole new realty with the threat of Iran and a Muslim population bent on world dominance, where are you gonna put your faith?

Don't wait for the wrong time, sieze the right time and the right time is now. Why? Because you are Jew and Israel is not just your destiny but a part of your identity. Aliyah- Just do it!

========


[I found the following text when I Googled "Why Aliyah is important for you?" -Yishai]

One of the profile questions on http://www.singolim.org which I found on Pinchas' Blog is: "Below describe in you own words why Aliyah is important to you. If you already made Aliyah also talk about your experience making Aliyah:"

I got a bit carried away and here is my answer....

I came nearly 9 years ago for a Yeshiva "summer program" after my first (and subsequently last) year of college. I loved yeshiva, but I despised Israel, Israeli apartments, Israeli meat (or what tried to pass as such), Israeli attitude, fighting to the death with taxi drivers over 30 cents and most importantly the fact the milk comes in bags.

I anxiously left after around a year and counted down the days until I would go home for Pesach (I guess an "anti-omer" of sorts) and then learn for the next zman in the US.. The moment the plane took off I already regretted my decision, got this gnawing feeling in my kishkes and knew it would not be long before I was back...

6 Months later I was and I have been here since, and don't plan to leave (unless I am expelled from my house in the next few months by the shilton hakofrim/memsheles zadon).

Why Israel? Honestly I ask myself that question every day and have yet to come up with a satisfactory answer. It is certainly not the bad attitude, rudeness, poor hygiene, lack of amenities, high prices, even higher taxes, small cars, bad meat, pitiful salaries, 6 day workweeks, deathly bureaucracy, or the dreaded milk in bags. Certainly not the rashayim in the government and supreme court. Definitely not the threat of being shot or blown up every day for the crime of waking up that morning (or in my case, early afternoon).

I think when it comes down to it, I like the fact that in Israel, being Jewish is normal and the natural thing to do. In Israel you just ARE Jewish, period. The difference between a mildly assimilated American Jew and even the most secular Israeli is astounding. No one (ok fine, no one excluding a statistically insignificant fringe minority) would dream of not getting married under a chuppa, or giving their kids a bris. Almost everyone goes to shul on Yom Kippur, a majority fast, and upwards of 90% leave Egypt each year at a Pesach Seder. Every student (even in the most heretical anti-religious schools) must learn Tanakh and Jewish History. We speak Hebrew, we use Shekalim and everyone kvetches to their heart's content (as if there is such a thing). You have to go out of your way to find treife restaurants (even in Tel Aviv) and there is no city, town or neighborhood without a shul(an orthodox one at that). People stop for hitchhikers, invite perfect strangers to their homes for Shabbos and let their little kids roam around unsupervised in the streets (or send them to the store to buy milk in bags). Maybe it is the fact that I can read about certain events in the Chumash and the Gemara and get in the car and go there. Shabbos Chaaye Sarah in Chevron, Lag B'omer in Meron, Birchas Kohanim in Yerushalayim, and for a change Tu B'shevat actually matters. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I scoff at the walls of the Old City which are a mere 400 years old, on my way to Daven at one which was built over 2000 years ago. I remember as a wee youngin' being impressed when we went to visit a house on Long Island which was a whopping 300 years old, in Israel 300 year old artifacts are worth less than yesterday's election poll results.

In America I was a weirdo, a fanatic, a fossil, a relic from the past hanging on to his culture which became obsolete centuries if not millennia ago. Even in Schnorrer Park and Flatbush you are surrounded by people with customs and culture very different from ours and can't help be inundated and influenced by it. Even the shtarkest of Jews in America has a different attitude and way of life than his cousin in Bnai Brak or Beer Sheva. In the streets of The Old City, Meah Shearim or Hebron I am just another brick in the wall just some Harry trying to get to the mikeveh before it closes. Elsewhere I am a tourist attraction.

But I think what really spoke to me and still impresses me to this day is the level of living l'shaim shamayim and mesirus nefesh which is routinely displayed everywhere you look. Yidden who dedicate their lives to serving the Aibishter, have kids without cheshbon, live on hilltops without water or toilets and spend all day arguing about nuances in 2000 year old religious debates because "it is a mitzvah". The entire value system even when compared to worldwide frum communites is just different. Stores which open "after shachris" and close whenever the falafel runs out because the baal habayis has done his histadlus for the day. Everyone is in debt, live in overdraft but somehow manage to put food on the table and marry off their kids. There is no logical explanation for it and hashgocha pratis literally blows in the wind here. I am not saying that living L'shaim shamayim and mesirus nefesh are impossible to find in America, but in Israel you don't even have to look and certainly doesn't come as a surprise.

Sure we can make a list of all the things wrong with Israel (and Israelis) (take milk in bags for example) and still not be finished before the next appearance of Halley's Comet and there is clearly much room for improvement on many fronts, but when push comes to shove, if you are REALLY interested in "being Jewish" Israel is THE place to do it.

That said, I've been here for almost 10 years and it STILL bothers me to no end that milk comes in bags.....

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Study: North American Olim Huge Boost to Israeli Economy



(Published by moi at IsraelNN a couple days ago)

A new first-time study conducted by accounting and consulting firm Deloitte Brightman Almagor Zohar and commissioned by the Nefesh B'Nefesh aliyah organization shows the overwhelming contribution North American immigrants to Israel have made to the country's economy.

The analysis was conducted based on accumulated data provided by Nefesh B'Nefesh (NbN) about 18,000 immigrants who made Aliyah through the organization between the years 2002-2008.

According to the study, households of NbN immigrants "pay back" the Israeli government's investment in them within the first year of their arrival, and are already a significant source of income for the country within five years.

The 6,493 households which made aliyah through NbN between 2002 and 2008 have yielded a whopping 989 million shekels, with the cost of absorbing them standing at only NIS 528 million, leaving the immigrants' contribution at NIS 461 million so far.

Visiting friends and family of NbN olim have also given their boost to the economy by supporting the national tourism industry to the tune of NIS 347 million. Adding this to the tally, NbN olim are accountable for a total GNP contribution of NIS 808 million (over $212 million). Considering the passage of another year and the continued employment and success of North American olim, that number could be higher than NIS 1 billion (almost $262.5 million)

Education and assets
Tali Barda, director of the Department of Strategic Consulting of Deloitte Brightman Almagor Zohar says the success of North American olim can be tied to three key factors:

1. The high level of higher education found among NbN immigrants. Their level (75% have a bachelor's degree or higher) is significantly higher than the average in Israel.

2. NbN immigrants tend to arrive with a lot of valuable assets.

3. Many tourists are attracted to Israel by NbN olim, whose families and friends have pumped hundreds of millions of shekels in tourist dollars into the economy.

Other interesting findings include the considerable number of children immigrating (46%), the high employment eligibility of immigrants (81% of adult immigrants are at the age of employment), and their overwhelming success in finding a job (almost 90% are employed within 1 year of arrival).

Immigration from the United States and Canada "is contributing qualitative strength to the state," said Chairman and Founder of Nefesh b'Nefesh, Tony Gelbart. Over 150 doctors have come to Israel through the organization, said Gelbart, as well as hundreds of high-tech businesspeople and 1,500 new soldiers.

Nefesh B'Nefesh was founded in 2002 by Tony Gelbart (a Jewish businessman and philanthropist from the USA) and Rabbi Yehoshua Fass. Working in conjunction with the Jewish Agency and the Government of Israel, they have brought over 23,000 new immigrants to Israel from the US, Canada, and England in the last 8 years. To learn more, visit their website at www.nbn.org.il

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Monday, November 23, 2009

Nefesh B'Nefesh Hanukkah Flash Mob








Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Music Keeps The Spirit Up and Up!!




Here is an email testifying to the efficacy of the album:


"Just got the AR disc and loaded into onto my mac. Playing it. It is GREAT. The Moshav Band song really pulls at my heart strings. I am there in SPIRIT. Pray that the goof catches up as quick and gets there. For now, I continue to long daily for THAT day. Thanks so much. Best present. You made my month of Kislev. Toodles from Chutz. Shimmi from NJ"

CHECK IT OUT HERE!

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Land and the Daf #1: Olive Oil



Last year I joined up with countless others on the noble project of learning Daf Yomi. We learn a daf, two side of a page, of Gemara (Talmid) every day. The beauty of this is you can discuss what you are learning with Jews all over the world no matter where you go since everyone learns the same thing at the same time.

One of the things I noticed right away was how many times the subject matter somehow relates to living in Eretz Yisrael. Sometimes the connection is quite obvious and jumps out of the page and other times it's more subtle but it’s still there. I thought it might be nice to share some of these thoughts as I came across them.


In today's daf for example (on B.B. 67B) the Mishna discusses what is included in the sale of an olive oil factory if nothing was explicitly specified. The Mishna actually uses very mysterious terms like “the sea” and “the maidens.” When learning this difficult Mishna I actually understood it a lot better today, now that I live in Israel than I would have before I made Aliyah.

The reason is because Yishai was nice enough to show me an ancient olive oil factory that was discovered right behind his home in Beit El. Actually there are many of these ancient olive presses all over Israel. Having become familiar with that it was a lot easier to understand all the parts of the press the Mishna is describing.

It’s very easy to learn Gemara, Mishnayos or even Chumish in America and to feel completely disconnected from the subject matter as if it’s only theoretical and not “real.” However when you live here in Israel the Torah really comes to life. I can't imagine how anyone that loves Torah wouldn't want to live in the land of the Torah.

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Sunday, October 18, 2009

G-d Said Yes


By Rivkah Lambert Adler:
You turned my mourning to dancing. You removed my sackcloth and clothed me in joy. (Tehillim 30:12)

This is the post I've been waiting eight years to write. What seemed utterly impossible just a short time ago suddenly, and I mean suddenly, became absolutely possible. In the end, the whole story is one giant Kiddush Hashem (sanctification of G'd's Name).

G'd, through His great goodness, finally said, "Yes. Yes, Rivkah, you can now make plans to come and live in my Land, live among My people. Come soon and grow yet closer to Me."

I can hardly believe it.

Every single boulder that was in our way on the road between Baltimore and Ma'ale Adumim is gone. It's as if G'd said, "Oh, is that in your way? No problem. Here, let Me get rid of that pesky boulder for you." And He did. With such elegance, with such ease, that it could only be G'd's handiwork.

There have been miracles in this process of getting to yes. Outright miracles. Jaw-dropping miracles. Out of respect for the privacy of others, I can't share everything that happened in a public blog, but I can recount this.

On the day I left Ariella in her new life in Israel, I stood on our mirpeset, facing Jerusalem, and prayed an inchoate, "Please Hashem. Please. Please." I wept quietly on the sherut from Ma'ale Adumim, all the way through picking up nine more passengers in various neighborhoods in Jerusalem and I didn't stop until Modi'in, 15 minutes before reaching the airport. Although I sat all the way in the dark back corner and tried to be discreet, the sherut driver twice tried to comfort me in Hebrew, "Yihyeh b'seder, Giveret. It will be okay."

Despite the fact that this was the most difficult parting to date, I eventually dried my tears and made my way back to Baltimore. Once back at the house, I started to unpack. I was alone in the house when something I can't quite define sent me into my daughter's room. The room that she left behind when she made aliyah. The room that held an essence of her, a memory of her, but will no longer ever be hers.

I sat on the bed and I had a meltdown. I don't know how else to define it. The grief that I held quietly on the sherut surfaced in that empty house and I yowled and keened, a wailing lament, as if for the dead.

In my head, I reminded myself that my situation was far from grievous. No one I love had died. No one I love was even sick. I was not Gilad Shalit's mother. My children were healthy and well and I knew where they were.

But I simply could not stop crying.

Years ago, my husband made me promise that when I couldn't take it anymore, I had to let him know. He recognized, before I did, that we were now at that point.

And suddenly, in the exact place where there had been three absolutely impenetrable obstacles, there were five really potent reasons why we should make aliyah. Why we must go soon.

My husband agreed. The words came out of his mouth, but I knew it was Hashem talking. And just like that, the agony over being displaced was over.

To me, it was no less a miracle than the splitting of the Red Sea. Whether I finally cried enough, or accumulated enough merit or, more likely, the combined strength of the prayers of others reached its fulfillment, something shifted in the universe and Hashem said yes.

But then it was Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, and, in a rabbinic household, there was no time to talk about or act on what we had just agreed to.

We told our families that, with G'd's help, we will be coming Home in Tammuz 5770. Some of these conversations were very painful and full of tears of another kind. But, in the end, we were blessed, even by family members who wish we weren't going.

With the chagim coming soon, it was a priority to tell our family members. Beyond that, we only had enough time to tell a few close friends. So many people clearly demonstrated that they appreciated how precious this news was. Some sang in response. Some shouted praises to Hashem. Some cried with joy for us. That was monumentally affecting, that our news brought others to tears.

A particularly memorable reaction came from someone I have known for 20 years, an old friend who plans to remain in America. "Of course," he said, "I will miss being in your physical presence. But it has been so hard for me to watch you in pain, to watch you feeling profoundly displaced all these years. I am so happy for you."

To have friends who love us and who truly, selflessly, wish us joy in this decision is a blessing beyond measure.

Hodu lashem, ki tov. Ki l'olam chasdo. Give thanks to Hashem, because He is Good. His kindness lasts forever.

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Sunday, October 04, 2009

Eretz Yisrael is FUNDAMENTAL to Living a True Jewish Life.


[Picture of Northern Israel by Theo from Holland]

Hello, my name is N. and I was educated in right-wing yeshivas for many years and the attitude of most of my rebbeim and friends was: "if you can move to Israel-great. If you can't- no big deal, you can study Torah and be a good Jew in America too."

There was never an emphasis an settling the land or making alliya. Over time, as I became more exposed to the teachings of Rav Kook, I began to realize that the prolonged exile has had an effect on everyone's thinking - even the rabbis. We think of Eretz Yisrael as some kind of "icing on the cake" to our Torah learning and strict adherence to the mitzos. The reality, is that Eretz Yisrael is FUNDAMENTAL to living a true Jewish life.

I desperatly want to make aliya with my wife and 3 children. When I tell people this, they reply "Oh, thats not a very smart idea- your kids will have a very difficult time adjusting and it may even cause them to go off the derech". I feel in my heart of hearts that aliyah is such a special mitvah- equal to all the mitzos- and if I am doing a mitva for the sake of heaven, Hashem will not allow any bad to befall me or my family on account of the mitzva. Also, who says my kids can't get just as messed up- chas v'shalom- here in America? There are so many kids here in America that go off the derech, so why not take my chances in Israel where at least for all the future generations after my kids, they will have the benefit of being part of Israeli society- which truly is, sooner or later, going to be the only place on earth for a Jew to be.

The problem is that I am only qualified to be a Rebbi and my wife a kindergarten Morah. There is no shortage of those in Israel, so the question remains "how would we make ends meet?". I am willing to sacrafice alot to move to Israel but I don't know where to start. Is there a way you could help me to make aliya?

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

NBN 5769 In Review - Shana Tova!








Friday, September 11, 2009

New Aliyah Photos and Narratives


See the amazing faces and facets of the Ingathering by clicking HERE

Hear 6 and 3/4 old Shoshanna Lapping talk about her Aliyah
Hear the reconstitution of the Fishman family in the Holy Land

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This was written by my friends and super inspiring Aliyah-consciousness-raising-machines Rabbi Elan and Rivka Adler:

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Departures and Arrivals

NOTE: This departure narrative was written by my amazing husband, Elan. Some months ago, we decided to split the job of launching our daughter, Ariella, into her new life in Israel. Elan agreed to take on the task of bidding her farewell and I got to receive her here in the Holy Land. For those who don't know our family, Elan, who was born in Israel, is Ariella's step-father (but only in the most technical sense). Shani is her sister. The rest is, I think, self-explanatory.

DEPARTURE

Hi everyone,

Just an update from our home in Baltimore.

Yesterday I drove Rivkah to Newark airport so she could arrive a day before Ariella's aliyah flight. After a 5 hour delay, Rivkah finally took off and arrived safely today in Israel. Rivkah and her brother Herschel will be joined by several friends at the arrival ceremony at Ben Gurion in just a couple of hours.

Shani and I and her Uncle Brian joined Ariella on the drive to JFK today, as Ariella joined over 200 others on their aliyah flight this afternoon, the last Nefesh b'Nefesh flight of the summer of 2009. We were joined at the airport by Ariella's cousins Sara Nechama, Nochum and their 5-month old baby, Baruch Binyamin.

There is a farewell ceremony, with several speakers, followed by cake and soda, and then came the time no one was looking forward to, saying goodbye to Ariella.

Man, was that tough. Was that ever hard...

It was exactly a year ago when, the night before Ariella was leaving for her year of study in Israel, I told her what will be playing in my head when we bid farewell....it was the Muppets movie, I think they were in NY, and at the end, when time for departure comes, the characters sing, "It's time for saying goodbye." And then, a year ago, minutes before the last hugs prior to her passing through security, it was, indeed, time for saying goodbye.

But this was very different. Her closet is empty of clothes, her room is mostly bare and devoid of her special touches, and with duffles and backpacks stuffed with what makes her Ariella, she was ready to check in at the El Al counter, seconds away from receiving a boarding pass to the rest
of her life 6000 miles away.

Hugging her and crying, I blessed her and wished her every success and happiness, hesitating to let her go, squeezing her one more time before she belonged to everyone else waiting their turn. I told her that even though we don't share the same genetic material, in less than twelve hours, only she and I will share something special that she shares with no one else in the family- citizenship in Israel.

A few more waves, and blown kisses, and mouthed "I love you"s, and it was....time....for saying........goodbye.

We met when she was 6. I left Israel when I was 6. Now, she is going to my home, to make a home for herself.

L'hitraot, Ariella, may Hashem bless every step you take in your new home.

And may our steps not be far behind.

Love to you, dear friends,
Shalom,
Elan


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Check out the "Signs of the Times" Aliyah album by clicking HERE

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ARRIVAL

I wasn't sure what to expect from my heart this morning as I waited for the arrival of the plane that brought my daughter Home.

When we first entered the welcoming ceremony, images from the departure ceremony at JFK the day before were rotating on the huge screens in the airport. I got to see pictures of my family, including one shot of the three people I love the most in the whole universe, standing together, larger than life.

As the plane touched down, we were able to watch it live on these same screens. When I saw my daughter, my first-born child, step out of the plane, landing in Israel for the first time as an Israeli citizen, I screamed with joy. Then, with the support of some loving friends who are all Israeli citizens themselves, sharing this miraculous morning with me, I rushed outside to greet her in person.

I didn't have to wait long. Ariella was practically the very first person to get off Tram #1 and walk through the crowds of greeters. Considering how long I waited to greet her at birth (31.5 hours of labor), this was fine compensation indeed.

Trying to catch her eye, I started jumping up and down with excitement and anticipation (not a common emotional response in my middle-aged life). I had kissed her goodbye in Baltimore just two days before, but I could not wait to hug her now.

Today, 25% of my enduring, unrelenting, unshakable aliyah dream came true. And I am a very proud, grateful and jubilant Mom.

Thank You God for bringing my daughter Home.

Ain od milvado. There is truly none besides Him.

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Elephant Aliyah








Thursday, August 06, 2009

Signs of the Time of Ingathering



Check my fantastic new picture essay of the signs of Aliyah!

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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

"Rebbeim told us moving to Israel would be a mistake"



Hi Malkah,

I don't know if you remember me, but I'm X's wife, we met you at Y's house in Z-ville USA for dinner, before your husband spoke at the Shul here.

So, we put our house here up for sale, and we want to make aliyah. We were just there for my sister's wedding, and I miss it so much! For the first time, I came back to the US, and felt truly in my neshama that this is not where we're supposed to be. Yes, it's beautiful here, but it feels, all of a sudden, temporary - like a stop on the way to our real home - Eretz Yisrael!

Anyways, the reason I'm emailing is you is (besides saying hi) to ask you something: Many people (including our Rebbeim) have told us moving to Israel would be a mistake. That we (as charedi) wouldn't fit in with Israeli charedi, but that the other side would be too "modern" for us, and for our kids. My husband is Israeli, so that would definitely be a big plus to fitting in, but there would be many issues with our kids and schools. For example, most likely we would want to send our kids to a charedi school, but we wouldn't fit in, so then we would have to change also, so they'd fit in. And that Israeli kids in schools usually don't want Americans to mingle with them, so they have separate classes. And Israeli charedim don't like how the American charedim come and have barbecues and stuff. (Just superficial stuff, but to illustrate that it might be hard to feel accepted.)

I know your daughter is young, but where do you plan on sending her to school?

It's intimidating hearing our Rabbis tell us this, but I also feel that if G-d wants us (and the entire Jewish people) there, He will make it work.

Any thoughts?

Sincerely,
X



Dear X,

Shalom! I'm so glad to hear from you - of course I remember you! Thank you for contacting me regarding your concerns. I'll try my best to answer them.

First, let me say that you are contacting me just after the most Israel-fear-related parsha in the entire Torah. Moshe sent 12 of our greatest men to Israel for reconnaisance, and 10 of them came back with horrible things to say, sowing fear in the hearts of Israel, and causing the entire nation to sin against G-d. Of course, in the retrospect of history, we learn that the nation of Israel showed a serious lack of faith by rejecting the Land of Israel. But trying to put ourselves in their shoes, we see there was a major propaganda campaign conducted by the "10 spies", all of whom were trusted and honored tribal leaders. Their status was meant to give weight to G-d's word. Instead, they used it to bolster their own opinions, their own human fears. The Torah teaches us that we pay for this moment of fear and doubt until today, and that unless we fix the situation, our children will also pay.

I am not a prophet, or even a great religious leader (or any kind of leader, for that matter). But I know, and I think you know, that G-d wants His nation to live in the Land of Israel. That being said, the question cannot be if. The question can only be how.

I heard once a beautiful dvar Torah that said that in every country of exile, the Jewish people had to change to suit the land. But in Israel, the Land changes to suit the Jewish people. Israel is a country still in flux - obviously, we still have some pretty serious issues to contend with, and we are in the process of forming a national identity. It's easy to get nervous about how to deal with various issues, including fitting into society, educating children, and just making it!

As with anything, faith is important. Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, incidentally, says true faith can only be learned in the Land of Israel. I believe that the same G-d who helps you get your kids to school every morning in Passaic will help you do so in Jerusalem, Ramat Beit Shemesh, Neve Daniel, or anywhere else. Even more so because of the big mitzvah you are trying to do by embracing Israel and anchoring your children in it.

On to the practicalities. I am not chareidi, so I can't speak to the intricacies of that culture. However, I have found that Israelis are largely accepting, supportive, and friendly, in all walks of life. This is the Middle East, and the grittiness which comes with that has not bypassed the Jews. But neither has the sweetness of the Jewish soul, so don't be afraid of Israelis!! You and your children will learn the real meaning of compassion, brotherly love, and familial concern in Israel, as you embrace a way of life involving true sharing, partnership, and familiarity which comes with having Israeli neighbors. Sometimes there's culture shock, yes. But I think you will be very pleasantly surpised.

Furthermore, who says you have to fully immerse yourself in such a challenging way? There are plenty of great communities full of Americans, with children in schools, Old Navy in the secondhand stores, and cans of cranberry sauce piled high. Beit Shemesh, Ramat Beit Shemesh, Neve Daniel, Efrat, Tel Tzion, Zichron Yaakov, Modiin - these are communities you should look into, because American olim have paved the way on a lot of issues you are concerned with.

One more very important point. I don't, G-d forbid, mean to disparage your rabbis. But lashon hara is lashon hara, no matter who speaks it. The Vilna Gaon teaches that the Sitra Achra works hard on the Gedolim, that they should reject the Land of Israel, because the Sitra Achra is vanquished when the Jews are on the Land. Even if they don't intend, by scaring you away from the Land of Israel, by slandering large groups of Jews and making you feel you won't be able to be family with them, they are falling under the sway of the Sitra Achra, probably because they are very high souls whom he is attacking.

X, you are going to make it in Israel. You are going to face obstacles, and you will worry and maybe even cry. But you will be better for all of your experiences, and so will your kids. You will be happy that you moved here, and you will thank G-d for the miracle of taking you out of the Exile. You and your family will grow in ways you never thought possible, and you will feel the completeness of your Jewishness, something you can only do here.

Buck up! This is the dream of 2,000 years! And this is giving nachat to Hashem, the most important thing you could ever do. As the Lubavitcher Rebbe always said -Israel, the Land that G-d watches from the beginning of the year to the end of year. Hashem will be with you. All the souls of all your ancestors who never had this opportunity will be with you. And your brothers and sisters will be with you.

Fear is the great sin of our time, perhaps the great sin of history, and we are ALL susceptible to it. But we can't give in. If we beat it, I believe we will merit G-d's love and satisfaction, and bring the redemption of our people and of the whole world.

As the Lubavitcher Rebbe said - tracht gut unt zeint gut - think good and it will be good! Do your research, make a careful plan, and then close your eyes and jump! This is a great adventure on which you're embarking - enjoy it!

All the best,
Malkah

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Must Read: Fantasy Aliyah!



Dear Yishai,

Hi, this is Fran. I was at your Kumah meeting in NY last year when you talked about the "aliyah boat". I have another idea for your listeners: I call it Fantasy Aliyah!

In the Jewish newspapers in NY they are advertising a Glatt Kosher, Shomer Shabbat Fantasy baseball camp with one of the NY major league teams. I root for the OTHER NY team, but in any case I would not spend ridiculous sums of money to go do such a thing since being a baseball player is not my fantasy.

However, I really wish I could make aliyah, but for personal family reasons I am not yet in a position to do so. My husband and I are working on a longer term plan, but meanwhile we are bringing the family to Israel this summer.

Instead of vacationing in the expensive tourist bubble of four or five star Hotels and fancy tours, I planned a trip where we are renting a house for three weeks in a community we would consider living in where we have some friends. We will be attending an unveiling ceremony, and also a wedding. We will visit friends, do some fun things for sure. Most important is that I want to learn to ride the buses, the train, shop in the supermarket, shop at the mall, visit the community pool, the library and practice my Hebrew. I may even rent a car and try driving in Israel (scary thought!)

At first I was calling this my pre pre pilot trip, but now I am calling it Fantasy Aliyah! For three weeks I'm going to imagine that I'm really an olah chadasha! My daughter even picked up an NBN hat for me at the salute to Israel parade!

I'm hoping that this will be a good experience, and make the idea of aliyah less scary. I'm hoping that I will get more comfortable with being in Israel, and that one day G-d willing we can make aliyah for real.

Meanwhile "Fantasy Camp" in Israel, is better than not coming at all! We hope to turn our Fantasy into reality some day soon.

You may read this email on air as an idea for your listeners, and I hope to visit Beit El and all my radio friends at INR.

Fran

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Thursday, June 11, 2009

Going Home



If you live in Jerusalem you may have noticed some extra Nesher Airport Taxi vans whizzing around the city this week. And many of the streets around town are missing something uniquely Jerusalem.

That's because it's that time of year again. Time when all the yeshiva guys and seminary gals have finished "their year" and are all set to head "home."

Some will come back for a second or third year. Some will even be on a Nefesh B'Nefesh Aliyah flight this summer. (Studying at Bar Ilan instead of YU/Stern is becoming a hot trend!) But some, won't.

It's an interesting thing, that year. I have some of the fondest memories of my life from my year and it certainly is a life changing experience. A great many students are so impressed by Eretz Yisrael while they are here that they decide to seriously consider moving here (even in the places that aren't pushing Aliyah and certainly in the ones that are.) I hear students that I know never dreamed of Aliyah say things like "If I made Aliyah I would live over here." That's a huge step.

The best advice I can offer to those so many students that have been inspired this year is not to wait! If you have a plan - like studying for a degree at Bar Ilan - stay here or come back with NBN this summer. And if your plan calls for a brief stop over in Chutz L'Aretz (mine did) then make sure the keep the flame alive because if there is one thing Golus is great at it's burning out that Aliyah flame. If you don't actively keep the dream of Aliyah alive it will quickly change from a goal to "a nice thing to maybe do one day" and later in some cases Israel will become "a nice place to visit but I wouldn't want to live there."

So how do you keep that flame alive? Get involved. Many colleges already have Aliyah clubs - join them! In my case the Aliyah Club at my college was defunct so I restarted it myself. Then I joined Kumah. And I made sure to visit Israel every free chance I got! As long as you keep that connection with Eretz Yisrael alive your dream of Aliyah will come true. And then you'll finally really go Home!

We'll greet you at the airport!

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Fire From Sinai



If you were some sort of head of State, and you decided to pay an official visit to Israel on say, Lag B’Omer, you would probably return home and tell people, “it's a beautiful land, but the locals there, those Jews, they sure are a bunch of pyromaniacs!”

I’ve written before about how in America I used to think Lag B’Omer was about softball. After all the softball is symbolic of Torah and the light that shines forth from it symbolizes the light that Rav Shimon Bar Yochai brought to the world by authoring the holy Zohar. Now, however, I know that using bonfires in place of softballs fit the symbolism much more aptly.

This year I didn’t go to Har Meron. Instead, I hung out in Jerusalem. What struck me the most about last night, was not how many fires there were around the city, in every park, and open lot, but the absolute breadth of the types of people enjoying them. From the most charedi godal hador down to the most secular Jew that never even heard of the Zohar, let alone Rashbi, all were singing and smiling at a huge bonfire somewhere in the country.

And that got me thinking. Even if one isn’t particularly religious, just by living in the holy land of ours some religion is going to rub off on them. Take Purim as another example. Every single eight year old in this country - from ultra-secular to ultra-religious - dresses up for Purim and could likely relate to you the entire Purim story. This is not the case in America, where many secular Jews there never heard of Purim.

I came across an interesting Rashi on this week’s Parsha. Perhaps the most commonly found verse in the Torah is “And G-d spoke to Moshe saying.” This week the Parsha opens with an interesting variation. “And G-d spoke to Moshe, on Mount Sinai, saying.” Rashi asks, “Why here?” Hashem said all of the Torah to Moshe on Sinai! Why is only this one spot, which discusses the laws of Shmittah (the Sabbatical year) singled out?

Without going into depth (see it inside for details) Rashi answers that we could learn out from here that all commandments with all the details and fine points they involve, were taught on Har Sinai and completely repeated with full details by Moshe “at the Plains of Moab.”

A question that came to me is that the Torah could still have applied the words “on Mount Sinai” to any other commandment in the Torah and we would have been able to come to the same conclusion. Why did it specifically choose the commandment of Shmittah?

Shmittah is an example of something, even the most religious Jews living in America know very little about. It’s something that simply doesn’t apply there and so not much effort is spent studying it. The Talmid Bavli (which was written in Babylonia) doesn’t even have a tractate on it. Whether one was written but lost or never written is debated but the reason for either scenario would simply be because those laws “didn’t apply” to them. (Incidentally, the Talmid Yerushalmi written in the Land of Israel does contain a tractate on the laws of Shmittah.)

Two years ago, I remember being terrified by the upcoming Shmittah year, which I knew nothing about! I attended shiur after shiur trying to get up to speed on what all the laws are (and there are many of them!) The shiurim were all very heavily attended which demonstrated that lots of people felt the same way. Now that we have to keep these laws we should learn what they are.

And now we can understand why Hashem chose this commandment out of all the others to apply the words “on Mount Sinai.” First, this commandment was given to us by G-d via Moshe on Har Sinai just like all the other ones. There is no reason not to be studying it regardless of where you are living. Don’t forget about it! And second, just like all the other commandments, this one, was also given on Har Sinai and it’s one that you should be keeping too. And if the only way to keep it is by living in the Land of Israel, then what are you waiting for?

Make Aliyah!

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Sunday, May 03, 2009

Economic Crisis Prompting Israeli Expats to Return Home



TEL AVIV (JTA) -- When Oded Salomy and his family first left Israel for the United States, they planned to move back after a few years of career building. But life was good, and it quickly became easy to delay the return home.

Then the economic crisis hit, giving them an extra nudge to go back to Israel...

Now celebrating his first Independence Day in Israel in five years, Salomy marvels at the relative ease of the transition from suburban New Jersey to suburban Tel Aviv.

“I feel great here," he said. "I definitely feel it was the right move both for me as person and as a family.

The Salomy family is among a growing number of Israeli families living abroad who, motivated by new economic realities and ties to family, friends and country, are making the journey back home.

As many as 1 million Israelis live overseas, according to varying estimates, but the Israeli government over the years exerted little official effort to woo them back. That changed recently when the Absorption Ministry adopted a new campaign to offer returning Israelis tax and other financial incentives, as well as assistance finding jobs.

Last year, the number of returning Israelis rose to 11,000 from a recent annual average of 4,500, according to the ministry. In the past six months, as the global economic situation has deteriorated, interest in moving to Israel has skyrocketed, officials say -- not just among Israelis abroad but potential immigrants, too.

Among those returning are highly educated Israelis who have gained valuable work and academic experience abroad.

“I hope because of the campaign tens of thousands of Israelis will find their way back to Israel,” Erez Halfon, director general of the Absorption Ministry, told JTA. “I think it’s important to them, and the government needs to encourage it because I’m sure in 10 years we will see their importance, how the economy and security situation will be improved because of their return.”

Before launching its campaign, the ministry researched some of the main reasons Israelis abroad hesitate to return.

Among the major stumbling blocks the ministry removed were penalties for failing to pay National Insurance payments (akin to Social Security payments in the United States) while abroad. The ministry also provides extra Hebrew education for the children of returning Israelis, offers business loans and provides a tax exemption for two years on all income earned abroad.

While Israel has been affected by the economic crisis, it has felt the blow less severely than the United States.

Salomy, 41, had founded a transportation technology start-up while in America -- an interactive touch-screen system for the backseats of taxi cabs in New York City. Despite finding initial success, it became clear the company would have to raise tens of millions of additional dollars to stay competitive.

“Then the markets started falling apart and commitments crumbled, and with the pinch it became clear people were tightening up and the company was not going to be able to support me and my family any longer,” he said.

A lawyer by training, Salomy had to take temporary consulting jobs to stay afloat. His and his wife’s thoughts soon focused on their deferred plan to return to Israel.

“The deteriorating economy was not as bad then as it is now, but it was still pretty bad and it pushed us to make a pivotal life decision,” he said. “We told ourselves that if we want to move, we should move now.”

There were also “pull” factors: Salomy’s children were getting older, and he wanted them to grow up in Israel -- a sentiment many returning Israelis echo.

“The decision was not for a better life, but wanting to come back as the kids got bigger,” said Ruti Efroni, who returned to Israel last summer after five years in Washington. “They had even stopped speaking Hebrew to each other, and we wanted to come back to our families.”

When it comes to finding work, recruiters suggest that those who intend to return should move back first and then seek employment. Otherwise, the recruiters warn, the job seekers are not taken as seriously by prospective employers.

That’s what Salomy did after two “scouting” trips to Israel, where he had dozens of interviews and meetings. Soon after returning last summer, he found a job as a director of corporate development for Modu, a manufacturer of light mobile phones.

Nefesh B’Nefesh, the organization that oversees North American aliyah, attributes the 100 percent jump in the number of inquiries to their call center in recent months to the economic crisis.

“Israel has been on their agenda,” said Danny Oberman, executive vice president of Israel operations for the group. “They are looking towards summer camps and paying for next year’s education for their kids, saying, ‘OK, the bonuses I got two years ago are not going to happen; it’s a new landscape.”

Ronan Hillel, a 37-year-old father of six from Long Island, N.Y., has moved up his aliyah plans to June because of the economy. Until recently he was a mortgage banker, working in a field that has dried up in the United States and doesn’t exist in Israel.

But Hillel, the son of Israelis, is optimistic. He’s planning to switch careers in Israel to the food industry.

“We’ll do anything we can in the beginning," he said, "and we'll see where life takes us.”

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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Why I Moved to Israel


By Dani Koesterich (check out his blog)

Around 5 weeks ago, I moved from New Jersey to Jerusalem. Many people wondered why I decided to move, and when asked the reason, I found myself advancing a wide range of answers - everything from the inspirational, to the spiritual, and even the practical (”well, I have a lot of friends there”). Now, being Israeli for 5 weeks, I would like to list some of the reasons I decided to move, and add my present-day opinions, now that I have a bit of hindsight on the matter.

(1). Israel is the only country that actively protects Jews worldwide

You may not know this, but there are Israeli mossad agents in every single country on planet earth. I kid you not. If you’ve done a bit of reading into history, and intake regular quantities of Middle Eastern news, you’d know how vulnerable Jews are worldwide (if you disagree, I assure you I can change your opinion). Let’s leave anti-semitism out of the picture for a moment. The state of Israel as a country is rather controversial in the world. Terrorism against Jews in any country can send a serious message to the state of Israel, and that is why Israel takes on the unbelievable burden of watching out for Jews all over the world.
It may not seem like a big deal for Jews living in America, under the security and protection of the world superpower, but when the situation hits the fan for the Jews (and believe me, it does), circumstances can become dire. That is why I feel the safest living in a country full of Jews, run by Jews, whose #1 priority is to protect Jewish lives...

(2). This is the chance our ancestors waited over 1800 years for

The 2nd temple in Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 CE by the Romans, and the Jewish people were exiled, and dispersed from Israel to locations all over the world. In their daily prayers (3 times a day) Jews have been praying for the rebuilding of Jerusalem and their temple for over 1800 years. Rewind just 100 years ago: Millions of Russain Jews were living in ghettos, poor, starving, and 40% unemployed, where it was illegal to practice any form of Judaism whatsoever. The Jews of that period in time would literally have done any possible thing to be freed from their oppression, let alone to have a state of their own, where Jewish observance was not only legal, but facilitated.

Now that the chance to live in a Jewish land of Israel has returned for the first time in 1800 years, I would think it an unimaginable lost opportunity to just ignore it, and live somewhere else. We’ve been wondering from country to country for centuries already.

(3). We’re making history

Read some history books. In approximately the year 378 BCE, the Persian king Cyrus The Great set forth an edict allowing Jews to return to their homeland, and rebuild their temple. A mere 5% took him up on his offer. Not only that, but later on, when the temple was finally rebuilt and the 2nd Jewish commonwealth was underway, 75% of world Jewry lived outside the land of Israel. Our Rabbis and Sages say that had the Jews risen to the opportunity that Cyrus The Great had helped to provide, the 2nd temple may not have been destroyed.

To put it mildly, their great grandchildren and their descendants felt they made a disastrous decision, and the Jewish people have paid wholesomely for it, for millennia. When the history books of the 21st century are written and studied by future generations, I don’t want to be looked back on poorly.

(4). Israel needs Jews!

Having lived in Israel for 5 weeks at this point, I can say definitively that Israel needs Jews living here. In just 60 years, the country has gone from practically nothing, to a first-world country, often times leading the way in technology and science. I believe this is solely due to the unparralelled talent, and drive the Jewish people have, collectively.

I like to think of myself as a talented individual, and thus, one of the reasons I decided to move to Israel was so that I can put my talents toward improving the Jewish state. There are a lot of smart Jews living in Israel, and let me just say, it’s apparent.

(5). Everything you do is a Mitzvah

There is only one country on earth where picking trash up off the ground is a Mitzvah, and there is only one country on earth where sweeping the ground outside your apartment is a Mitzvah. You guessed it: Israel.

(6). What do you want to do with your life?

Believe it or not, there will come a point in time that you will look back on your life, and begin to judge whether you lived your life satisfactorily. For me, when that time comes, I desperately want to be able to list the multitude of things I dedicated time and energy toward during my lifetime that helped build Israel into a better place. I also hope at that time, I can say that I successfully raised a generation of children that will continue the legacy of the Jewish people.

Maybe they’ll each have their own blogs. That would be awesome. I know a good programmer they can hire.

(7). The food here is ridiculous

Seriously, if you like food even a little, you would love living in Israel. The ice coffee is in slurpee consistency! Enough said.

(8). Hebrew is sickly cool

עברית היא שפה קדושה ומגניבה

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Monday, March 30, 2009

Australiyah - The New Kumah Campaign


Here are some of the new stickers I made to get those folks from Down-Under to get right-side-up on Aliyah to Israel now!
Baruch Kitay, formerly of Darwin, is going back to visit this Pesach, and he is bringing the new stickers to Australia. I am sure he will be bringing back Jews with him when he returns.

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Friday, March 27, 2009

From Facebook



Yishai,

Saw you on tuesday night live from jerusalem...also big fan of israelnationalradio, which I believe you run- I can't stand Ha'aretz.

I am Jewish, 19 years old, from Houston, Texas, and I want to make aliyah soon!
Ryan

===

Hi Yishai,

I arrived here 3pm Israel time, and I had an Israeli dinner with 6 other Israelis celebrating my arrival!! What a day!!! Blessed and joyful all around! Hard flight, but made it in one piece. Landing in Germany, we flew in beneath the clouds. Hovering above the ground at 600 feet I could see the greyness of the land. It was filled with snow. The first glimpse of the ground gave me goose bumps...old old train tracks still in the ground for miles and miles. Were those by chance the same tracks that carried the Jews to the camps, I thought? Listening to the PA with the pilot and crew speak in German gave my heart a skip. Why was I going back to Germany, (even for just a layover) when it was so hard for so many Jews to leave?? After we landed I rushed to my next flight since the last one was late. That gave me no time to think about what had happend not so many years ago where I was standing. When I borded the next plane to fly to Israel, the plane was filled solid with Jews from every corner of Europe and the world!!! There were orthodox rabbis, student teen girls dressed in the most current European fashion, professors and mothers. All Jews. No one questioned what they believed. No one was there to condemn them. We were greeted with both German and English announcements wishing us a happy and safe flight to Tel Aviv...our HOMELAND!!! What joy I felt seeing so many Jews leaving...so easily.. the land that we died in so horribly trying to leave 60 years ago. The next three hours didn't go by fast enough. Even though the pilot made record time in just 3.5 hours!!! Coming in from off the Mederanian Sea, I saw the gold lining of Tel Aviv and Haifa shorelines! I couldn't help but begin crying and singing 'Behold how good and how pleasent it is to live and dwell together in unity.'


Tomorrow I take a bus to Jerusalem! I am tired. I will write more later!!

Shalom,
Shmuel


===

Shalom Yishai,

Keep up the good work.I download the Podcasts daily and listen to you all on Israel National Radio. You are helping me defend Israel here in Ireland.Its not easy, the gov is left wing and Pro Palestinan.But I support Israel, and don't believe in a Palestine.

I hope G-d blesses Israel with more children,and more people making aliyah.

Keep up the great work.You keep our hearts warm.

Barack Obama is a distant relative of mine.He is hoping to visit his Irish Ancestoral home soon and I will hopefully meet him. Trust me. I will tell him my opinion: He is a wolf in sheeps clothes.Very dangerous.So too is that awful freak Hillary Clinton. My father always hated her. As I grow up I am becoming more like my father. He is hugely Pro Israeli.

Keep well and G-d bless.
Barry

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Zionist Destiny and the End of the Exile



Jewish Population Inside and Outside Israel During the Last Century by Yehezkel Laing

As we look around us we see the world economy taking a nosedive which financial experts say may be unprecedented. At the same time we see the totalitarian regime of Iran approaching the creation of a nuclear bomb. The question is why are these and other cataclysmic events happening davka now?

It appears we are approaching a critical moment in the history of the Jewish people. For almost two thousand years little changed for the Jewish people regarding national independence. We lived scattered all over the world, subject to the whims and mercies of our host nations. However, over the course of less than a century we have seen the rapid decline of the exile and the growing influence of the State of Israel. Today the number of Jews in the diaspora is one third of what it was only 70 years ago.

On the other hand the number of Jews in Israel is rapidly approaching 6 million. Currently there are about 5.7 million Jews in the Jewish homeland. Every year, due to births and aliya, there are 100,000 more Jews in Israel and every year, due to deaths and assimilation, there are 100,000 less Jews in the Diaspora. At the current rate, in a little over three years time, the State of Israel will hold the majority of the Jews in the world – that is the Jewish people will have officially “returned home”. Coincidentally we also see that those who contest Jewish national independence are reaching their greatest opposition as they instinctively realize the significance of the moment.

Jews typically wield disproportional influence to their numbers. The countries which were strongest 30 years ago were the two world super powers, the Soviet Union and the US. Similarly, the two countries which contained the most Jews 30 years ago were the Soviet Union and the US. When the Jews left Russia the country collapsed and it is no longer considered a super power. In the past couple of years the State of Israel surpassed the US regarding size of Jewish population. Coincidentally we see the United States economy has begun to implode.

The Jewish Bible tells us that one day God will gather in His People. “Therefore say, 'So says the Lord GOD, ‘I will gather you from the peoples and assemble you out of the countries among which you have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel.'” (Ezekiel 11:17). While the present situation presents us with many great challenges we should always remember how lucky we are to be able to witness the fulfillment of this great prophecy. How lucky we are to be able to witness the Redemption.

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Sunday, March 22, 2009

"Financial Crisis Leading to Immigration Surge from West"


"Advocacy groups: Financial crisis leading to immigration surge from West" by Raphael Ahren of Haaretz

The financial crisis has "drastically" increased Western Jews' interest in immigrating to Israel, several immigration advocacy groups said this week. It is not clear whether the additional inquiries will translate into actual immigrants, the groups emphasized, yet they are bracing themselves for unprecedented numbers of new arrivals this summer. However, these predictions meet a measure of academic skepticism.

"Literally all over the world, we have registered a significantly higher interest," said Noga Maliniak, the director of the Jewish Agency's aliyah division. "Some of our offices received double the amount of inquiries." Nefesh B'Nefesh, which assists British and North American immigrants, expressed similar experiences. During the period from September 1 until December 31, 2008 - the first four months of the crisis - NBN's call center recorded 2,947 inquires, while during the same period in 2007 only 1,398 people called, an increase of 111 percent. Downloads of immigration applications more than doubled from 300 in February 2008 to 750 last month.

"We won't be able to tell whether this dramatic surge in interest will translate into real numbers of immigrants before July or August, when people actually arrive," said Danny Oberman, NBN's executive vice president of Israeli operations. "It is difficult to make an exact prediction, but there will definitely be a huge increase in aliyah."

"The economic crisis has had a tremendous effect on aliyah," another NBN spokesperson told Anglo File. "It has shaken Diaspora Jewry and caused aliyah-minded individuals to reconsider their time line. We have seen an increase in the number of people who are attending our pre-aliyah seminars, workshops and one-on-one meetings who have mentioned that the economic crisis has led them to expedite their plans."

Oberman speaks of three population groups driven by the current economic climate to consider aliyah: College graduates and young couples who cannot find a job and are no longer able to keep up with the cost of living, as well as finance, marketing and high tech professionals who are either laid off or perceive dim financial prospects. "Above all, the financial crisis causes people to focus on their values," he added. "It's dramatically shaking up people's thoughts on how and where they see themselves."

Yishai Fleisher, the founder of pro-aliyah group Kumah, also expects the number of Western immigrants to rise. He attributes this trend not only to the economic downturn but also to "a lessening of social comfort for American Jews through the advent of the Muslim influx into the U.S., the rise of the Obama administration and scandals such as [the multi-billion dollar swindle committed by Bernie] Madoff."

Fleisher added that he sees young Jews coming in particular. "They are in it for the romance," he said. "Israel provides a life of challenge and an adventure, and that is why almost all NBN flights have young, cool college kids on board."

But not everybody agrees with these predictions. Sociologist Chaim Waxman, a former Jewish studies professor at Rutgers, told Anglo File that he suspects the economic situation to have a negative effect on Western aliyah. "This is in contrast to what some people in the Jewish Agency and other places are expecting, but I think they're very wrong," he said. "Their rationale is that when people are having difficulties they would be more likely to make aliyah, because the economic situation seems to be better here - I am sorry, I just don't see it. The fact of the matter is: the areas where potential [immigrants] work in are especially suffering here."

Waxman, who himself recently made aliyah, said he "love[s] the work that NBN does" but that he has never been able to substantiate its predictions. "Their data is usually much higher than that coming from the Central Bureau of Statistics or any place else."

He added, however, that the financial crunch could potentially draw Israelis living abroad back home. "If the situation is equally bad here and there, many of them might come back," Waxman said. "People prefer the place they are used to, so Israelis might come home but American Jews will probably stay where they are."

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Big Project



Dear Yishai,

This was the response from my friend who moved to New Jersey from Tiverya to your last Blog post... He doesn't sound too impressed....and perhaps he brings up a good point.
-Y

"Yes, there are yordim (people who leave Israel) and people who do not make it and I am sure they do their best to discredit the Big Project "

For lack of a better term... words of a pompous fool...

The big project is Hashem and attaching to Hashem, not sacrificing your children and well-being for fulfilling Zionist agenda (not Hashem's aganeda per se)...

Many people have experienced Israel for the good, but just as many have ruined their family by believeing that we must sacrifice everything (including our children!) for the propaganda that right now the only place a Jew can be a Jew is in Israel.

Its not that we didnt "make it" in Israel, its that we made a choice regarding what would be best for our family...


====

Yishai responds: Sounds pretty angry. And I am sure he had some tough times. But... what a joke... what did he think I meant by the Big Project? The State of Israel is NOTHING BUT A KLI, a vessel, for the G-d's plan to ingather the exiles, the return us to Torah, and to build the Beit Hamikdash - that is the Big Project!

He writes: "Its not that we didnt "make it" in Israel, its that we made a choice regarding what would be best for our family..." Yes, he did what is best for his family, but not best for Hashem or the Jewish people - he is thinking about himself and that is ok, but there is a national calling right now and national thinking is what is needed.

(By the way, why did he move to Tveria - a totally un-American place with no people like him - setting himself up for failure??) In any case, setting up your children in Eretz Yisrael is best for them in the long run.

He also wrote: "Many people have experienced Israel for the good, but just as many have ruined their family by believing that we must sacrifice everything (including our children!) for the propaganda that right now the only place a Jew can be a Jew is in Israel."

Just as many? I don't think so. I think he would like to think so. But absolute numbers speak the whole story: in the 70's there were 3 million Jews here, now there are almost 6 million - doubles in 40 years. Can American Jewry say that? No. The future is here, and ask any economist and he will tell you, the future is not in America. Certainly for a G-d fearing Yid! A Jew can be a Jew anywhere - but not a fullfilled Jew... Just ask Moses what he would have chosen...

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Sunday, March 15, 2009

Jew Hatred and Fear



Shalom Yishai,

Sorry I haven't written in a while as I was busy studying for my actuary exam. Which I failed twice. I am going to give it one last change on May 21...

Yishai: I know you, and I know how smart you are. So your failure in this test can only mean one of two things: 1. This is not the career that Hashem has in mind for you - He may want you to be a great Rabbi, a great teacher, or a high-tech entrepreneur. Sometimes, when things don't go easily it is a sign that you need not push on this door. On the other hand, the common saying is 'if at first you don't succeed, try try again' and also 'three times a charm.' I wish you much success, but pray that Hashem will take you on a good direction - I think He is sending you a sign of some kind.

The only time I can really listen to you is when my real estate appraisal job is busy which it has been lately...I still really enjoy your show and get tremendous inspiration (and information)..but I must say stick to your old plan of encouraging Aliya because it is the right thing to do. At least in America, I have not felt or heard anyone talk about the slightest uptick in Jew hatred (notice I am not calling it Anti-Semitism), not to say that couldn't change on a dime. But the economy seems to be tanking and the Jews are suffering with the rest of them, but thank G-d Jew directed hatred hasn't changed. You seem to be trying to scare Americans into making aliyah "or else" the baddies will come get you. Stick to the positive message of choosing to move...

Yishai: I have been speaking of the positive reasons for making Aliyah for the last 10 years and I will always continue to do so. This is because the light of Israel is no propaganda tool. Living in in the Land of Israel is a great privilege, while building the State of Israel is the greatest project of the Jewish people in 2000 years. I have also refrained from talking about Israel-Jew-Hate for the last many years because I firmly believed that it was not palpable to most American Jews, and not even to most Jews of the Western Diaspora. However, things have changed, and Jew-hate has factually risen throughout the whole world including America. Talking about the rising levels of Jew-hate as a reason for Aliyah is not a propaganda tool or a PR tactic - it is simply a reality. Believe me, I wish it weren't so, and that all Jews would come home because they too would see the light and choose to be close to G-d. But the way it has always worked for the Jews is simple: either by hook or by crook - either the Jews choose Israel because of a higher vision, or the Jew-haters will boot them out. As a commentator and a broadcaster it is my duty to warn of the dangers and the shifts in society. I will continue to talk-up the light of Israel, but a dark cloud looms and I will keep calling them as I see them.

On a personal note, I feel as though aliyah is further and further away from me as being an actuary looks like it may not happen. I am stuck. NBN says not to change careers and move to a new country at the same time as that is a recipe for disaster (besides my wife would never go for that, she needs me to at least have a plan of how I will provide for her). So the plan is to get a job here that I could support a family with over there first, then make aliyah. Good luck finding that... I would love to work in media and do what I can to push our shared agendas. But I have no resume, no formal training, no education for anything of that sort. I get very frustrated hearing you say all I have to do is log on to ELAL with my credit card and fly to the land of milk and honey and all my problems will go away. You make it sound so easy...One of my best friends just moved back with his wife and 3 kids from Tiberius to Fair Lawn after having moved there in 2004 ( though he never was a the Zionist type), but still no one wants to move 9000 miles with three young kids.. Not to mention all the Israeli's coming to my shul looking for handouts....

Yishai: Faith and stubbornness, patience and prayer - these are your weapons. The Land of Israel is acquired through hardships but they are surmountable. Yes, there are yordim (people who leave Israel) and people who do not make it and I am sure they do their best to discredit the Big Project - but... there are almost 6 million Jews here, immigrants, Israelis, and the rest, who are eeking out a living and making it. It is not a fairy tale, but it is living the dream. When I talk about logging on to ELAL with your credit card and flying to the land of milk and honey I am talking about the ease with which you can break out of the slavery of the Exile in your mind. Bottom line is that you know that Israel is home - you want to live a full Jewish life with proper Shabbat, holidays, and Jewish education that is affordable and on a high level - you want to be close to Jerusalem!

You will make it here in the Land because you want it more than anything, because you will not leave this place no matter what, because America is not an option, because you are madly madly in love with this thing called Yiddishkyte, Torah, Hashem, EretzYisrael, and Mashiach. Clearly, the dark forces are trying to stop you from coming here - you have a high soul and you will make Hashem very happy when you bring your family Home to Him. You will find a sustenance, because He Who makes money is the Ultimate Provider. Simply put - don't be afraid, don't be afraid, don't be afraid! You may not have an immediate job waiting for you in Israel - but you certainly have a mission...


Keep up the good work and regards to your wife,
Y


Yishai: All the blessings on you dear brother. I am looking forward to seeing you get off the plane and greeting you with a big hug. I pray that day will come soon.

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Sunday, February 08, 2009

Anglo Election Campaign


With Israel elections coming up on Tuesday, there has been a lot of campaigning toward Anglo Olim, and there is even a party, Ichud Le'umi - National Union, with an Anglo Oleh in a good position to get in! For those diaspora Jews who claim the excuse that Israel is not what they'd like it to be so they're not making aliyah yet, now is the time to come because you can make a difference!

It's refreshing to see how the different parties are working hard for our vote. It feels like we have arrived. Both the Likud (http://en.netanyahu.org.il/, http://www.new.facebook.com/inbox/?ref=mb#/group.php?gid=70427785568) and Yisrael Beiteinu (http://www.yisraelbeytenu.com/, http://www.new.facebook.com/inbox/?ref=mb#/group.php?gid=2227587808) have English language websites and Facebook groups. Likud had a convention last week for Anglos at the Crown Plaza Hotel in Jerusalem. Yisrael Beiteinu has a Canadian Oleh, Danny Hershtal, running as #21 on their list, and that is becoming a more and more likely spot to make it in. They also have former Israel ambassador to the USA and Nefesh B'Nefesh co-chairman, Danny Ayalon as #7. However, the Ichud Le'umi has the most likely chance of any party to get an Anglo into Knesset with American Oleh Uri Bank of Moledet as #5 on their list. Here is more about him: http://www.scribd.com/full/11101480?access_key=key-trobab4j9zc4atroqrk, http://ichudleumiblog.blogspot.com/2009/02/at-jpost-debate-uri-bank-states-land-of.html, http://ichudleumiblog.blogspot.com/2009/02/ichud-leumi-revolutionary-reform-for.html. Ichud Le'umi is also trying to top the other parties in the Anglo campaign with online commercials http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eNPElFo5-bw and ,
comic books Ichud Leumi Comic Book

and blogs http://ichudleumiblog.blogspot.com/) aimed at the English speaking community. Its pretty exciting to be an English speaker in Israel right now!

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Thursday, February 05, 2009

The Diaspora Leadership Argument



Shalom Yishai,

I was listening to your show during which, among other things, you interviewed the American yeshiva student, Aryeh Wasserman. In asking him about how he was affected by his program, you asked him if he was planning on making aliyah & being a jewish leader in E'Y. While he said that making aliyah was "the idea" for himself, he raised the issue of Diaspora communities also needing Jewish leaders as a "justification" for otherwise committed Torah-Jews remaining in chutz la'Aretz. This is not a new argument, nor is it at all new to your show or to other shows on INR. One quaint counter-argument that has been levied against this point is the example of Avraham Avinu being commanded to make aliyah notwithstanding the impressive "missionary" work (lehavdil) he was doing in Ur Qasdim. This counter -argument is nice but I feel much more is needed...

Thus, I felt the need to add my proverbial 2 cents. As is see it, there are two fundamental errors inherent in the Diaspora leadership argument.

The first has to do with an assumption. It's an assumption which, as far as everything I've read and /or heard so far, seems to have been entirely overlooked and accepted as absolute truth. I'm referring to the assumption that maintaining a Jewish leadership in the Diaspora necessarily implies that rabbis must permanently dwell here, in chutz la'aretz and, consequently, that these same rabbis could not possibly make E'Y their permanent dwelling place via aliyah. This assumption is manifestly false.

Could not a council of rabbis be formed (with remuneration, of course!) which would, on a rotating basis, deploy rabbis from E'Y to serve as teachers and leaders in the communities of the Diaspora? Each one could serve a "tour of duty" of several months(from 2 - 4 I figure) in order to fulfill the needs of those remnants of b'nei Yisrael who would remain in chutz la'Aretz after the initial wave of exodus which would surely follow the announcement and subsequent aliyah of the rabbinate. Does not "from Zion emanate Torah"? Would not the teachings and leadership of this kind of rabbinate carry a different weight? Surely the answers are a resounding "yes". Surely this assumption of the Diaspora leadership argument demonstrates nothing other than the desperate weakness of spirit, of conviction and of vision of each rabbi who professes it or defends it. Those who are honest and capable of true self-evaluation know the truth of these words.

The second fundamental flaw inherent in the Diaspora leadership argument can be revealed on the flipside of the same coin. Volumes have been said about the imperative, especially in 5769, for b'nei Yisrael, acting both individually and as Am Yisrael, to lovingly embrace if not leap at the opportunity afforded by the miraculous re-opening of the gates to Zion. Indeed, not only has Hashem obviously rescinded his decree of geographic exile, but He has, in His abundant Kindness, created a context in which it has been, as you and many others have pointed out, easier and more pleasant than EVER in history for b'nei Yisrael to return to and dwell in Eretz Yisrael as Am Yisrael. The only thing it is not (YET), is more meaningful and more True than ever - but it will surely be so once we all come Home - for surely at that point the Ultimate Geulah will come.

You may be saying "Ok Yechiel, nice need-for-return-to-E'Y speech, but how does it relate to the 2nd flaw?". Well, in his comments Aryeh mentioned that part of this hypothetical rabbi's job in the Diaspora would be to essentially prepare and teach other "simple Jews" to make aliyah. However, it occurred to me that that simple Jew would not be unlikely to take that rabbi's words with a grain of kosher salt! Put another way, how can any Jew, who's serious about his Torah, who's serious about fulfilling Hashem's Will and who's serious about living a life of greater Kedushah rely upon the teachings, the rulings and the general leadership of any rabbi who, through his refusal to make aliyah, continues to refuse to acknowledge AND avail himself of this precious Blessing received from Hashem in 5769?

Now I'm not suggesting that because of this a rabbi all of a sudden forgets his Halachot, can't read Rashi anymore or becomes unable to understand the Gemarot. I am suggesting that when it comes to problems of substance and character - the things we REALLY need our rabbis for - a rabbi who refuses to make aliyah in 5769 undermines his own fundamental legitimacy. Thus he undermines the very reason for which he purported to not make aliyah in the first place!

Clearly, the Diaspora leadership argument carries no weight.

I acknowledge the brutality of the words I have chosen. However, as regrettable as they may be, their use is so crucial at this most critical time in our national history.

Think about it.
Yechiel

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Working To Bring Redemption Safely








Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Modern Day Miracles








Saturday, November 15, 2008

Bad Excuse For Not Making Aliyah


This is a Dvar Torah for Parshat Lech Lecha by Rabbi Pinchas Winston, who made aliyah from North America. Although it's over a week late, the message is very important. Full Dvar Torah starts in full post, this is just a preview:

Recently, I saw a presentation by someone to explain why “they” did not live in Eretz Yisroel. It was not a new idea, simply stating that the person has been very effective helping other Jews in the Diaspora, “proving” that, in spite of the person’s desire to live in Israel, God prefers for them to remain in Chutz L’Aretz.

That the person is an effective educator in the Diaspora, there is no question. But, to imply that his or her extended stay in the Diaspora is essential to the spiritual success of other Jews, is a mistake, flawed hashkofah. Worst of all, it is misleading to others who might now think the same way as a result, though previously, they might have considered life in Eretz Yisroel.


Dvar Torah starts here
Avram took Sarai his wife, Lot, his brother’s son, all the property that they had acquired, and the souls that they had made in Charan, and went toward the land of Canaan. (Bereishis 12:5)

At first glance, this verse has little insight or advice regarding life as a Jew in today’s world. It has importance to us in terms of understanding Avraham’s life and path to greatness, but little importance in terms of charting our own, or so it seems. However, it is helpful to know, sometimes, that some of the greatness insights the Arizal had came simply from meditating on the verses of the Torah, repeating them over-and-over- again in his mind.

Recently, I saw a presentation by someone to explain why “they” did not live in Eretz Yisroel. It was not a new idea, simply stating that the person has been very effective helping other Jews in the Diaspora, “proving” that, in spite of the person’s desire to live in Israel, God prefers for them to remain in Chutz L’Aretz.

That the person is an effective educator in the Diaspora, there is no question. But, to imply that his or her extended stay in the Diaspora is essential to the spiritual success of other Jews, is a mistake, flawed hashkofah.Worst of all, it is misleading to others who might now think the same way as a result, though previously, they might have considered life in Eretz Yisroel.

Let me explain.

In 1993, when I personally decided to return to Eretz Yisroel from Toronto, I was thrown for a loop when someone I worked with asked me, “Did you ever ask a shailah from a Gadol? You are in the midst of building something good here, and maybe it isn’t so simple that you just pick up and leave in the middle.”

Until that time, I had been working with young couples, to try and help mold them into community leaders, especially to help out with outreach. To this end, I had developed an entire 8-week program, which I taught, with material that was both unique and effective, which, when combined with a mission to Israel, molded us into a community of our own. The program seemed to be succeeding, and warranted being implemented on a regular basis.

Quite honestly, I loved the program and its results, and had difficulty leaving it behind. Nevertheless, I felt that I just had to get back to Eretz Yisroel, and felt confident that others would carry on for me after I left. I was replaceable, but for me, Eretz Yisroel was not.

However, my colleague’s comment made me question my entire judgment again, and I began to become uneasy about my decision. Fortunately, though, as Divine Providence would have it, Rav Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg, shlita, of Eretz Yisroel, was visiting Toronto at that very time, and he had been my posek just before I had returned to Toronto. Therefore, I took advantage of the situation and made an appointment.

I explained the entire situation to the rav, beginning with my intense desire to return to Eretz HaKodesh, and ending with my friend’s concern about my leaving. His answer to me came quick: “Everyone is expendable. If Hashem wants your work to continue here, He will find someone else to do it. You can return to Eretz Yisroel as planned.”

Reassured, I continued on with my plans and made it back “home” later that year, to a small community just off the highway between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. It is where, thank God, I have been more effective over the last 15 years internationally than I ever was locally, before I came back. While here, “things” have happened that I would never have dreamed about years ago, some naturally, many miraculously.

Especially in today’s world, of such advanced technology. Over time, I became a full-time writer, and with the help of the Internet, over 20 families have come to make aliyah, apparently with the help of my essays and books.

Over the years, I have met many people who have become observant, inspired, apparently, by what I have written, or more religious, encouraged by the deeper understanding of Torah I have tried to share.

The first thing we have to know is that, when God wants a job to be done, nothing can stop Him — certainly not physical distance. As much as we’d like to believe that we are indispensable, the truth is, we are not. Rather, what happens instead is that, when God decides He wants something done, He chooses a messenger who has made himself or herself available for such a mission, by choosing to be who he or she has become, and by living where he or she has chosen to live.

It’s like being chosen for a part in a play. The director doesn’t just choose any actors to play the handcrafted roles of the screenplay. Rather, knowing what he wants to see brought out by each character, he looks for actors who can do exactly that, something that becomes apparent only through previous roles the actors have already played, the result of many years of development.

It’s the ultimate middah-k’neged middah — measure-for-measure (Sanhedrin 90a). We get to decide who we want to be, and God uses us for that role. We decide where we want to live, and God uses us in that place. You want to change yourself? God will find someone else to play the role. You want to change your location? God will find someone else to do the job where it has to be done.

Indeed, if you are willing to move up in life spiritually, then God will promote you, and find someone else to do your old job. As the Torah points out, Avraham made souls in Charan. He was Mr. Outreach himself. Yet, when it came time to start Jewish history, God told him to stop what he was doing and move on to Canaan. As important as it was that he “convert” the people of Charan, it had been more important to go west and take possession of Eretz Yisroel.

What about all the potential converts back in Charan? Perhaps, Avraham had already reached all those with the potential to hear his message, just in time to move on. Perhaps, those who remained behind did not merit to be impacted by Avraham Avinu. Or, perhaps, if, indeed, there had been more souls to be “made” in Charan, God had another way of getting the job done. And, knowing that, Avraham did not question the command of God, but confidently went to where he knew he really belonged.

This is not only true on the level of the average Jew, but even with respect to Torah leaders, as the Talmud points out, and the Arizal explains using the following verse:

The sun rises and the sun sets. (Koheles 1:5)

This means that, as a Torah leader leaves this world, a new one is born to replace him (Rosh Hashanah). This is not only true regarding the death of one leader and the birth of his replacement, but even if one moves to a different community, for, the only way such a move can leave a community bereft of its leader is if they lost the merit to have one. As the Talmud points out, and the Maharshah explains, Torah leaders make their decisions based upon the merit of the people they lead (Gittin 56b). Of course, this does not mean that we can whimsically jump from role to role, or from place to place, living wherever we happen to fancy at the moment.

Even if the community for which you were responsible deserved to lose you, nevertheless, you will be judged as if you abandoned them, since you will have failed to leave them for a sound hashkofic reason. Decisions to be who we are, or to live where we live, or to get involved in whatever it is we are doing, have to be for the sake of serving God best.

Only then can everything fall into place after we have made our decision. Only then can our decisions result in win-win outcomes.

Avraham had worked many hard years on himself to become “Avinu.” Once he achieved that status, he merited to become the father of the Jewish people, a prophet, and the owner of Eretz Yisroel. After figuring out, on his own, and over many decades, what God must want from him, God finally spoke to him, and told him first hand what to do next: make aliyah. We should only be so fortunate. If God would only speak to us and tell us when to make the move to Eretz HaKodesh, there would be no room for debate or rationalization. But, alas, we are without prophets today, and making such a monumental decision seems to be a function of personal preference.

Well, not exactly. When one desires to live in Eretz Yisroel to be closer to God, and to take advantage of the kedusha of the land, it shows God where his or her heart truly resides. When one devises a plan to make aliyah, because he or she knows that it is the best place to live as a Jew — even during times of exile — and they yearn to be there with ALL their heart, it will work out for them, if not immediately, over time. It will become apparent to them how doing so is not only possible, but feasible, and life will begin to support such a decision.

Thus, loving Eretz Yisroel and missing it is different from wanting to live there with a complete heart. “I just have to live there …” is a thought and feeling that tells God, “I want to serve You and do Your will, but from Eretz Yisroel. It is imperative for me.” And, it is exactly what God wants to hear before He starts making reality accommodate such a longing.

Until such time, you will find yourself “needed” in the Diaspora. If it’s where you want to be, it’s where you will have to serve Him. That may not sound so bad, but, it was exactly that kind of thinking that put us into exile in the first place, and therefore, it is something that we have been trying to rectify for about two millennia now.

Perceptions, Copyright © 2008 by Rabbi Pinchas Winston and Torah.org.

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Obama In The Torah Codes



Okay, here we go. Yes, whether you believe in the Torah Codes or not, this one is interesting. Or not. Well let's just say it (since it's already spreading all over the blogosphere.)

The name Obama spelled אובאמה appears exactly two times in all of Tanach having a 7 letter skip forward pattern. (A 7 skip forward pattern is considered the most significant kind in Bible Code land.)

The first place is in Yermiyahu 30:10-11. Yermiyahu 46:27-28. (See "Update" at bottom.)

This is how it reads:

וְאַתָּה אַל תִּירָא עַבְדִּי יַעֲקֹב נְאֻם יְקֹוָק וְאַל תֵּחַת יִשְׂרָאֵל כִּי הִנְנִי מוֹשִׁיעֲךָ מֵרָחוֹק וְאֶת זַרְעֲךָ מֵאֶרֶץ שִׁבְיָם וְשָׁב יַעֲקוֹב וְשָׁקַט וְשַׁאֲנַן וְאֵין מַחֲרִיד: אַתָּה אַל תִּירָא עַבְדִּי יַעֲקֹב נְאֻם יְקֹוָק כִּי אִתְּךָ אָנִי כִּי אֶעֱשֶׂה כָלָה בְּכָל הַגּוֹיִם אֲשֶׁר הִדַּחְתִּיךָ שָׁמָּה וְאֹתְךָ לֹא אֶעֱשֶׂה כָלָה וְיִסַּרְתִּיךָ לַמִּשְׁפָּט וְנַקֵּה לֹא אֲנַקֶּךָּ

This is how it translates:

10 27 Therefore fear thou not, O my servant Jacob, saith the L-RD; neither be dismayed, O Israel: for, lo, I will save thee from afar, and thy seed from the land of their captivity; and Jacob shall return, and shall be in rest, and be quiet, and none shall make him afraid.
11 28 For I am with thee, saith the L-RD, to save thee: though I make a full end of all nations whither I have scattered thee, yet will I not make a full end of thee; but I will correct thee in measure, and will not leave thee altogether unpunished.

Okay, so it sounds like now is a good time to make Aliyah. Shall we go on to the second place it's found?

The second place is in Yechezkel 38:2-3.

It reads:

בֶּן אָדָם שִׂים פָּנֶיךָ אֶל גּוֹג אֶרֶץ הַמָּגוֹג נְשִׂיא רֹאשׁ מֶשֶׁךְ וְתֻבָל וְהִנָּבֵא עָלָיו: וְאָמַרְתָּ כֹּה אָמַר אֲדֹנָי י-ה-וִה הִנְנִי אֵלֶיךָ גּוֹג נְשִׂיא רֹאשׁ מֶשֶׁךְ וְתֻבָל

Which translates as:

2 "Son of man, set your face against Gog, of the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal; prophesy against him
3 and say: 'This is what the Sovereign L-RD says: I am against you, O Gog, chief prince of Meshech and Tubal.

Okay, so maybe not only is it a good time to make Aliyah... but you better make it quick!

This is the code that is being emailed around and what was posted here.

Okay - now for the debunking part. The first code simply doesn't work unless you spell Yaakov with a vav - which we don't. There are only 6 letters skipped between the second letter and the third letter. So that's out... but the second code still works... and amazingly the code starts on the letter aleph of the word
נְשִׂיא which besides meaning prince also means President!

Gil, is Obama Gog?

UPDATE: The site I linked corrected their error. It seems there are two places in
Yermiyahu where almost identical verses appear. There is one difference. The second time Yaakov, for some reason is indeed spelled with an extra vav. And that extra letter does allow the 7 letter skipping to spell out Obama. I have corrected the error above.


Hatip: Moshi

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Monday, November 03, 2008

Okay, Gil, Now For My Prediction



The winner of the 2008 election for the next United States President will be none other than G-d, himself. (No, wise guy, I don’t mean Obama!) It will be our father in Heaven. See, we here at Kumah have a tradition of not endorsing any candidates for U.S. President.

Why? Don’t we feel that one candidate is far better for the State of Israel and for the Jewish people in general, than the other? Of course we do. Don’t we feel that one candidate’s rise to power will actually put Jewish lives at danger? It may sound like hyperbolic talk, but frankly, yes. Do we feel that every Jew has to do everything he or she can to prevent a calamity from befalling us? Certainly.

But that’s not our focus. Our focus is getting the Jewish people to return Home. Furthermore, we also realize one important reality. Every occurrence in life, whether a large world event or the smallest personal incident, is completely in G-d’s hands and more importantly, everything, large or small, that G-d orchestrates in his world is for the best. Period.

Make no mistake. G-d still demands we do our best to influence his world in the way we think will lead to the best outcome. But all the while we must acknowledge that G-d is in the driver’s seat. And that is a good thing.

So if one candidate is more of a catalyst for Aliyah. So be it. And if the other helps Israel defend herself, excellent. Whatever G-d decides is best. Nevertheless, one truth remains. The great Shofer is sounding calling Jews from around the world to return to the land of our heritage. And that Shofer will not stop sounding regardless of who G-d chooses to elect on Tuesday night.

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Super-Soft Sell


How do we get American Jews to make aliyah?

I recently heard an interview with Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis on Israel National Radio, in which she basically assured the listeners that we are in the days immediately preceding the arrival of the Messiah, and that it is of great urgency that we all return to G-d ASAP. For religious Zionists, this also translates into sounding the alarms to bring Jews back to the Holy Land.

I like to encourage aliyah by yelling at people, flailing my arms, grabbing people by shirt collars and shaking them, what have you. But there are others who are trying to engender love for Israel in a much softer, sweeter, less frontal manner. In fact, it's so soft, so gentle, that one may wonder whether the message comes across at all. Which way is the best? You decide.

I present: THE SUPER-SOFT SELL, entitled "Why I Don't Live in Israel", produced by Lori Palatanik of Aish HaTorah:

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Sunday, October 12, 2008

Three Amazing Letters - What do YOU say?



Dear Yishai,

I just have some questions that maybe your organization could answer for me. I am definitely not anti-semitic, however I have a problem with the Zionist movement. While I am an Arab-American woman who practices Islam as my religion and does not believe in causing pain or suffering to others, or shoving my belief system down another person's throat. I find it horrible at the state of affairs in Palestine at present. I believe myself to be a fairly open minded individual at an adequate level of intelligence. I would like to better understand what could make anyone support zionism when there is so much horror going on in Palestine.

The genocide that is occuring there reminds me of the holocaust and I wonder how your organization could support that ideology. I have respect for all people and religions. Please explain to me how having people move to Israel/Palestine and taking away the land that belongs to the people there by force, not allowing them medical help, poisoning their water supplies, closing roads, shutting off electricity etc. isn't exacly what Hitler did? If you believe that there is a GOD and the three religions that are montheistic believe that we all came from one creator then why do you support the atrocities going on there? I am not trying to attack you, but I don't really understand how any civilized person could support this. Feel free to e-mail me back. I thank you for your consideration.

Mariem

-------------------------

Dear Sir,

If the Nation of Israel truly rests in the hearts of its people regardless of its physical location; why not petition the governments of the United States and possibly Canada for a land grant? I don't really believe that the Arabs will every grant you peace so long as you remain in the Middle East. But in North America; your children could finally thrive in security and safety.

If you don't think my suggestion is too insane; with your permission, I would be happy to start this very long process by writing to my congressman.

Thank you for considering my suggestion.
Sincerely:
Susan, living in Arizona


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Dear Yishai,

Because of the fiscal crisis in the USA and the world, I'm scared that people are going to start blaming the Jews, and I haven't heard of a fiscal crisis in Israel. I'm not so much afraid of the economy hurting me, but I'm afraid of the antisemitism that might occur. So, I'd like to make aliyah. However, my husband doesn't want to. Is it possible for me to do it without him, yet still stay married to him? BTW, we're Jewish, though not frum. Would I be comfortable not being frum in Israel?

Chaya

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Monday, October 06, 2008

Stock Plunge Could Raise Aliyah



MK Eliyahu Gabbai sent a letter Monday to Israel's Minister of Absorption Eli Aflalo, Chairman of the Absorption Committee Michael Nudelman, and Chairman of the Jewish Agency Ze'ev Bielski to convene a discussion of the committee to prepare for a possible wave of Olim (immigrants to Israel) from the United States because of the global financial crisis.

MK Gabi warned that the global crisis strengthens the need to stress Aliyah as a central issue, and to prepare accordingly. He cited disturbing reports from the Anti-Defamation League about increasing anti-Semitism that has mainly taken place on-line, blaming Jews for the world's financial woes. He suggested that this should cause not just real concern, but concrete and practical thinking.

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Kumah Call - Golan Heights!








Monday, September 22, 2008

Getting Israelis To Make Aliyah



One of the saddest phenomenons I have witnessed since making Aliyah is the apparent apathy so many Jews living here show for the Land. Don’t get me wrong. There are so many Jews living here that are a true inspiration to the “Keep Making Aliyah” spirit. But there are far too many I meet (indeed even one is too many) that simply don’t feel anything special about this land.

When Jews living in America are apathetic toward living in Eretz Yisrael at least we could blame it on them being blinded by the “good life” of the “golden medina.” But when Jews who grew up drinking the water and breathing the air of Eretz Yisrael, and are still apathetic to the idea of living here and even warm to the idea of making Yerida – what excuse can we invent to explain this?

Actually that’s not really the question we should be asking. There are many answers we could give – ranging from government frustration to pure desensitization due to familiarity with the Land. Whatever the case may be here is the challenge I present to the reader and to my fellow Kumah bloggers.

What could we do to encourage all Jews – even though born and raised and still living in Eretz Yisrael – to keep making Aliyah?

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

Awakenings



Dear Yishai,

Okay so its been awhile since I've written to you and you most likely don't even remember me, but figured I should give you an update.

So since I last wrote, I've been corresponding with Rav Lazer Brody, who has helped me to overcome my negativity and discouragement regarding aliyah. He also suggested that I change my name and gave me one that he felt would fit me. So, I am no longer Gavrielah, I am now Tehilla....

My 14 year old daughter is now living in Israel! She'll be there for the next three years for high school and plans to remain there after she graduates, make aliyah, do national service, and start her family.

I am still planning on making aliyah. I will go as soon as possible of course, but definitely within the next two years. I'm now a single parent, so that makes it tougher, I have to pay off quite a bit of debt, but I have no doubt that I will get there. I am also praying for a miracle that will make it possible right away. I am so incomplete here in the U.S., knowing that I am not where Hashem designed me to be, where ALL Jews need to be. But I will get there and in the meantime, I will be doing everything I can here to support Israel, to help and encourage others to make aliyah, to learn Hebrew, to be a Torah-observant Zionist Jew.

Yishai, you and everyone else at INR have played such a huge role in my life, in getting me to this stage. Thank you for your encouragement in the past year on the air and via email. Thank you for everything that you do in service of Hashem. If one day I merit to meet you and Malkah, I will be so thrilled. May Hashem bless you all beyond belief.

Kol tuv,
Tehilla

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Friday, September 05, 2008

Israel, At Last, Gets On the (Google) Map




Now you can make Aliyah, because google has mapped out Israel.

One small point, the street names are only listed in Hebrew, and can only be searched in Hebrew.

No word on whether or not English maps are on the way, though knowing google I'm sure they are.

Hat Tip: BigToe


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Thursday, August 28, 2008

PLEASE VOTE FOR MY ALIYAH IDEA



So NBN has this new site called MyAliyahIdea.com, and I'm like: Great! Now I can start posting all my Aliyah ideas and get them out there for folks to see. Trick is, people need to vote on it so that it gets into the big leagues. So here is my first Aliyah idea - if you like it, make it count by clicking the voting icon!

Now for the idea: Aliyah Across America – Shabbat Lech Lecha

Every year Parshat Lech Lecha rolls around, bespeaking of Abraham's journey from Aram to the Land of Canaan. Abraham, the first Jew, the first Oleh, come to the land of Iisrael as a wealthy leader – he was not escaping persecution, but rather ascended to Israel to find spiritual fulfillment. This attitude towards Aliyah is exactly what American Jews need to hear: Aliyah is not running away from America, it is running to Israel to fulfill Jewish destiny.

It is for this reason that Shabbat Aliyah Across America will take place annually on Parshat Lech Lecha. On this Shabbat, Jews all over North America will celebrate the Jewish love for Israel and restate the commitment to our collective destiny.

On AAA, participating communities will host Aliyah speakers and hold events and discussions that call on Jews to strongly consider Aliyah as an option. Youth groups will congregate to spend a Shabbat dedicated to seeing themselves living in and building the Jewish State.

Such a fixed yearly Aliyah focal point will allow educators and professionals to target their audience for Aliyah messaging around that period. Throughout the preceding month ads will appear in magazines, and Aliyah activities will take place in schools. Each year, educators and professionals will get geared up to push the message of Aliyah, in connection with this beloved Torah portion.

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Friday, August 15, 2008

Why American Aliyah? It's the Economy, Stupid.


Abraham Waxman, a prominent Jewish-American sociologist who has written much about American Aliyah, recently wrote an article in the Jerusalem Post, arguing that, contrary to conventional wisdom, it may make economic sense for American Jews to make Aliyah:
THE HIGH cost of Jewish living has had an impact on patterns of American aliya. Those for whom living a Jewish lifestyle is more important are those who are most likely to make aliya because their lifestyle costs are much lower in Israel. Ironically, although American Jews have traditionally associated making aliya with economic sacrifice, aliya can make economic sense...
Waxman ends with these words regarding the potential consequences of America's economic downturn for US Jewry:
Although America's Jews have enjoyed unprecedented degrees of equality and a sense of being at-home that they have not experienced in any society in which they were not sovereign, there are no guarantees that this will not slow down, if not reverse direction. While such a forecast is not on the radar screen, anyone with a sense of history cannot be too certain that it cannot develop.

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Video Blog: Witness NeoZionism - 43 New Members of Israel and the IDF




At Kumah we call it NeoZionism. It's that spirit of giving it all to rebuild our Homeland. Witness it yourself in this video. 43 young adults (age 20, plus or minus - usually minus - 3 years) gave up the "good life" in America to join the IDF. The ingathering of the exiles is well in progress as our Nation is infused with this new energy, this new passion, for returning home and contributing to the growth of the Jewish Nation.

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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Needed: Shimshon ha-Gibor



Yishai, Shalom,

Welcome back.
I enjoyed listening to your "Yishai in America" series.
I would be interested in hearing more about attitudes to Aliyah among the people you met in the states.

Is a free El-Al flight not enough for them? Do they want to be "beamed up" to Israel when the Beit ha-Mikdash drops out of the sky in pre-fab fire construction.

Or are they waiting for us in Israel to build the Beit ha-Mikdash like in "Field of Dreams" -- if you build it, they will come?

I saw a really nice article by Rav Shmuel Eliyahu in the parsha sheets this weekend.
Here's my own take on what he said:

Needed: Shimshon ha-Gibor to "shake things up."

He said that his son asked who killed the terrorist this time. It was another settler who fired the 1st shot. Will the police chief investigate all these border guards who stood by and watched in the recent attacks. No, because the judicial system would then go after him.

Just like the rulers of Judah were made uncomfortable by Shimon's daring attacks on the Philistines, because they preferred their comfortable existence as a vassal state to Philistia, so too our rulers try to suppress any bit of Jewish activism.

I myself never understood what was the point of Shimshon's career as a judge. What did he accomplish. But from the Rav's article, it all began to make sense. Shimshon woke up the people of Judah from their complacency, from their slave mentality.

What? You want to settler the land of Israel? You can't, this is an illegal outpost. Settling the land of Israel violates "international law" (what is that? something the nations made up to prevent us from returning to our land)

You want to protect yourself against terrorists, even by only firing in the air. We'll find an Arab to lie and say that he was hit by a bullet from your gun and throw you in jail.

But when we try to argue and say that actually, according to the San Remo agreement, this is actually part of the Jewish homeland, they just laugh at us.

But when 13 year-old girls call their bluff and refuse to recognize the authority of their kangaroo courts, then they get nervous. They are nervous because others might see "the man behind the curtain" pretending to be a wizard.

kol tuv,
Dan

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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Video: Yishai Flies With NBN!








Friday, July 18, 2008

Growing Up Frum



For some Jews, the under-35-frum-from-birth crowd, the name Uncle Moshy invokes many of the fondest childhood memories. What Orthodox child, growing up in North America, didn’t attend at least one Uncle Moshy Chol HaMoed concert? What Frum child didn’t own all the Uncle Moshy records or tapes?

I recently happened upon some Uncle Moshy clips on YouTube of all places. One was the song Uncle Moshy sings at the very end of his albums. This is how it goes:



Now it’s time to say Shalom*
Uncle Moshy is going home
But you know he’ll be back again
Teaching the mitzvos of Hashem

Let us hope and let us pray
That Moshiach will come our way
And we will hear that Shofar blow
To Yerushalayim we will go

Yeru-sha-la-yim,
Yeru-sha-la-yim,
Yeru-sha-la-yim,
Yeruu-sha-la-yim

*This line is from memory.

And then it hit me… like a truckload of bricks! It always bothered me why, especially among FFBs the most prevalent attitude is that when Moshiach comes everything will magically change and poof we will all be transported to Yerushalayim in a snap. And until that happens everything is just fine and we should continue living here in New York.

Popular belief is that this is the only way Moshiach will come and there is no reason to move to Yerushalayim before Moshiach comes. I was never able to pin down exactly where this notion originated. But now I think I’ve got it. From Uncle Moshy! “Let us hope and let us pray/That Moshiach will come our way/And we will hear that Shofar blow/To Yerushalayim we will go.”

It might sound far-fetched but children of Uncle Moshy listening age are extremely impressionable. And influences introduced at that age easily stay with someone their whole lives. So there is a generation of Uncle Moshy fans davening every day for Moshiach, and waiting for that “great shofar,” so that we can finally return to Yershalayim, when in reality Hashem has already answered our prayers and is sounding the great shofar! And if we will only hear it we could simply board an Aliyah flight as a couple of hundred Jews are doing next week (look for Yishai on that flight!) and return to Yerushalayim in ten hours!

In truth I’m being a little hard on Uncle Moshy. I’m still a fan and think he is great and has contributed more to the Jewish Project, as Kumah calls it, than almost anyone I could think of. But sometimes we have to stop thinking like children and we have to grow up. There are a great many Jews that made and are making Aliyah, both from those that did and from those that didn’t grow up with Uncle Moshy and his Mitzvah Men. I wonder if we could learn from them how to see Judaism though adult eyes and not continue to live Judaism through the eyes of a child.

To be fair this issue existed long before Uncle Moshy was even born. Rabbi Yisachar Shlomo Teichtal zt"l, wrote about it in 1943 in Eim Habanim Semeichah:

"Do not be so quick to conclude that we should sit back and do nothing about redemption, and that we should wait for Mashiach to come and carry us off on the wings of eagles to our Land and our inheritance. Many of our fellow Jews, even rabbis and Gedolei Torah, imagine that the redemption will occur in this way. One great rabbi [even] preached in public that we must not act at all, not even build and settle the Land. Rather we must wait for Mashiach to swoop down and carry us to Eretz Yisrael on clouds. He came to this conclusion because he did not delve into this halachah, which is one of the deepest and most obscure halachot. He who does not delve deeply into it has no grasp on it whatsoever."(p. 268)

Rabbi Teichtal concludes:

"He who says that Mashiach ben David will initiate the redemption, as the lowly masses anticipate, is like someone who says the sun will rise before dawn. Nonsense! The great evil that arises from this harmful outlook is tangible, as experience proves. It is a mitzvah to publicize this matter to the ignorant, and blessed is he who sanctifies G-d's name among the multitudes. In my opinion, he who hides this matters, desecrates G-d's name in private."



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Thursday, July 17, 2008

Home Made


Rivkah Lambert Adler, the great Aliyah Guru of the Bat Aliyah blog posted this:

"Tamar Weissman and Chanina Rosenbaum from Baltimore made this film as a gift to Noah and Risa Lasson, who are making aliyah next week. It's a 22-minute long love letter about Israel and the power of Coming Home.

If you haven't got time to watch the whole thing, make sure to see the first few minutes and the last part where Chanina is speaking, first to Noah and Risa and then to the rest of us (this part starts 19 minutes in).

May we all merit to have people in our lives who care so much about us and about bringing the family (literally in Tamar's case) Home."

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Monday, July 07, 2008

Watch Aliyah LIVE!



Today Nefesh B'Nefesh announced that for the first time ever everyone all over the world will be able to watch an Aliyah flight arrive in Israel! NBN will be web-casting the historic event for the world to see.

"We wanted to enable those close to the people making Aliyah to get a better idea of the excitement and the Olim experience upon arrival in Israel," said Nefesh B'Nefesh's VP of Operations Danny Oberman. "This new technological addition will allow them to follow the arrival of their loved ones, almost as if they were there."

Check out the The Live Webcast this Thursday, July 10th at 12:10 am EST/7:10 Israel time right here. ( www.nbn.org.il/2008arrival )

Count how many Kumah bloggers you can spot there. And spread the word!

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Monday, June 30, 2008

Sarah Wrote...



So we are making Aliyah this August. I waited until the very last minute to break the news to my family. It went somewhat different than I thought. I expected great tears and sobs and much weeping, in actuality what I got was "What are you leaving behind that I can snatch up before the next person comes along asking ?". Good grief! As the time grows nearer I don't think there has been a day that someone hasn't called to ask about the car, the weed eater, the microwave etc. One relative actually commented " man I feel like you are dying and we are divvying up all your stuff ". How sentimental!

We decided not to take a lift, much to the relatives advantage. We are only taking clothes and various sentimental items. They are happy to know we can't fit the bread machine and the chain saw in our 62 inch 70 pound luggage. So today sister-in-law carried off my dresser, a few small kitchen items and one fragrance lamp. I'm glad to know they all love me for my brains.

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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Obama and Aliyah



Or maybe... Because America isn't so different after all...

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Monday, June 16, 2008

Aliyah - Can You Survive?



A new reality show about the Zionist Dream in the 21st century
Highlight Films is currently in the pre-production phase of a new extreme, reality show about eight young extraordinary olim (new immigrants to Israel) who have chosen to begin their lives again in this extraordinary land. They will live and compete against one another through various extreme missions that mirror the different challenges olim faced building the State of Israel and eventually one will be crowned the Ultimate Oleh. This winner will be granted a golden ticket into Israeli society with a luxury apartment facing the beach in Tel Aviv, a brand new car, a dream job, and many more amenities to make for the ultimate Aliyah. For more information, go to: http://www.haolim.tv



For more information, email at info@haolim.com.

If you or someone you know is interested in participating in this groundbreaking new series that will air on Israeli television and be available globally through the internet, please Click Here to Apply

Contestants must be committed to making Aliyah to Israel and be fluent in English with little to no knowledge of Hebrew. Production is scheduled to begin in the fall of 2008.

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Saturday, May 31, 2008

Yom Yerushalayim- Come Join Us!!


You and your friends are cordially invited:
Yom Yerushalayim Celebration @ Beit HaRav Kook (next to Ticho House) in Jerusalem! Join the Kumah chevrah, yeshiva students and new olim for a song-filled Tefillah Chagigit & Musical Hallel led by R' Shlomo Katz this Monday at 8:30am. Divrei Torah, great music, & free breakfast too! Marking 41 years since the open miracles of the Six Day War!

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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Trivia Game and New Birthright/Masa Aliyah Grants




In honor of Israel's 60th Birthday Enhanced NBN Grants are available for Birthright and Masa Alumni Who Make Aliyah in 2008. Read about it here.

Tell all your Birthright and Masa friends about the trivia game and the grant! And make Aliyah together!

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Sunday, May 18, 2008

Israel: Home of the Hawaiian Shirt?



Below is an actual posting to one of the Israel community lists, of which I am a member:
Shalom List!

My wife had wanted to buy me more wool suits before we left Cleveland, but after to hearing from a few trusted sources we learned that most men don't wear suits.

I suggested Hawaiian Shirts as a more climate appropriate alternative. We heard from two trusted sources - one who mentioned in his blog that he wears shorts and Hawaiian Shirts when he shops on Erev Shabbat, and the other who stated "Well, Hawaiian shirts ... I don't know... Israel is extremely informal, but that just ain't right!"

I would like to get a few more guys to weigh in on this topic. Are Hawaiian Shirts appropriate attire in Israel? If they are what would be the borders of acceptance?
Should I stock up on Hawaiian Shirts or are they available locally? What are the Israeli climate appropriate alternatives to Hawaiian Shirts?

Todah v'Shavua Tov!

Michael...

In short, you could probably get a way with it Michael. Just stay out of Me'ah Shearim. Personally, I like to wear mine on Purim.

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

ALIYAH REVOLUTION IN THE NEWS








Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Useful Site of the Day



The site Shipping Consolidators provides info and price comparison for shipping to Israel and a host of other Aliyah info like telling you which appliances to bring, if and how to bring a car over to Israel, and army issues. The site also features an updated Aliyah news blog, and a Israel pictures section as well. If you're looking for Aliyah tachlis check out this site.

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Yet One More Reason Passaic Is Better Than Israel



Shalom Yishai,

Once again as is my want, I found myself on Sunday at another chasuna in Lakewood, NJ trying to inspire the few Jews I spoke to about the importance of living in the Land and at least making them have to justify why it is "okay" for them to be living here. I must say, that as I continue to listen to your show and others at INR, I am getting better at articulating the case for aliya.

But an argument came up from a BT that I wasn't sure how to answer convincingly. It goes as follows: Why should I make aliya when here in Passaic I have a great job, a nice house, I am growing in learning and ruchnious with my morning in night sedarim, etc. Who knows what will be if I move there. Furthermore, as both my brothers already made aliya, who will take care of my ageing parents? That would be selfish of me. Ever hear of Kibud Av v'aim? He went on to further say (in a nice way) you Zionists only focus on one mitzvah which is a machlochus rishonim if it is even a mitzvah! If I move there, I know my shalom bayis will suffer, my parnossa will suffer, and my learning will suffer. So any gain from living in the land will be outweighed by the augmes nefesh from being there. Lastly, we are supposed to wait for Moshiach! (I have yet to find a source for this last "proof".)

In anycase, I do think he made some good points, namely: Why should someone who is growing in Torah and mitzvos, who is happy with the schools, community, etc., who has a decent parnossa make aliya? Why should he risk throwing that all away? We have plenty of aliya failures in the New York area who made aliya with starry eyed idealism only to have it crushed by the realities of the "harshness" of life on adamas ha kodesh...In my own reading of Eim Habanim Semeichah R' Teichtal seem to intimate that the call for aliya is to those Jews who are suffering in the gulus not those that are thriving...

-Yisroel

--------------------

Shalom Yisroel,

Thanks for your letter. Please listen to my 7 minute audio response by clicking ))))HERE((((

-Yishai

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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A Modern Exodus!



Click on the above photo to enlarge it - it is a happy maker. Also, speaking of Exodus, check out this Haaretz article about a modern Jewish hero, the captain of the Exodus:

'A Hero Who Did Not Seek Acts of Heroism'

On the way from Tel Aviv to the funeral yesterday in Kibbutz Sdot Yam of Yossi Harel, the legendary commander of illegal immigration ships, his friends sang Shaul Tchernichovky's evocative "Creed" to the mournful accompaniment of a harmonica. There seems to be no better song than this, declaring the poet's belief in the human spirit and the birth of a new, strong generation, to reflect Harel's life.

"Modest, a brave fighter and a hero who did not seek acts of heroism, because he understood the limitations of strength," is the way the writer Shaul Biber, a comrade from the Palmach days, described him.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak eulogized him as "a man who saw a window or a door in every wall, and an obstacle as an opportunity to be overcome."

President Shimon Peres said the biblical verse, "For with wise advice thou shalt make thy war; and in the multitude of counselors there is safety," suited him very much.

When Harel was only 28 years old, he had already commanded the major clandestine immigration operations which brought four ships from Europe to the shores of Palestine: Knesset Israel, Exodus, Atzmaut and Kibbutz Galuyot, bringing in 24,000 Jews, over one-third of all the illegal immigrants who came to the country between 1945 and 1948.

A veteran of the Palmach's naval force, the Palyam, recalled that in the hold of the Exodus was a 12-year-old girl, who would one day raise a son in Israel who would become commander of the navy and of the Southern Command. That girl was Fruma Galant, the mother of Major General Yoav Galant.

Ten years ago, Galant brought his mother to meet Harel, and yesterday he said he "was impressed by the power that radiated from him and the sympathy he showed. One can only look at his actions today in amazement."

Some 300 of Harel's friends and relatives gathered yesterday on the beach at Tel Aviv's Clandestine Immigration Park to remember him. Later, at the funeral in Sdot Yam, Mordechai Roseman, a leader of the immigrants aboard the Exodus, said, "We salute Yossi Harel, our commander."

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Monday, April 28, 2008

Aliyah or Assimilation?



Shalom and Happy Passover!

My family was very secular, so I was raised as a very secular Jew. I awakened as an adult and decided to make aliyah. I had a very hard time because I was unable to think of a way to make aliyah (our shaliach we had at the time was NOT very helpful). I finally went and found some proof (duh, if my father's military records would prove Jewishness, why wouldn't mine?). Right on my VA (Veterans administration) records it states "Jewish". If this record would work to prove I am Jewish if it was on my father's records (which I could not get because of privacy laws) it will have to prove it if it is on my records. I have been trying now for 11 years and finally got the idea to try my own records to see if it is on them and sure enough it is...

Any way, I am so tired of the complacency in my local community. We have a building but no services. I had to twist their arm and finally got them to hold a half hearted Shabbat service. (Their is not one scheduled again for the time being. They only use the building for funerals and a communal Passover Seder.) They all are afraid to even admit their Jews in public (this is the reason for lack of services I was told). They all want to just ride below the radar and not be noticed and stick out. This is the type of fear and apathy, etc. that allowed the holocaust to happen. If we were more willing to fight for our rights, etc., less of us would have been killed by the Nazis and their supporters. I want info about how I become a member and what your organizations stands for and does.

Thanks,
Scott

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Sunday, April 27, 2008

"The Luckiest Jews in the World"



The following is a beautiful and revealing new essay written by Caroline Glick. In it she talks about her own Aliyah, the magic of Hebrew and the difficultly of leaving America. I urge you to read it to the end.

The Luckiest Jews In The World
I just published a collection of my essays in English. Each time I am asked if I am also releasing the volume in Hebrew I feel a pain deep inside me when I answer that no, right now, my publisher is only interested in an English edition. Indeed it is a shame because I wrote most of the essays in Hebrew as well.

Writing in Hebrew is a qualitatively different experience than writing in English. Hebrew is a more compact language than English. It has fewer words and the words it has are denser and more flexible than English words. A 1,200-word essay in Hebrew will be 1,800 words in English.

This is a mechanical difference. But there are deeper distinctions as well. One level beyond the mechanics is the multiple meanings of Hebrew words. The density of meaning in Hebrew is a writer’s dream. Nearly anyone can imbue a seemingly simple sentence with multiple, generally complementary meanings simply by choosing a specific verb, verb form, noun or adjective. These double, triple and even quadruple meanings of one word are a source of unbounded joy for a writer. To take just one example, the Hebrew word “shevet” means returning and it also means sitting. And it is also a homonym for club – as in billy club – and for tribe...

In 2005, the IDF named the operation expelling the Israeli residents of Gaza and Northern Samaria “Shevet Achim,” or returning or sitting with brothers. But it also sounded like it was making a distinction between tribesmen and brothers. And it also sounded like “clubbing brothers.”

As this one example demonstrates, one joyful consequence of the unique density of the Hebrew language is that satirical irony comes easily to even the most dour and unpoetic writers.

For a Jew, knowing, speaking and writing Hebrew is an intimate experience. This is particularly so for those of us whose mother tongue is not Hebrew – because as the secrets of the language slowly reveal themselves to us we feel we are discovering ourselves.

Hebrew encapsulates the entirety of the Jewish story. Modern Hebrew in particular is an eclectic amalgamation of classical Hebrew, Yiddishisms, and expressions from the Sephardic Diaspora experience. Greek, Roman, Aramaic, Turkish, Arabic and English expressions meld seamlessly into the stream of words. It is not simply that it is the language of the Bible. Hebrew is also an expression of the unique culture of a small, proud, often besieged, often conquered and permeable people.

Its power to explain that cultural experience and that historical baggage is something that often leaves a newly initiated member of the Hebrew-speaking world gasping in a mixture of disbelief and relief. It is unbelievable that a language can be so immediately and unselfconsciously expressive of feelings that have traversed millennia. Understanding its power as a tool of expressing the Jewish condition is one of the most gratifying discoveries a Jew can make.

But the experience of speaking in Hebrew and of living in Hebrew is incomplete when it is not experienced in Israel. It is one thing to pray in a synagogue in Hebrew or even to speak regular Hebrew outside of Israel. The former is a spiritual duty and a communal experience. The latter is a social or educational experience. But speaking Hebrew in Israel is a complete experience. Hebrew localizes the Jewishness, Judaism and Jews. It anchors us to the Land of Israel. Taken together, the Hebrew language and the Land of Israel stabilize a tradition and make the Jewish people whole.

I write all of this as a means of explaining why a Jew in the Diaspora, particularly the United States, would want to live in Israel. Leaving America is difficult on several levels. In my own experience, it involved physically separating from my entire family. It also involved cutting myself off from my language – English – and immersing myself completely in a tongue I had yet to master. Beyond that, it meant leaving a country that had done only good for me and for the generations of my family who fled to America from the pogroms in Eastern Europe at the turn of the twentieth century.

As someone who loves me told me 17 years ago as I packed my bags for an unknowable future, “People don’t emigrate away from America. They beg to come to its shores.”

But would it be right to characterize leaving America as an act of ingratitude? Do Jews have to reject America in order to go to Israel? No, we don’t.

Coming to Israel is not rejecting America. It is embracing a choice to become whole in a way that life outside of Israel cannot provide. That doesn’t mean life cannot be fulfilling for a Jew outside of Israel. Millions of Jews can attest to the fact. It certainly doesn’t mean that life in Israel is easier or safer or more lucrative than life is elsewhere.

Israel is a troublesome, hard, often irritating place. It is a young country that belongs to an ancient, eternal people who are all imperfect. Some Israelis, particularly those who today occupy the seats of power, are weak and irresponsible and often corrupt and self-serving.

Israelis have quick fuses. Among other things, this distinctively Israeli rush to anger makes being stuck in rush hour traffic a bit like dancing a waltz in the middle of a shooting range. Then too, service is not a concept that most Israelis – particularly in service professions – are even vaguely familiar with.

Beyond the general fallibility of Israelis, there are the wars and the hatred and the terror that make up so much of life in Israel. Being surrounded by enemies and living in the midst of jihad-crazed Arab states is like sitting on the edge of a volcano. And rather than acknowledge the danger and contend with it, Israelis – frustratingly and dangerously – more often than not blame one another for the heat while ignoring its source.

Yet once a Jew catches the Zionist bug, none of that is important. Once a Jew allows himself or herself to feel the pull of our heritage, of our language and our land, the frustration, danger and hardship of living in Israel seems like second nature – as natural as breathing in and out.

I recently moved to a home on the edge of a valley filled with forests and carpeted by wildflowers. Every day I hike for an hour or two along the trails below. A few days ago, as I walked late at night, I considered the dark and silent hills surrounding me and felt safe. They were liberated in 1948.

As I stood for a moment, I thought to myself, “These hills have already been conquered for you, by people better than yourself. Now it is your job to keep them safe for the next generation. And it will be the next generation’s responsibility to keep them safe for the following one.”

The thought filled me with a sense of privilege and peace.

People ask me all the time why I insist on living in Israel. Usually I just shrug my shoulders and smile. I, a woman who makes my living from words, find myself speechless when challenged with this simple question.

I spend several months a year away from Israel working. But every time I go away on a long trip, inevitably after three weeks or so, I begin to feel incomplete. I start to long for the smells of Israel. My ears ache to hear Hebrew all around me. I want to go back so I can walk down the streets on Friday afternoons and smile at perfect strangers as we bid each other Shabbat Shalom.

Why do I live in Israel? Because Israel lives in me, as it lives in all Jews. It is who we are. And those of us lucky enough to recognize this truth and embrace it in all its fullness and depth are the luckiest Jews in the world.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Sorry Zeyde, but I'm a slave to my leather bucket seats!



This weekend marks the beginning of the Pesach holiday, the time of which G-d freed us from our slavery in Egypt. The exodus from Egypt was not just a one-time occurrence, but rather something that replays itself out in every generation. As such it’s important that we recognize how Pesach is occurring now in our times. Who is Pharaoh? Where/what is Egypt? How are we enslaved and what must we do if we want to free ourselves?More than any other available option of countries around today, without a doubt I would say America is the Egypt of our times. Boasting the largest population of Jews outside of Israel, America keeps our brethren trapped within it’s borders and keeps them from re-uniting with the homeland of their fathers much as ancient Egypt did thousands of years ago.

But hold on a minute here, hasn’t slavery been outlawed in America since the civil war you say? And hasn’t America traditionally been “good to the Jews?” True, this slavery may not come in the form of whippings and beatings, or building pyramids. It does, however, come in the form of an addiction to yearly vacation, a bigger swimming pool in the back yard, more trips to the hair salon, or driving the latest German import. So who is Pharaoh? I’ll give you a hint- he’s small, green, fits in your wallet, and has the face of George Washington.

Egypt was the lone world superpower of its time, America is the world’s lone superpower today. During the great famine, the starving masses flocked to Egypt. In our time masses of those seeking the American dream of ending their famine of not being rich flock, some even braving the journey by sea on death-trap rafts just to get their fair crack at it. And just as there were no guards on Egypt’s borders to keep people in, so too in America you are free to leave whenever you choose and yet very few are actually packing their bags.

The number one excuse I hear from people as to why they cannot or will not leave America for Israel is, “While I’d love to live in Israel, the money factor is just too big for me.” For many it’s debt. The more they try and climb their way out the deeper they seem to fall in. A friend once told me that this economic labyrinth from which people can’t seem to escape is not original to our times but actually comes from Egypt. Apparently Pharaoh would promise people the good life, offering them a great house in a nice neighborhood, maybe a sturdy horse or donkey too, and all for free! Sort of… these things were all offered on credit, to be paid back later but people were fooled into the illusion that they were somehow getting something for nothing, failing to see how their debts would come back to haunt them later. Sound familiar?

For those who are keeping their heads above water, their monetary excuse is that they wouldn’t be able to afford the same lifestyle in Israel that they now have in America. Excuse me but since when is an easy and comfortable life necessarily a fulfilling one? How many celebrities do you see that have much more money, toys, vacations, etc. then you will ever have and yet they are so unhappy they end up killing themselves? Besides, while you sit comfortably in your big house in America think about your ancestors who would have given everything in their lives to be able to come live in the land of Israel. Not only do we now have a state that enables us to do so but you can even get hooked up with a free plane ride over here and a welcome basket of government benefits and money (read: You get paid to move to Israel)! Be honest with yourself for one minute and imagine if your zeyde came back from the grave to ask you why you’re still in America. Just try to think of a persuasive way to tell him that you’d rather have a nice BMW with heated leather bucket seats then to live in the land he only saw in his most beautiful dreams.

So for all our brothers and sisters who are still in America, this year when you do your Pesach seder, instead of just paying lip service why don’t you actually put some serious thought into the freedom from slavery that it represents. How about freeing yourself from the Egyptian slavery of that dollar in your wallet and finally making the move home to be with the rest of us? After all… it’s no coincidence that the dollar has a pyramid on it!

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Monday, April 07, 2008

Woodmere Making Aliyah?



Perhaps the best model for North American Aliyah (or all Aliyah in general for that matter) is mass Aliyah. Making Aliyah as a community. Rabbi Riskin proved it could be done in 1983 when he founded Efrat by making Aliyah together with many of the congregants from his Lincoln Square Synagogue. Kumah has always be a strong promoter of mass Aliyah.

Well, today, Rabbi Shalom Rosner of Congregation Bais Ephraim Yitzchak in Woodmere New York, plans to follow in Rabbi Riskin’s footstep and will bring a whole community on Aliyah together. Nofei Hashemesh – located in Beit Shemesh in central Israel - is the name of this new community. You could read more about it on their website.

May this be the first on many new “Aliyah communities” to come!

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Wednesday, April 02, 2008

American, Israeli, or neither?


After spending the last four years dreaming about living in Israel I've now spent the last four months actually living out that dream. This is a place where many people come to "find themselves" and I too expected that to somewhat happen to myself. One thing I didn't consider though, is that in order to find yourself, maybe first you have to lose yourself a little bit. When most people talk about the difficulties of moving to Israel, they speak of learning Hebrew, living with the arabs, or trying to make a living. Not always do they speak of dealing with a new and not so clear identity. Though it should be obvious that coming to a place halfway across the world with a different economy, language and overall society should affect you and by being surrounded by it change you somewhat as a person, it’s something that could in the excitement of things be very easy to overlook.

Though for some it may be simple semantics I tend to think there is a certain importance to the labels we choose to apply, or not to apply, to ourselves and present to others. And while this is the land I plan on making my life in, I’m not so sure if somebody were to ask me, “What are you?” that “Israeli” would be the first word off of my lips. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve made a point of traveling to places such as the Mearat haMachpela (Cave of the Patriarchs) in Hevron and Rachel’s Tomb, which has tremendously increased my connection to this land. Also as my Hebrew improves to the point where I can proficiently order a baguette of schwarma or argue with cab drivers without having to resort to English I start to feel much more like a native. Yet despite this, Israeli society and the many different mentalities of the people here can often be a far cry from what you find back in “the old country.”

So if I’m not an Israeli then I guess I’m just an American in Israel right? Maybe not. While I have no ill will towards America and wish it the best of luck so long as that doesn’t conflict with Israel’s success, in general I feel somewhat detached from it. This is my home now and I care what goes on here, how high gas prices are or who won the Super-bowl back in the States doesn’t have much of an impact on my day-to-day life in Israel. More than that, often I’ll see a bus load of American college students here on a trip making fools of themselves or American tourists doing some of the behaviors that has earned the American tourist a stereotype status around the world and I cringe while I mutter to myself, “G-d, they’re acting so American!” But wait, aren’t I American too? Does the fact I live here and not there give me the opportunity to get on a high horse and think I’m now qualitatively different?

Recently a new idea has crept into my head. What if I don’t need to be either? What if I’m just a Jew who’s come back home and while figuring out what that means doesn’t need to check either box A or B. And as I look around this country I’m in I realize that is the very essence of Israel itself. This country is only several decades old, made up of people from virtually every place in the world. In many ways the country itself still hasn’t figured out who it is. And maybe what it could use is more people who aren’t so sure of who they are yet either. There is a big comfort in the safety of staying wherever you are and however you are. Let's not kid ourselves, to go to a new place often involves becoming somewhat of a new person, which can be pretty scary. But while change can be a scary thing, it often is the best thing that could ever happen to us. It's also only through change that we ever grow. And maybe as more of us come home and find out who we are on an individual level, the fact that we are doing it together in the land of Israel will help our country and people to ultimately find out who we are as a nation.

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Monday, March 31, 2008

"I don't think aliyah is on the agenda of Israeli society"



Just as the Aliyah Revolution is moving into high-gear, two good ole' post-Zionist pessimistic articles decrying that Aliyah is dead appear on the scene. Doesn't the Sitra Achra ever get tired?

"The End of Aliyah?" by Dina Kraft

With Israel facing the end of the era of mass aliyah of need, can aliyah of choice sustain the idea of Diaspora Jewish immigration to the Jewish state?

TEL AVIV (JTA) -- Founded with the express purpose of "ingathering of the exiles" -- but with no more large groups of Jews to save -- Israel is facing the end of the era of mass aliyah.

Recent reports that the Jewish Agency for Israel was considering shutting down its flagship aliyah department have prompted discussion about the future of immigration to Israel even as agency officials quickly denied the department was closing.

"Israel cannot throw away the idea of aliyah because it is one of basics of the ideology of having a Jewish state," said David Raz, a former Jewish Agency emissary abroad. "You have to create a situation that people will want to come, from the element of being together with Jews. But it's not simple. There is a trickle, but basically from the free world the majority does not want to come.”

The crux of the matter is that immigration of necessity -- also called “push aliyah” -- is largely at its end, with few Jews left in the Diaspora who need the Jewish state as a haven from persecution or dire economic straits. The Jews of the Arab world fled to Israel in the 1950s, Russian-speaking Jews flocked here in the 1990s and Ethiopians came over the course of the past 25 years.

With nothing pushing mass immigration of Jews today, all that remains are the few immigrants of choice -- also known as “pull” immigrants. Officials involved with aliyah say they expect no more than 15,000 or so new immigrants to Israel this year.

"You have Jews in the West who live very comfortably under pluralistic governments that give them unprecedented social and economic opportunities and let them live Jewish lives,” said Uzi Rebhun, a demographer at Hebrew University’s Institute of Contemporary Jewry. “In turn, aliyah to Israel has gone down.”

With the pool of potential push immigrants drying up, officials like Oded Salomon, the director-general of aliyah and absorption for the Jewish Agency, are thinking about how to pull Jews to Israel in new and different ways.

Salomon says the focus now is on educational programs that bring young Jews to Israel in the hope of fostering lifelong connections to the Jewish state and creating new immigrants.

The Jewish Agency wants to create a special visa for visiting Diaspora Jews who want to explore the idea of aliyah by living in Israel for a few months. Such arrivals would be assisted with finding volunteer or work positions and Hebrew study.

Aliyah officials also are embracing the notion of “flexible aliyah” in which immigrants split their time between Israel and the Diaspora. About 10 percent of immigrants who have made aliyah with the assistance of Nefesh B'Nefesh, which facilitates aliyah from North America and Britain with cash grants and assistance, divide their time between Israel and jobs abroad.

Other ideas to attract a new kind of aliyah being discussed include retirement communities near Eilat for American Jewish retirees to the creation of an all-French-speaking town.

Israel has experienced other periods of sluggish immigration, such as the 1970s and 1980s, but in those eras there were large communities of Jews unable to emigrate and come to the Jewish state, such as those in the Soviet Union.

Today, however, the Jews who remain in the former Soviet Union are either too old to immigrate or prefer to stay put in countries where improved economies and more democratic freedoms have made life in the Diaspora more attractive.

Mass immigration from Ethiopia -- where politics, economics and religious ideology sent tens of thousands of Jews to Israel over the past quarter century -- is expected to end some time this summer. The Jewish Agency plans to shut its Ethiopian offices and bring home its staff when the last arrivals come.

Yuli Edelstein, the former Soviet refusnik and prisoner of Zion who later served as Israel's absorption minister, said Israel must make sure it can provide both meaningful professional opportunities and meaningful Jewish life if it wants to see significant immigration to the country.

"This is a real period of rethinking," Edelstein told JTA, noting the economic and professional opportunities Jews have in the West. "Without a Jewish motivation for being here, it will be much more difficult to attract people."

Among Israelis, too, the ethos of aliyah has dampened in recent years, a far cry from when it was described by the drafters of Israel's Declaration of Independence in 1948 as the part of the vision of "the prophets of Israel.”

"I don't think aliyah is on the agenda of Israeli society," Rebhun said.

Despite the country's founding mission, he said, "Sixty years after the State of Israel was established, most Jews still live outside of Israel."

Sergio DellaPergola, a demographer from Hebrew University who also is associated with the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute, a Jerusalem think tank, says many potential immigrants are put off by the bureaucracy and difficulties of Israeli life, not to mention Israel’s security situation.

DellaPergola says major reforms are needed to help ease the path of immigrants, especially when it comes to accepting degrees and professional credentials earned abroad.

Despite plans for a new set of tax breaks for new immigrants and other ideas to help pave the way for potential immigrants, at the end of the day immigrants will come to Israel only if they see in the Jewish state the promise of a fulfilling Jewish life, DellaPergola said.

"If it's a country just like any other,” he said, “then why come here?"

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"Jerusalem And Babylon / The numbers are on the wall" by Anshel Pfeffer

I don't know if anyone ever tried to work out the average age of Israel Prize recipients, but the profile is fairly standard. A man or woman in their seventies or eighties, hailed for decades of service in academia or some other worthy pursuit and for his or hers past contribution to Israeli society. Sad but true, this is usually a pre-obituary, almost-last honor, to a deserving individual long past the prime of life. The occasional practice of rewarding an organization with one of the prizes, is fairly ridiculous.

Public bodies, even if they are voluntary, are there to serve a purpose, we should expect them to fulfill it better in the future, and their workers reward should be a job well done. But Education Minister Yuli Tamir obviously doesn't think so, as the Israel Prizes commission in her ministry announced this week that this coming Independence Day, a whole raft of organizations, ranging from youth movements and womens groups, to the Manufacturers Association of Israel will be duly honored. But in one case, it seems that the organization to receive the prize is very similar to the more traditional laureates.

Founded in 1929, the Jewish Agency is also on the brink of octogenarianism, with a proud past in which it played a crucial role and gave decades of loyal service to the nation. But now it seems in the autumn of its life, and many of its stalwarts are openly predicting that the grim reaper may just be around the corner.

The cruel joke is that it was the very event that will be commemorated on prize-day, the foundation of the state in 1948 that signaled the end of the Jewish Agency's heyday. In one fell swoop, it went from being the government-in-waiting to an organization that had lost its most basic raison d'etre. A sovereign state has its own official agencies, all of a sudden, the Jewish Agency lost its primacy in the fields of foreign relations, education, settling the wilderness and developing infrastructure, to the new government ministries.

Its chairman, David Ben-Gurion, had now become the first prime minister and he had a real country to run. Not surprisingly, the new definition of the Jewish Agency's role, in 1950, consisted basically of important tasks that the new government, eager to build up diplomatic relationships with the world, wasn't comfortable with.

An issue of control

So the Jewish Agency was tasked with encouraging and enabling the Jews of the world to make aliyah and promote Jewish-Zionist education throughout the Diaspora. As an added bonus, the Agency would not get government budgets but had to do its fundraising outside Israel through the Jewish federations in North America and Keren Hayesod with the local Zionist organizations in other parts of the world. This of course didn't mean that the government and the various Israeli political parties relinquished control of the Agency. Senior posts were allocated according to party lines and the prime minister always had the last word on the appointment of the chairman.

An uneasy alliance had to be created between the government and the major donors and the multi-layered structure of the World Zionist Organization and the Agency's board of governors came into being.

This creature of compromise and circumstance was never an ideal creation, but while it was still clear that the agency had a definite role, facilitating aliyah from around the world, it at least had a justification. Today it is becoming increasingly clear that that role is a thing of the past. Aliyah from the former Soviet Union is down to a trickle and the government has decided that the emigration of the Falashmura will end in three months.

The Jewish people is basically divided today between Israel and a string of communities in Western or rapidly Westernizing countries. In such an environment, the decision to make aliyah is an increasingly individual one. The Agency has realized this and adopted a new credo - "aliyah by choice." But how does one motivate people to make that choice?

The days of proselytizing for aliyah are over, the most that can be done is to make things easier for those who have already made the choice. Private organizations like Nefesh b'Nefesh and Ami, and also the Absorption Ministry have realized that and are gradually encroaching on the Agency's turf. Talk off-record to agency officials, at all levels, and they also understand this. Within the Agency, plans are being made to restructure the Aliyah department, effectively breaking it up to components which will be merged into the Education and Israel departments, primarily due to a shrinking budget, caused by a decline in donations and the weak dollar.

What is needed is a public facing of the facts. These changes should have been underway even if there was no budgetary necessity. In an era in which the main challenge facing the Jewish world is creating frameworks for identity and knowledge, the Jewish Agency has a role to play as pipeline between Israel and the Jews of the world, it can be a central role, but first it must admit as much to itself, its donors and potential clients.

In today's global Jewish society, the Jewish Agency has no direct way of significantly affecting aliyah to Israel. Its only future is as an international vehicle of Jewish and Israeli education. If the Agency's leaders carry on claiming that aliyah is still its central mission, the Israel Prize will indeed be only a recognition of past achievements.

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Thursday, March 27, 2008

What Will It Take?



Dear Yishai,

I realize there are lots of American Jews that live in the U.S. that support Israel in a lot of substantive ways. There also seem to be a lot of American Jews that don't care. Period. Just don't care. Which brings me to a thought...but there needs to be a digression and I hope you don't mind.

I am literally the only full time staff person at the library where I work who is Jewish. My supervisor once wondered about my connection to Israel. I told her, and it's true that if the anti-Semitism ever got to be as bad in the U.S. as it is in Europe that I would feel unsafe. I would have to leave and come to Israel. That seemed to take care of whatever concern was driving my supervisor's question. I could have copped out I suppose and pointed out my elderly parents who would be unable to survive the move to Israel or my mortgage or my age (I'm 53 just recently), but the right "spin" to put on my answer to my supervisor's comment seemed to be the way I answered (you'd have to know the supervisor to understand that last).

My thought though is that what about American Jews? What would it take for them to say, "Hey we may have comfortable lives here, but enough is enough!" and then make aliyah...en masse??? I'm not just talking about traditional Jews or Chabadniks or the Satmarim, but the reform Jews who live in Bloomfield Township in their million dollar houses. The ones who have intermarried and drag their bored or acting out children to "Sunday school." Who join a shul just long enough for the bar or bat mitzvah and "confirmation." What would it take, I wonder, to get them off their duffs and on to a NBN plane?

Just a few thoughts...and a question that I think is worth exploring...

Jerri

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Sunday, March 09, 2008

"We Will Not Deter"



(AP)

I received the following e-mail from a co-worker (who wrote it.)

Although I don't usually send out these types of emails, I would like to share the following with all of you.

Every morning I take the 35 bus line to work. It's a quick ride and usually takes no more than 12 minutes. The third stop after I get on by the shuk is directly in front of Yeshivat Merkaz HaRav. This morning I found myself a bit anxious, unsure of what I was going to see as we passed by. As I looked around, I saw death notices pasted all over the street and flowers that had been brought lined the entrance to the Yeshiva.

When the bus pulled up to the stop, the driver shut off the engine and stood. With tears in his eyes he told everyone sitting on the bus that one of the boys killed on Thursday night was his nephew. He asked if everyone on the bus would mind if he spoke for a few minutes in memory of his nephew and the other boys that were killed.

After seeing head nods all over the bus he began to speak. With a clear and proud voice, he spoke beautifully about his nephew and said that he was a person who was constantly on the lookout for how to help out anyone in need. He was always searching for a way to make things better. He loved learning, and had a passion for working out the intricacies of the Gemara. He was excited to join the army in a few years, and wanted to eventually work in informal education.
(Reuters)

As he continued to speak, I noticed that the elderly woman sitting next to me was crying. I looked into my bag, reached for a tissue and passed it to her. She looked at me and told me that she too had lost someone she knew in the attack. Her neighbors child was another one of the boys killed. As she held my hand tightly, she stood up and asked if she too could say a few words in memory of her neighbor.

She spoke of a young man filled with a zest for life. Every friday he would visit her with a few flowers for shabbat and a short dvar torah that he had learned that week in Yeshiva. This past shabbat, she had no flowers.

When I got to work, one of my colleagues who lives in Efrat told me that her son was friends with 2 of the boys who had been killed. One of those boys was the stepson of a man who used to teach in Brovenders and comes to my shul in Riverdale every Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur to be a chazan for one of the minyanim.

We are all affected by what goes on in Israel. Whether you know someone who was killed or know someone who knows someone or even if you don't know anyone at all, you are affected. The 8 boys who were killed will continue to impact us all individually and as a nation. Each one of us has the ability to make a profound impact on our world.(AP)

This coming wednesday morning, I will be at Ben Gurion airport at 7 am with Nefesh B'Nefesh welcoming 40 new olim to Israel. We will not deter. We can not give up. We will continue to live our lives and hope and work for change, understanding and peace.

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Sunday, February 24, 2008

When Passaic Is Jerusalem, Rav Leff's "Where is the Religious Aliya from the West"


The following essay by Rav Zev Leff, Shilta, entitled "Where is the Religious Aliya from the West?" appears as the introduction to "To Dwell in the Palace" by Tzivia Erlich-Klein (1991, Feldheim - a MUST read - order it today!).

Though I always wanted to post this here, I'm posting it now as a response the post "Passaic is Better than Israel."


Where is the Religious Aliyah from the West?
from “To Dwell in the Palace - Perspectives on Eretz Yisrael”

DRIVING HOME THROUGH the largely-uninhabited hills of Judea, or walking down the streets of an Israeli city still lacking the imprint of Torah, I hear the question echoing: “Where is the religious aliya from the Torah communities of the West?”

The question is not of recent vintage, nor was it posed by a representative of the Aliya Department of the Jewish Agency. It was Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld who addressed these words, some sixty years ago, to Rav Yitzchok Breuer. The rav of Yerushalayim further told the Agudah leader, “Now I understand the words of musaf for yom tov: `Because of our sins were we exiled from our country’ - by HaShem; `and we were distanced from our Land’ - this we have done voluntarily.” (Moriah, p. 191)


Another quote from Rav Sonnenfeld is perhaps even more pointed: “Many times have I directed that the religious Jews in the diaspora be instructed that anyone who has the ability to come to Eretz Yisroel and doesn’t, will have to account for his failure in the future world.” (Ha’ish Al Hachoma, vol. II, p. 149)

A generation or so later, a yeshiva student from the diaspora who had been learning in an Israeli yeshiva came to bid farewell to the Chazon Ish before returning to his home. “Is one permitted to leave Eretz Yisroel?” the gadol asked him. The student stammered and replied, “I understood that if one came to Eretz Yisroel with the intention of returning eventually, he is permitted to leave.” The Chazon Ish spoke in a tone of disappointment: “We are trying to devise methods to get bnei Torah to settle here and you are involved in finding ways to be able to leave?!” (Peer Hador, vol. II, p. 42)

Baruch HaShem, Torah is flourishing in Eretz Yisroel to an extent scarcely even dreamed of by these great sages. But their questions still loom. Indeed, the extent to which the Torah community, otherwise scrupulously careful with mitzvos, is “involved in finding ways” out of the mitzva of yishuv Eretz Yisroel needs to be examined.

Factors Cited

The economic situation in Israel is often mentioned. Indeed, the Pischei Teshuva (Even Haezer 75, no. 6) rules that since living under conditions of economic privation can endanger, or at least compromise, one’s spiritual life, one is exempt from settling in Israel if he will be forced to live under conditions of dachkus (hardship). Now what constitutes the “dachkus” to which the Pischei Teshuva refers? The inability to afford $25 per pound gourmet chocolates? Not being able to acquire an elegant, very large wardrobe of `from” designer clothing? Is the definition of dachkus being too destitute to afford a $500,000 home that one would not think of inhabiting until it was gutted and elegantly redone? Or is dachkus a dearth of elegant glatt restaurants of various nationalities, pizza shops with all the trimmings, and frozen glatt kosher convenience foods and snacks?

Not to belabor the point, in essence the ruling of the Pischei Teshuva refers specifically to one who will be forced to live from tzedaka in Israel as opposed to being able to earn a living in chutz laAretz. By comparing employment possibilities in Eretz Yisroel today with those available either in the time of Rav Sonnenfeld or that of the Chazon Ish, we are soon forced to eliminate the exemption of the Pischei Teshuva for most cases. B’ezras HaShem one can earn a livelihood in Israel that would have been considered luxurious by most of prewar European Jewry. Even more significant, however, is this point: the more modest lifestyle typical in Israel today not only does no harm to one’s spiritual life, but it is likely to do much good.

The Torah sages of all generations warned against extravagant lifestyles, flaunting our wealth in the eyes of the nations, and becoming too comfortable in golus. The Maharsha (Shabbos 119) makes the following observation: “Most of the sins of this generation… can be attributed to the fact that… everyone wishes to conduct himself in an extravagant fashion in regard to clothing, houses, and all other matters; and this leads to theft.”

More recently, the Chafetz Chaim, in the Biur Halachic (siman 529), rebukes openly: “Many people err in this area and do not take to heart how to conduct themselves properly concerning their household expenses, to distance themselves from luxuries. Many have been damaged by this kind of conduct which ultimately brings one to theft and dishonesty and to shame and disgrace….” In Sfas Tamim (chapter V) the Chafetz Chaim blames the suffering, trials and tribulations of his times on the dishonesty promoted by overspending on luxuries, especially costly clothing; by overextending oneself through buying on credit; and by lavish weddings with unreasonable demands made on parents for dowries.

Another facet of the economic argument, one cited as a reason to delay aliya indefinitely, is financial “security.” (”How can we face the future without a sizable sum put safely away?”) The gemara (Sota 48) says: “One who has bread in his basket and worries what he will eat tomorrow is one of little faith.” The Kotzker Rebbe explains that the “little faith” is not evidenced by the uncertainty of tomorrow, but rather by this man’s certainty of today. By worrying only about to morrow, he shows that he puts his trust in the presence of bread in his basket, and not in HaShem. A believing Jew, by definition, does not hang his security on large bank accounts; he certainly would not compromise his Torah life in their pursuit.

All this considered, there do remain legitimate economic factors to weigh when planning aliya. The laws of tzedaka demand that we provide for one who falls on hard times not merely at subsistence level, but at the standard to which he was accustomed. This is because a drastic change in lifestyle can be very painful. In light of this insight gleaned from the halacha itself, an individual may and should consider very carefully his family’s present standard of living, the prospects for their situation in Eretz Yisroel, and the ability of the family to modify or adapt accordingly. Of course, a Jew who has been properly educated to the importance of aliya, and one who takes the admonition of the Chafetz Chaim cited above seriously, will be cautious from the start lest his family grow accustomed to exaggerated standards.

The second factor that could qualify as a reason for postponing aliya under the guidelines of the Pischei Teshuva concerns the individual’s predilection for a specific occupation. Chazal tell us that it is part of a man’s nature to find satisfaction in doing that for which he is best suited. We all know that there are many people who retrain in the middle of one career for an entirely new one, for any number of reasons. Nevertheless, one who finds satisfaction in his occupation should plan to pursue the same one in Eretz Yisroel. Where this would be impossible, one should weigh the available options for suitability and for the prospects of success and satisfaction inherent in each one. Failure to deliberate this issue could result in a potentially frustrating or unsuccessful aliya. Here too, however, if one teaches oneself to strive always towards aliya, then, at every crossroads in his training, he will have Eretz Yisroel in mind. Such a person will consider possible occupations in light of their transferability to Eretz Yisroel from the beginning.

And then there’s the matter of physical security. After all, the halacha does not permit us to put ourselves in danger.

Visiting New York, I have been asked: “Aren’t you afraid to live in the Shomron?” I find it amusing if not ironic when the question is asked while the host secures both his locks and activates his alarm system.

In the years I’ve lived on Moshav Mattityahu, there have been no incidents, no crime. My children can go out to play at any hour, and we do not bother to lock our doors even at night. How safe are the streets of any city in America that it should be recommended as a place of safety while Israel is rejected as dangerous?

On the streets of Eretz Yisroel, the only men carrying guns are the soldiers protecting us. At least here in Eretz Yisroel the security measures taken have an excellent record of effectiveness. And added to those security measures (which the halacha requires of us) the observable fact is that in Eretz Yisroel we merit an extra, supernatural, measure directly from the Ribbono shel olam. No, the safety factor does not really seem to be an issue.

Some claim to fear the problems that they would encounter trying to live a life of Torah under a secular Israeli government. Isn’t the negative attitude to Torah values and Torah observers exhibited by certain segments of Israeli society a significant detriment, they ask.

One wonders, however, if non-Jewish Western society, or for that matter the secular Jewish community elsewhere, is really a better environment for Torah ideals. Is the attitude there towards Torah values less hostile? Does kindly tolerance of observant Jews demonstrated by secularized brethren create a better atmosphere for growth?

Before the reader rushes to answer these complex questions, the following should be considered: When the Israeli government passed the law of conscription for women, an individual approached the Chazon Ish with a challenge: “Does the Rav still feel that Jews are obligated to come and settle here [i.e.., when there is a government that drafts laws such as this, subjecting our daughters to military service, which the gedolim forbid (they have even ruled that one must surrender her life if that is the only alternative to compliance)]?” After a brief, pained silence, the Chazon Ish answered in the affirmative with forceful resolve and clarity. (Peer Hador, vol. II, p. 43)

Today, although conscription of women has yet to be annulled completely, any woman claiming to be religious is exempt. It would therefore appear, by kal vachomer from the psak of the Chazon Ish, that the objection posed above does not affect our obligation.

Those in positions of communal responsibility cite additional grounds for remaining in chutz laAretz. Clearly, consideration must be given to the effect their aliya will have on those for whom they bear responsibility. There are indeed many community rabbanim, roshei yeshiva, klei kodesh, and community heads who are crucial to the growth and stability of their respective institutions both spiritually and physically. It would, however, be absurd and somewhat haughty for every rabbi or communal leader to assume that the fate of his community rests on his shoulders alone.

In many cases the aliya of the leader would be an incentive and inspiration for those he leads to follow, for the benefit of all concerned. And there are leaders who would be even more effective and successful in Eretz Yisroel.

Rav Sonnenfeld directed his impoverished grandson to decline the offer of a prestigious rabbinical position in chutz laAretz and to remain in Eretz Yisroel. “I maintain that it is better to be a plain working man in Israel than a rabbi in chutz laAretz,” Rav Sonnenfeld told him. (This is not to be taken as a blanket principle for all cases. The comment is important, however, in that it challenges our preconception that the reverse is the rule.)

It must be emphasized that each situation is unique. When doubts exist, the advice of a Torah authority should be sought. I myself know of a number of cases where important rabbis and leaders were advised by a posek to go ahead and make aliya.

Another factor that sometimes discourages prospective olim is reports of problems encountered in chinuch of children, particularly those of high school age. This may seem surprising, since there is an abundance of excellent institutions of learning to be found in Eretz Yisroel on all levels. Nevertheless, the inadequacy of Hebrew language skills acquired in many US. yeshivos, coupled with cultural differences which are due to the infusion of foreign values, can create difficulties for the young oleh. Discrepancies of style between available options here and those one was accustomed to in the United States can cause considerable pain for children and parents alike. With proper planning and guidance, however, many of these problems can be reduced or avoided entirely. Furthermore, additional aliya from the US. will, inevitably, lead to the establishment of more schools tailored to these olim. (Indeed, recent years have witnessed the development of “American-style” yeshivishe education in Israel with a unique flavor all its own.)

There is also a great deal of discussion of halachic factors excusing today’s Jew from this mitzva. There are, after all, opinions that it is only a mitzva kiyumis (voluntary mitzva). This was the opinion of the late gaon Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l, and some others. Well, tzitzis is also “only” a mitzva kiyumis. It might be worth contemplating the way we regard one who neglects the mitzva of tzitzis, or even one who does not wear an arba kanfos that conforms to the strictest shiur with tzitzis the most mehudarim. In a time of Divine anger, one is held accountable for a mitzva kiyumis as well.

And there are some who maintain that the mitzva is not binding at all today. This was the opinion of the late Satmar Rebbe zt”l and some others. Even if we ascribe great weight to this minority opinion, however, we must ask ourselves how we conduct ourselves regarding other mitzvos that are binding only according to “some” opinions. Do we not go to great lengths to be yotsai all the shitos? In the case of yishuv Eretz Yisroel, the preponderance of opinion in favor of the binding nature of the commandment includes the Pischei Teshuva, the Avnei Nezer, the Chafetz Chaim, the Gerrer Rebbe, the Chazon Ish….

The purpose of this article is not to enter into a halachic debate, nor to be so presumptuous as to rush in where giants have trodden before me. Yes, there are reliable halachic opinions which would mitigate the obligatory nature of yishuv Eretz Yisroel in our times; but the list of opinions in support of the imperative of fulfilling this mitzva today - only fractionally mentioned in the above paragraph - is a formidable one.

There is one point on which all Torah authorities are in agreement. That is that living in Eretz Yisroel affords one a unique opportunity for spiritual development and growth. While it is true that this opportunity must be considered in conjunction with many other factors that affect the spirit, one cannot simply ignore or disregard the special qualities of Eretz Yisroel and of the mitzva of yishuv haAretz.

Strangely, consideration of settling in Eretz Yisroel is overlooked by many in the Torah community. This most certainly is not the Torah view. The move to Eretz Yisroel must at least be considered, discussed, and investigated. As a musmach of the Telshe Yeshiva in Cleveland, who learned in kollel there for many years, then went on to serve the community I grew up in as rav of the North Miami Beach kehilla for nine years, and then, with the advice and encouragement of gedolim, was oleh to Eretz Yisroel several years ago, assuming the position of rav of Moshav Mattityahu - I feel that my experience may be instructive to the Torah world. I believe I can provide some insights gained on both sides of the ocean which will clarify the case for settling in Eretz Yisroel, and bring the topic to the forefront for personal deliberation. Perhaps others like me, neither exceptionally brave nor wealthy, may benefit from my perspective.

If living in Eretz Yisroel is viewed as “just a mitzva” (as I once heard someone say with a shrug), then all the considerations discussed above could be deterrents. But this is a mitzva which is “equal to all the rest,” it is fulfilled every moment with every part of one’s body, and it carries with it a host of other mitzvos which one can fulfill only by residing in Eretz Yisroel. Clearly, there is something more encompassing at issue than any single mitzva. Let us therefore suspend our analysis of practical questions while we address the larger picture. What is this particular Land, and living in it, all about?

The Role of the Jewish Nation

Some of what follows is basic and surely known to the reader. Nevertheless, as the Mesillas Yesharim warns, that which is basic and self-understood is often overlooked, ignored or forgotten.

Am Yisroel was selected by HaShem to be a sanctified nation whose raison d’etre would be to represent HaShem to the world in all areas - a “mamleches kohanim vegoy kadosh.” The Torah was given to us to guide us - individually and collectively - in conforming with this lofty mission.

To achieve our goal, HaShem exhorted us to separate ourselves from the other nations. We are to be a nation apart, distinct in our holy purpose. As the Torah instructs, “Va’avdil eschem min ha’amim lihiyos li” (I separated you from the nations to be Mine). (Vayikra 20) The Sifrei comments on this verse: “If you are separated then you are Mine, but if not, you belong to Nevuchadnetzar and his cohorts.” The simple meaning seems to be that if we separate ourselves, we will merit Divine protection, and if not, HaShem will deliver us into the hands of our enemies. The literal wording of the Sifrei, however, does not bear this explanation out. I would like to suggest an alternative one:

A non Jew is required to observe only seven mitzvos. His lifestyle can be secular, devoid of holiness. As long as he maintains harmony with the basic ethical code dictated by HaShem for civilization, he will merit a share in the world-to-come. One might conclude that a Jew living the same type of lifestyle, although remiss in the observance of 606 mitzvos, has a positive basis for his life - no worse than a non Jew. The Sifrei informs us otherwise. The Jew exists for an entirely different purpose: to create a mikdash - a place of holiness and sanctity where HaShem’s presence will be found, and felt. This mikdash finds expression in the person of every Jew. Thus, any Jew who fails to sanctify himself, to lead a life of exceptional holiness as defined by the Torah’s commandments, is in fact destroying his personal mikdash. He has joined the ranks of Nevuchadnetzar and his cohorts, destroyers of the Mikdash.

To promote our being a “nation that dwells apart,” HaShem “measured every land and found no land more suitable to the Jewish people than Eretz Yisroel, and no people better suited to Eretz Yisroel than am Yisroel.” (Vayikra Rabba 13) Eretz Yisroel is a holy Land, the Land that HaShem personally supervises at all times, the Land that HaShem calls His own. Am Yisroel is the nation that is a holy nation - the nation that merits direct Divine providence, the nation that HaShem calls His own. Hence Eretz Yisroel and am Yisroel complement each other perfectly.

Eretz Yisroel provides the setting where we can develop our potential to be a sanctified nation unlike any other. (This, it should be noted, is the very antithesis of secular Zionist ideology, which envi sions Eretz Yisroel as the setting for us to develop at long last into a nation like all other nations, with all their vices and weaknesses.)

The idea of Eretz Yisroel as the home of a uniquely holy people is implied at the very beginning of the Torah. “The Torah should have commenced with hachodesh hazeh lachem, the first mitzva the Jewish people were commanded. Why then does it open with Bereishis…?” (Rashi on Bereishis 1, 1) The answer quoted by Rashi is the following: Lest the nations of the world claim that we are thieves who stole the land of seven nations, HaShem informs us that He created the world and it is therefore His to take away from whomever He chooses and to give to whomever He chooses.

This answer is not for the nations; obviously, they do not accept it. Rather it is we who are supposed to see clearly that Eretz Yisroel is legitimately ours, given to us by HaShem. But there is a deeper lesson here. Why was it ordained that we should have to conquer Eretz Yisroel from seven nations who inhabited it for hundreds of years? Why was it arranged that we should have to kill the men, women, and children of those nations? Why did Eretz Yisroel have to become ours in a manner so open to question that the whole Torah would have to start from Bereishis just to provide an answer?

It seems that HaShem sought to teach us a lesson so significant that it is the foundation of the entire Torah. It is the preface necessary before we can approach even the first mitzva. This lesson is that the basis of our ethics and morals, standards and values is one sole source - HaShem Yisbarach. If He says to conquer and kill, that is what is “ethical’ and “moral.” Where HaShem mandates mercy and peace, they are “ethical” in that case. Our value system can have no other basis than the written and oral Torah. By mandating the conquest of Eretz Yisroel in an apparently disputable manner, the Creator forced us to focus our attention on the only basis we have for our actions. He is the Creator of all that exists; only He can dictate proper conduct among the peoples and lands He created. Only on the basis of this reasoning are we not thieves nor murderers. The Torah, at the very outset, is laying the foundation for our frame of reference to mitzvos, and to the world.

It is not incidental that this lesson is taught through Eretz Yisroel. Our sources emphasize that only in the Land of Israel can a Torah society not influenced by foreign values and standards be created - a society based on the ethics and morals of Torah alone, a society apart, rooted in and enhanced by the special qualities of the Land.

This is something we neglect to study in the day-to-day pursuit of our lives as individuals. But since the ideal Torah society is something we yearn and pray for, it would be edifying to delve into the structure that it is meant to have.

The Brisker Rav, zt”l, explains (on parshas Chayei Sara) that klal Yisroel is comprised of two complementary factions. The first is made up of choice individuals whom the Rambam refers to as an extended “shevet Levi” - those devoted exclusively to Torah study and avodas HaShem. This is the elite corps of HaShem’s army, toiling in the yeshivos and kollelim, the spiritual leaders of the Jewish people. They create the spiritual energy source necessary for the survival of klal Yisroel and are therefore supported by the klal as were the Kohanim and Leviim. This group is the minority.

The other sector, comprising the majority of klal Yisroel, are those who follow the dictum of Rebbe Yishmael (Brachos 35) and combine Torah with a worldly occupation. Torah is, of course, the focal point of their lives, their worldly occupation secondary and peripheral. Nevertheless, Torah is not their exclusive pursuit.

I believe this thesis of the Brisker Rav has an analogous application to the Land. It too is to be divided into two sections. Yerushalayim is the primary domain of Kohanim and Leviim with the Beis HaMikdash at its center. The remainder of Eretz Yisroel is predominantly the territory of the other tribes.

The gemara (Pesachim 8) questions why the choice fruits of the Galil were not found growing in Yerushalayim instead, and why the hot springs of Teverya were not situated in Yerushalayim. The answer it gives is that when the Jewish people ascended to the Beis HaMikdash three times a year to fulfill the mitzva of aliya laregel, HaShem wanted them to perform the mitzva entirely “leshem shamayim.” He did not want them to have the possible ulterior incentive of delicious fruit or hot springs.

And yet, delicious fruits do grow in the Galil, and hot springs are found in Teverya, which are also part of Eretz Hakodesh. This fact points to an important insight into the total picture of Eretz Yisroel. Although Yerushalayim is reserved for the spiritual, the entire Land is holy. Yerushalayim it hakodesh is representative of shevet Levi and the unique role of that minority. The rest of this holy Land corresponds to the rest of our people and the majority role, which is the synthesis of spiritual and material.

The Chasam Sofer (in his commentary on Sukkah 36) explains that any occupation, undertaken in Eretz Yisroel, is included in the mitzva of yishuv Eretz Yisroel, and it is in Eretz Yisroel that Rebbe Yishmael’s ruling (that one should take on a worldly occupation) applies! Agriculture or commerce, industry or social work, medicine or engineering… whatever helps settle the people in the Land, as this-wordly as it may seem, is, by definition, a mitzva in Eretz Yisroel. Consequently, the physical and material aspects of the Land are also objects of holiness, vehicles of service to HaShem.

This idea is further borne out by the Gra’s version of the bracha acharona. The Gra omits the phrase “and let us eat from its (Eretz Yisroel’s) fruit and be satiated from its goodness.” His source is the gemara in Sota (14). Of Moshe Rabbeinu’s desire to enter Eretz Yisroel the question is asked: “Was it to eat from its fruit that he wished to enter the Land?! Rather his desire was to fulfill the mitzvos of the Land.” The implication is that eating from the fruit is not a commendable reason for desiring Eretz Yisroel and the Gra therefore omits it from the bracha.

How then can we understand the Gra’s version of the beginning of this bracha, which contains the following phrase: “… and for the desirable, good, and spacious Land that You desired and bequeathed to our forefathers to eat from its fruit and be satiated from its goodness….”

The discrepancy is explained when we apply the above-mentioned concept of a division of the Land of Israel. The opening part of the blessing refers to Eretz Yisroel as a whole. We mention the fruit since it is precisely through the fruit that we reach our goal of Divine service in greater Eretz Hakodesh. The conclusion of the bracha, however, refers specifically to the building of Yerushalayim, where reference to the fruits and material goodness is out of place.

The gemara in Sota pertains to Moshe Rabbeinu, a Levi whose place would have been in Yerushalayim. Hence the negative connotation of desiring to enter for the fruits.

The midrash (Bereishis Rabba 38, 8) relates that Avraham avinu traveled from land to land seeking the best place for his children to live. In Aram he observed people eating and drinking and partying, and he hoped that his descendants would not reside there. In contrast he observed the inhabitants of Eretz Yisroel weeding and plowing and planting and hoped that this would be the dwelling-place of his offspring.

This midrash is surprising in that it points to qualities inherent in the atmosphere of a certain land. (The inhabitants of both these countries were, after all, idol-worshippers.)

The very air of chutz laAretz is conducive to materialism, to the utilization of the physical aspects of the world for immediate gratification and sensual stimulation - an olam hazeh approach. Eretz Yisroel, on the other hand, is conducive to toiling for future gratification, for future fruits - even in the material sense. This is an olam habba orientation. Avraham avinu recognized that in this setting his descendants would be able to realize their full potential, whatever their occupation.

It is true that the environment, whether of Eretz Yisroel or of chutz laAretz, can be overcome to a great extent. A Jew living outside the Land can resolve not to succumb to materialism. Even in Eretz Yisroel one who is determined to do so can lead a life of indulgence; after all, Sodom was in Eretz Yisroel. However, for one sincerely seeking to give HaShem the best service, Eretz Yisroel is the only place in the world providing a fertile, favorable environment. Not only in the past and in the future, but also in the present.

We are reminded daily of this truth. Every time we eat a meal, after satisfying our physical appetite, we are required by the Torah to recite birkas hamazon. It consists of three brachos of Torah origin and a fourth that is rabbinic. The first of the three Torah blessings acknowledges that HaShem is the source of all sustenance. The second thanks HaShem for the food and for Eretz Yisroel. It is in this bracha that we also mention HaShem’s covenant with us and the Torah. The third bracha is a prayer for the rebuilding of Yerushalayim and the restoration of the Beis HaMikdash and the Davidic dynasty.

Reciting all of this after each addition of a few ounces to our physical constitution, no matter where we live, may not seem particularly relevant. But it is. A Jew must focus his attention on the ultimate purpose of the creation of the material. Any thank-you for food must include mention of Eretz Yisroel and Yerushalayim, for only through the Land of Israel are the world’s material components put to use in the most sublime and ideal fashion.

And yet we may imagine that we can daily acknowledge the ideal while continuing to live our own lives among the nations in a lessthan-ideal fashion. Dwelling apart would be nice, we may say, but as for me, blending in with my host country will suffice. The Torah tells us otherwise. If we dwell apart, then “Israel will dwell apart in security.” (Devarim 33) If, however, we choose not to do so willingly, then solitude of a different, nature will be forced upon us. “How does she dwell apart in solitude?” is, we will recall, the opening verse of Lamentations.

How often have we tried to assimilate! Yet we, like the oil which can never blend with other liquids, are doomed to remain separate. Rav Chaim Volozhiner put it succinctly: “If the Jew does not make kiddush then the goy makes havdala.” Either we separate and sanctify ourselves, or the matter will be taken care of for us in much more painful ways.

The ultimate “cure” for all the woes of the Jew among the nations can only be a return to our own Land, there to live a life absolutely unique in its sanctification.

Consider the verse: “No man will covet your Land when you ascend to greet the Presence of HaShem thrice yearly.” (Shemos 34) Would it not have been sufficient if no one took the Land? Why was it necessary to promise that no one would “covet” the Land?

In light of our discussion regarding the purpose of Eretz Yisroel, we can explain this verse in the following manner:

The Ibn Ezra explains that the prohibition of Lo sachmod - do not covet - demands that a person recognize that all possessions are Divinely ordained for their owners. One does not covet that which is totally removed from his sphere (e.g., the peasant does not desire the king’s daughter, whom he merely admires from afar).

With this in mind, the verse quoted above takes on new meaning. The Jewish people are to renew and revitalize their relationship to HaShem three times each year by immersion in the holiness of Yerushalayim. They then go home to live their everyday lives in Eretz Yisroel proper - a sanctified people in a sanctified society, observing numerous agricultural commandments with the produce of a sanctified Land. The nations of the world will recognize that Eretz Yisroel is something outside their orbit. Perceiving how ill-suited it is to their olam hazeh ways and goals, they will lose interest in it. It is only when we dwell in Eretz Yisroel in a secular manner comparable to theirs that the nations imagine it has relevance to them also - and that is when they covet the Land.

This is a general picture of the way things are meant to be for the people of Israel living in the Land of Israel. Although every person must act in accordance with his unique circumstances, the Jew must maintain an awareness of the task of klal Yisroel in Creation. While an individual Jew may reach a relatively high level anywhere, there is no possibility of fulfilling our national destiny except in Eretz Yisroel.

An important point for the ben Torah to consider is this: only those who accept the full implications of the Torah’s starting from Bereishis, as explained above, are in a position to bring HaShem’s plan to fruition.

It thus behooves us to readdress the question: Where is the aliya from the Torah communities of the West? Having dismissed so many excuses, I would now like to focus on what I believe are root causes.

Underlying Factors

One factor which should not be underestimated is Zionism. The secular Zionist movement sought to replace the Torah, which it rejected, with nationalism - the Land of Israel, the Hebrew language, and “culture” - as the sole foundation of Jewish identity.

This had a variety of consequences. One which is rarely discussed, but which is especially relevant and particularly tragic, is the effect on the mitzva of yishuv Eretz Yisroel. Somehow, G-d’s commandment seems to have become tainted by the Zionist idea. Interestingly enough, there is a precedent for de-emphasizing a mitzva when it is thus “cut off from the tree of life” by some. When the minim (early Christians) discarded the 613 mitzvos for the “Ten Commandments” exclusively, the Rabbis removed the recitation of these aseres hadibros from the tefilla. They feared that mentioning only these might mislead the masses into following the minim. They did not, however, stop observing the aseres hadibros! It is interesting to note that the need to cease publicly emphasizing the mitzva of yishuv Eretz Yisroel, based on the above reasoning, was suggested ninety years ago by none other than Harav Avraham Yitzchak Kook, zt”l. (Hapeles, 5661, issues 1 - 4, quoted in Le’or Hanetzach pp. 121 - 122) Indeed, this could be one reason why gedolei Yisroel to this day do not publicly emphasize the mitzva of yishuv Eretz Yisroel.

For the Torah community, however, to fall into the trap of equating Zion with Zionism, and avoid the tremendous mitzva involved because it appears blemished, is a great tragedy.

Ben Gurion once said that if the Knesset voted for Shabbos observance, he would observe it as the law of the land. Would there then be justification for us to cease observing Shabbos because the Zionists were observing it for the wrong reason and in a distorted fashion?!

The Sadducees distorted the Yom Kippur service, the counting of the omer, the celebration of Shavuos, and countless other mitzvos. Did chazal then react by neglecting or ignoring these mitzvos? Rather they emphasized proper observance in defiance of the falsifiers, even in times when the Sadducees were in power and had the upper hand.

Therefore, the subtle negative effects of Zionism must be brought to the surface of our thinking, so that each of us can attack them in a rational fashion, without negating the importance of the Land or the mitzva of yishuv Eretz Yisroel.

The final element which must be confronted is a formidable one. It is the difficulty involved in aliya. The mitzva of tzitzis, after all - including all shitos and hiddurim - is one thing. Leaving one’s birthplace, family and friends, and all that is comfortable and familiar, is quite another. Nevertheless, the ability to do so, says Rav Chaim Volozhiner, exists potentially in the very fiber of every Jew. It is our legacy from our forefather Avraham, programmed into our spiritual genetic makeup ever since he heeded the command of “tech lecha” on that very first aliya laAretz. (Ruach Chaim on Pirkei Avos 5, 4)

The difficulties of yishuv Eretz Yisroel do not end when one arrives, just as one’s aliya does not stop at Lod Airport. Rather, it is an ongoing process of realizing ever higher goals. The hurdles are testified to by chazal as a permanent component of the mitzva and should not be considered a new result of modern bureaucracy. What chazal say about this is deserving of our consideration. “HaKadosh Baruch Hu gave Israel three precious gifts, and all were given only through suffering. They are: Torah, Eretz Yisroel, and the world-to-come.” (Brachos 5) These words of our sages underscore something every Torah Jew knows: In serving HaShem we do not neglect a mitzva because it is difficult. That which comes hardest is often the most valuable, hence, the most precious gift.

Another category of “difficulty” must be mentioned. The learned and G-d fearing individual knows that Eretz Yisroel is the “palace of the King.” A higher, more exacting standard of behavior is demanded here. One might reason that he should not introduce himself into a situation that may demand more of him spiritually than he can deliver. He may therefore opt to remain in chutz laAretz rather than to abuse the sanctity of the Land. (Such logic might have validity for a Jew absolutely uninterested in Torah and mitzvos. In chutz laAretz, his transgressions would be less devastating. On the other hand, for such a person, settling in Eretz Yisroel might be the very thing that would provide a positive influence and move him to teshuva.)

By the above line of reasoning, all Torah study should cease. The more one learns, after all, the more is demanded of him. The higher his level, the more strictly is he judged. Should he not therefore opt to learn as little as possible so as not to magnify his failings and avoid abusing the sanctity of the Torah? The fallacy here is that we are required by the Torah constantly to elevate ourselves, to accept added responsibility. The Torah we possess will aid us in accommodating ourselves to our raised level. Likewise the merit and kedusha of Eretz Yisroel will elevate us, actually aiding us to live properly in the King’s palace. Furthermore, if we are in danger of transgressing despite Torah learning and Eretz Yisroel, how much lower would we fall without their saving powers. (See Michtav MeEliyahu, vol. II, pp. 54 - 55)

In Conclusion

No, Eretz Yisroel is not “just another mitzva.” For ben Torah or baal bayis it represents an elevation to higher levels of sanctity in every aspect of life, availability of mitzvos which cannot be fulfilled anywhere else, and the potential - however remote it may appear for the moment - of a consummate Torah society.

To our great dismay, the geula has not yet come. According to our gedolim we are living in ikvesa dimeshicha, the last stage of golus. Ours is a time of paradoxes and great tests. On the one hand we have witnessed many miraculous and marvelous events. We have been zocheh that a large portion of Eretz Yisroel has been returned to Jewish hands and is thriving and flourishing. Aliya is now within the relatively easy grasp of millions of Jews. HaShem in His kindness has granted us access once again to our mekomos kedoshim (the Kosel Hamaaravi, Me’aras Hamachpela, Kever Rochel…).

At the same time, however, a secular government with a secular system of law reigns in Israel today, a government that can be hostile to Torah values and Torah-observant Jews. The media may, on occasion, spew forth such hatred for Torah that one can only be astounded and deeply ashamed that the language of such blasphemy is Hebrew. Missionaries peddle their wares, apparently unchecked. We must demonstrate against public chillul Shabbos and other types of desecration. The confusion over “Who is a Jew” and the introduction of the deviationist Conservativism and Reform even in this holy Land add to our heartache. All of these shadows loom over Eretz Yisroel.

And yet, there is so much light. Yeshivos and other mekomos Torah are proliferating at an unbelievable pace and are bursting at the seams. Thousands of previously estranged Jews are returning to our Torah heritage. Torah cities thrive and new ones are being built, Torah neighborhoods with all their accoutrements flourish in all the major cities, and even Torah moshavim and kibbutzim dot the map of the Land.

Chazal have instructed us that it is better to dwell in Eretz Yisroel in a city that is predominantly non-Jewish than to dwell in chutz laAretz, even in a city predominantly Jewish. (Kesubos 110) This does not mean that living in the band of Israel per se is more important than living in a Torah environment. But rather, I recently heard the idea that in Eretz Yisroel, the potential for positive change is inherent. The trend is for more and more Jews to come and transform the previously non-Jewish city into a Jewish one. Chutz laAretz, on the other hand, is doomed to negative change for the Jew. Permanence is, by definition, impossible there. Neighborhoods are destined to flourish temporarily, wane, and ultimately fall into non-Jewish hands. (Who has not seen this?)

So, if the dark patches described above trouble you, think in terms of potential for change. Imagine the impact of an influx of hundreds of thousands, or even thousands, of Torah-observant Jews, rabbanim, mechanchim, bnei Torah, and balebatim - men, women and children - on society in Israel and on the very character of the “Jewish State.”

Lest the reader think that mere numbers are not the issue, let me cite an exchange reported to have taken place between the Chazon Ish and Ben Gurion. The prime minister had asked the gaon’s prediction of who would ultimately be victorious in shaping Israeli society - the secularist camp or the Torah camp. The answer of the Chazon Ish was: “I am not a prophet, but I am certain that we will win out in the end. Our birthrate exceeds yours by far and one day we will be the majority!”

And if you are concerned that Israel may be unable to accommodate a vast influx, socially and economically, take this into consideration: I have heard secular Israeli leaders say that they would welcome and be able to handle tremendous numbers of immigrants. If they, presumably relying and depending on their “own” resources and means, feel so sure, how much more should we, who trust in the Ribbono shel olam? Eretz Yisroel is referred to as “Eretz Tzvi” (the Land like a deer). Just as a deer’s skin constantly expands to accommodate its growth, so too Eretz Yisroel can always accommodate additional Jews. As Rav Sonnenfeld put it, “When children return to their mother’s home there is no question of space. They squeeze together to sit but the mother never complains of lack of room.” (Ha’ish Al Hachoma, vol. II, p. 153)

HaShem Yisbarach has blessed us with wonderful gifts in our generation. It stands to reason that He is watching to see if we appreciate all that He has done. Do we consider it sufficient to admire from afar, and maybe visit once in a while? Or are we grateful enough to sacrifice some physical and material comforts in order to benefit from these spiritual luxuries? Perhaps an exhibition of genuine appreciation of His gifts will earn us the final crowning of a hastened geula!

With all of this, however, it would be overstated to advocate unconditionally that every religious Jew pick up and leave the diaspora tomorrow. Each individual situation must be studied carefully, and all of the legitimate factors considered.

This means asking a posek. During my years of experience as a community rav, I was impressed by the number of balebatim who, for example, would not break their fast on Taanis Esther despite a serious headache, without a psak halacha. Is such conscientiousness nothing more than a big show on a small matter? I prefer to believe it is the expression of a genuine desire to fulfill HaShem’s will. If it is, it would not allow the Jew to exempt himself from a mitzva as important, as all-encompassing, as yishuv Eretz Yisroel, before asking a shaila. One should not interpret the absence of public exhortations from gedolim on this or any other issue to be an indication of a negative attitude or even of indifference. There are a great many factors which may mandate public silence on some matter, even one viewed favorably, even one of great importance, even a question of mitzva and aveira.

If in the final analysis your particular circumstances dictate that you yourself remain in chutz laAretz, be ever sensitive to the fact that you are missing something. Recognize that no Jewish community in chutz laAretz - Y rum” and established though it may be - can ever replace Eretz Yisroel. If this is an important awareness for the lay individual, it is crucial for the teacher or community leader. In striving to raise the level of Torah and mitzva observance of those under your influence, you should stress the inevitable incompleteness of Jewish life outside the Land of Israel.

If you do not merit settling in Eretz Yisroel presently, aspire and fervently pray for the day when your circumstances will change, so that you will be able to fulfill this mitzva and reap the spiritual benefits of living in our holy Land. It would also be advantageous to visit Eretz Yisroel from time to time if your finances permit, to keep the fires of your dreams and aspirations glowing. The Chazon Ish (Kovets Igros, vol. 1, no. 176) supports this recommendation.

It is not sufficient to admire and appreciate the advantages and benefits of Eretz Yisroel in theory. In part this was the sin of the spies who, while extolling the beauty and goodness of the Land, lacked the bitachon to take advantage of those merits and concretize their personal connection to the Land. Rav Yaakov Emden, in his Siddur, emphasizes this point. “The mere hint of facing towards Yerushalayim when we pray is only sufficient when more than that is impossible. But, if we are not prevented by circumstance from physically being in Eretz Yisroel, then just facing in its direction will not suffice. Therefore, every Jew must resolve in his heart to settle in Eretz Yisroel as soon as he has the means to finance his move and to be able to eke out a meager livelihood by means of a trade or business…. Don’t think to become entrenched in chutz laAretz for this was the sin of our forefathers who `despised the desirable Land.’ This sin has caused all the calamities in our golus. We have been like one totally forgotten because we have completely forgotten the mitzva to dwell in Eretz Yisroel.”

Other Torah sages too have warned of becoming too settled in chutz laAretz. Some even went so far as to prohibit the erection of permanent stone dwellings outside of Eretz Yisroel. The Keli Yakar at the beginning of parshas Vayechi explains why the date of the arrival of Mashiach was hidden from us: to prevent us from becoming too settled in foreign lands, and losing the sense of anticipation of his arrival and of our imminent return to Eretz Yisroel. He goes on to bemoan the lack of success of even this measure, noting that so many Jews feel so settled in the lands of their dispersion that they build luxurious, permanent homes, and ignore even the possibility (let alone the fervent desire) that Mashiach may come at any moment and bring us all back to the Land of Israel.

We must refrain from feeling settled and fulfilled as long as we are outside the Land. This attitude need not lead to melancholy but should instead actually enhance one’s spiritual life. It affords direction in aspiring towards the proper values and lifestyle. Interestingly, it may also provide physical protection for the community in which one resides now, as illustrated by the following account from the Shearis Yisroel, in the name of Rav Yehoshua Falk, the author of the SMA.

The city of Worms was devastated twice during the Crusades. Why did a city blessed with pious Torah scholars merit such a fate? When Ezra hasofer returned to Eretz Yisroel to begin his work on the second Beis HaMikdash, he sent letters to all the major kehillos of the time inviting them to return with him. The kehilla of Worms, which had been established since the destruction of the first Temple, responded: “Peace unto you, Ezra hasofer! May you be successful in establishing the grand Beis HaMikdash in the grand Yerushalayim. We, however, will remain here in our `small Yerushalayim’ and with our mikdash meat, our small Temple.” This attitude, tragically common even in our own day, spiritually blemished the city to such an extent that it was especially vulnerable to the attacks of the Crusaders many years later.

And if in fact your personal circumstances do not exempt you from fulfilling this magnificent mitzva, then do not delay. If you keep in mind the benefits which will accrue to you personally, as well as the tremendous advantage to the klal, you will surely act with alacrity. Preparations need not be elaborate. The most important preparation that one can make is learning and teaching his family the importance of Eretz Yisroel in the total picture of avodas HaShem - for each Jew, and for the Jewish nation.

The sefarim relate the minhag of leaving the doors to one’s home unlocked all through the night of Pesach. This was in keeping with the tradition that an opportune time for our future geula will be the anniversary of our first one (geulas Mitzrayim). Eager for the advent of Eliyahu hanavi to herald the geula, we do not wish to delay the process even the few seconds it would take to unlock the door.

We are all anxiously awaiting the geula daily. To come and await Mashiach in Eretz Yisroel will avoid much needless delay when he arrives.

May HaShem Yisbarach grant us the ability to hear the echoes of Rav Sonnenfeld’s call: “Where is the religious aliya from the Torah communities of the West?” May we be blessed with the perceptiveness to respond, “We are investigating, we are preparing, we are on our way!”

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Video: American Olim Rock!


An immigrant from Seattle opens an American-style dog grooming parlour in Raanana, Israel!

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Only Israeli Judaism is Authentic!


So said Israeli author A.B. Yehoshua in May 2006, at the American Jewish Committee's (AJC) Centennial Symposium.

He reiterated similar sentiments in the clip below.



Unsurprisingly, many both in Israel and the world Jewish community disagreed.

In response, the AJC complied a booklet of responses, both for and against what A.B. Yehoshua said, entitled: The A. B.Yehoshua Controversy: An Israel-Diaspora Dialogue on Jewishness, Israeliness, and Identity

It makes for a good read.

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Art of Haggling...


One of the things that all Americans learn upon making Aliyah, is that often times, the price given for a particular item is not final, but merely a starting point for negotiations.

Some of us relish the opportunity to bargain in the shuk, while others find the idea to be totally inconsistent with their upbringing - the equivalent of driving on Shabbat (l'havdil).

So, in order to help those of us who haven't yet mastered the fine art of the haggle, perhaps these two instructional videos can help.



For the second video, click here.

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Thursday, February 07, 2008

Our Friends: Hana Julian and Family



"Arrivals: From Brooklyn to Arad"
by Yocheved Miriam Russo JPOST

Hana (52) and Sinai (57) Julian
Birthplace: Hana, Hamden, Connecticut; Sinai, Los Angeles
Aliya date: July 2003
Occupation: Hana, journalist; Sinai, Chabad rep
Family status: married, seven children

When Hana and Sinai Julian made aliya with Nefesh B'Nefesh in 2003, instead of staying with relatives, going to an absorption center or a rented apartment, they and four of their seven children went directly from the airport to the "unrecognized" Beduin village of Dragot - Drijag in Arabic. For the first three weeks of their lives as Israelis, the Julians lived with the 800 members of the Abu Hamad tribe in the Negev.

Since the 1960s government policy dictates that the country's 185,000 semi-nomadic Beduin must be moved into official "recognized" villages, so they can be provided with water, sewers and other utilities. About half the Beduin have refused the relocation effort, preferring to live in unrecognized encampments such as Dragot, which has no maintained roads, postal service or utilities, except for a sizable generator providing electricity.

For new olim, beginning life in a Beduin village sounds strange, but both the Julians and their host, Younis Abu Hamad, say they regard each other as family. "Jews and Beduin can live together without problems," Sinai Julian says. "We both have the same roots, going back to our father Abraham. It's time for us all to come together."

FAMILY BACKGROUND
The Julians met and married in New York in 1990, a second marriage for both. "We had five different mutual friends trying to get us together," Hana says. Born in Hamden, a suburb of New Haven, Hana grew up in a secular Zionist family that encouraged aliya. "I'm adventurous," she says. "I've done a little bit of everything, worked as a firefighter, a bluegrass singer with a band, a journalist, a director of a news bureau and a radio broadcaster, but I'm really a certified social worker. My first marriage didn't work out, although we had two wonderful children. I'd already become observant through Chabad, and was living in Crown Heights when I met Sinai."

Sinai was born into a similarly secular Zionist family in Los Angeles. "Sinai is my birth name - I went through Los Angeles public schools with that name," he says. Like Hana, Sinai had been married before, and had a son. He'd spent time at Kibbutz Gezer in the 1970s, but had returned to the US. "I'd planned just a short trip to wrap up loose ends, but I got stuck for 17 years."

The Julians have four children together, and three from prior marriages. "My oldest daughter is married with two kids in Brooklyn, and my son is in college in Brooklyn," Hana says. "Sinai's son is married with a baby in Jerusalem. He learns in kollel."

BEFORE ALIYA
Aliya was part of the Julians' marriage agreement, but was deferred, again and again, due to various family issues. The breakthrough came when Hana's recently married daughter visited Israel and became very ill while touring the Dead Sea.

"A Beduin tour guide had been showing the kids the sights," Hana recalls. "As it happened, he was the one who called me in New York, telling me my daughter needed me. I came, and while I was here, he also drove me around. One day Younis asked me, 'What are you doing in New York?' I was a social worker, I explained, but he said, 'No, what are you doing in New York? You're religious. God says Israel is your home. What are you doing in New York?' When God sends a Beduin messenger, we figured we'd better pay attention."

Things moved quickly after that. "I was selling insurance," Sinai says. "We were broke. But I figured if we were gonna be broke, we might as well be broke in Israel. I wanted to live in Jerusalem, Hana wanted a rural community, then Younis suggested Arad. We'd never heard of it, but he said it was a very nice community, with wonderful people, about 10 kilometers from his own village of Dragot. He even offered to find us a house in Arad, which he did - but it wasn't quite ready when we arrived. That's why we stayed with them.

"We made a pilot trip before we came, during the Pessah season. We looked at Arad and decided we liked it. We spent two weeks with Younis and his family then, too, and moved to a hotel for the actual week of Pessah. By that time, Younis and his whole family felt very much like our own family."

ARRIVAL
Younis, his wife, his son and a cousin came to meet the Julians, participating in the official NBN welcoming ceremony. "They were escorted in, with special clearance from the Shin Bet," Sinai says. "We went from the airport to Dragot."

LIVING ENVIRONMENT
In Dragot, the Julians moved into a new home that Younis had built for his son. "The son hadn't married or moved in yet, so everything was brand new and kosher," Sinai says. "Our kids loved it - they slept on the roof, where it was cooler, and ran all day with the Beduin kids with the sheep. I davened outside in the garden. We respected their traditions and they respected ours. We were treated just like part of the family."

"I'd get up in the morning to help make the breakfast pita," Hana says. "The women get up at 6 a.m., the men at 7, so one morning, I came out wearing a very long T-shirt, down past my knees. I didn't think it mattered - there were only women around. But Younis's wife was shocked - she sent me back into the house. 'You have to get dressed,' she said. 'You can't come out here like that. It's not modest!' In many ways, our customs are very much alike.

"We felt perfectly safe in that village. We'd have been in more danger in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv - let alone New York."

Today, the Julian family lives in a sunny, spacious home on a quiet cul-de-sac, where they have frequent guests. In addition to their two dogs and five cats, for a time they also had a white donkey named Gandolf, who insisted he belonged inside on Shabbat.

"Excuse the mess," Sinai says, gesturing. "We have 25 children in four bodies."

LANGUAGE
Hana and Sinai say they're "reasonably fluent" in Hebrew. Everyone learned some Arabic in Dragot, but the language spoken at home is English.

"When we came, Kobi was 12, Esther was eight, Golda was six and Zalman was five. In the beginning, at school, the children struggled with Hebrew," Hana says. "It took about five months to get some tutoring help from the government - they really aren't supportive of aliya to the South. Now, the kids are fine - among themselves they speak Hebrew, but I insist they speak English to me, so they don't lose that language."

CIRCLE
"At the moment, we have mostly Israeli friends," Hana says. "The Anglo community in Arad isn't huge, but we have plenty of English-speaking friends, too."

FINANCES
"It's tight. We're struggling."

Sinai commutes to the Dead Sea Mall. "I work for Chabad, encouraging men to put on tefillin, distributing literature and Shabbat candles. In terms of satisfaction, it's the best job I've ever had - but the worst in pay."

"I freelance, plus I'm an editor and writer for Arutz Sheva," Hana says. "I do radio newscasts once a week. Beyond that, I'm also the Ann Landers of the Alzheimer's set - I write an advice and information column for Alzheimer's Weekly."

IDENTIFICATION
Hana: "I'm American Israeli, but I'm also a Jew."

Sinai: "I'm an American Jew who lives in Israel. I have to go to the States next month, so I e-mailed some friends, 'Are you ready for a visit from an Israeli?' As I wrote it, I thought, 'Is that me?'"

FAITH
"We're Lubavitcher Hassidim."

PLANS
"We love Arad, and plan to stay here. We'd like to buy the house we're renting, fix up the yard, especially."

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Monday, January 28, 2008

Romance, Kibbutz Galuyot Style



From YNET
A descendant of long extinct Jewish community of Kaifeng, China, weds new Oleh from United States in Jerusalem's Great Synagogue. "I can't think of better example of ingathering exiles" says Shavei Israel chair, who organized ceremony

A groovy kind of love: A historic and very special ceremony took place last Thursday in the Great Synagogue in Jerusalem: Shoshana Rebecca Li, of the Jewish community of Kaifeng, China, wed Ami Emmanuel, am immigrant from the United States.

The wedding ceremony, with over 150 guests, including other members of the Kaifeng Jewish community, was organized by Michael Freund, Chairman of Shavei Israel – a Jerusalem-based organization that reaches out and assists "lost Jews" seeking to return to the Jewish people.

The Jewish Community of Kaifeng flourished for over 1000 years on the banks of the Yellow River in China. Jews first settled in Kaifeng, when it was an important stop along the Silk Route.

The community flourished, and numbered as many as 5,000 people in the Middle Ages. After the last rabbi of Kaifeng died in the first half of the 19th century, assimilation and intermarriage prevailed, eventually leading to the collapse of the community.

Nonetheless, around 700 Jewish descendants still live today in the city of Kaifeng, China, and many of them are seeking to reclaim their Jewish identity.

Shoshana Rebecca Li, 29, a descendant of that community, made aliyah to Israel in 2006, and recently completed her formal conversion back to Judaism by Israel's Chief Rabbinate.

Ami Emmanuel, 25, made aliyah two and a half years ago from Florida. The newlyweds intend to live in Kibbutz Ketura in the southern Arava region.

"For me, to have a proper religious Jewish wedding in Israel – it is a dream come true. I am very excited," said Li.

"No one in the world is as happy as I am. I thought it impossible to marry a Jewish woman from China. However, it seems miracles do happen, and this is the biggest miracle of my life," added Emmanuel.

"This wedding symbolizes the beginning of the return of the remnants of the Jewish community of Kaifeng to the Jewish people and to the State of Israel," said Michael Freund.

"This is a special and unique occasion… 150 years after Kaifeng Jewry essentially ceased to exist, a wonderful young woman descended from the community is getting married to a new Oleh from the US, under a Jewish wedding canopy in Jerusalem. I can't think of a more poignant example of kibbutz galuyot – the Ingathering of the Exiles," he added.

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Sunday, January 20, 2008

Kumah's Tu B'Shevat Seder



Does anyone know what tomorrow is?

If you are living in the United States of America you will probably answer “Of course - it’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day.”

No, silly! Tomorrow night is Tu B’Shvat!

(Those of you in Israel would say “Of course – It’s Tu B’Shvat tomorrow night!” And would say – “Really? MLK day? I had no idea!”)

Tu B’Shvat – yet another reason to make Aliyah. Here this “forgotten holiday” is actually widely celebrated. The sad truth is (even though, or perhaps because, I grew up in Yeshivish surroundings) I never even heard of a Tu B’shvat seder until I actually made Aliyah. Here everybody makes them.

Last year Kumah’s own Malkah put together an absolutely stunning Tu B’shvat Haggadah! (Special thanks the Yechiel for helping us dig it up.)

DOWNLOAD IT IN PDF FORMAT BY CLICKING HERE!

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Saturday, January 19, 2008

Making "Making Aliyah" Too Easy



Making Aliyah has become easier than ever before in history. Conventional wisdom dictates that this is a good thing. And that the easier making Aliyah becomes the more Jews will return home to Israel.

But is that always true? Could it be possible that if making Aliyah were way too easy there would be Jews that upon experiencing something in their homeland that they don’t particularly like - they would simply throw everything away?

Now wait a second before you start telling me I sound a bit deluded. Look at the very first pasuk (verse) of last week's Parsha.

Pharaoh had let the people go. G-d did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although it was shorter. G-d said, “The people might change their minds when they encounter war, and return to Egypt.” (Shemos 13:17)

Contrary to popular belief the Meam Loez explains:
Pharaoh had personally escorted the Israelites when they left Egypt, and had asked them to pray for him. The Torah therefore states that “Pharaoh had sent forth the people.” He had escorted them, hoping to entice them to pray for him. (Shemos Rabbah;Zohar on lech lecha).

Some say they G-d repaid Pharaoh for this good deed by giving the commandment, “Do not abhor an Egyptian, for you were a guest in his land” (Devarim 23:8) (S.R. cit in Yeffeh Toar).

All the Egyptian aristocrats accompanied the Israelietes until they came to Etham (13:20). Pharaoh and his men went along with the Israelites until they left Egypt. Pharaoh also sent many of his officials to accompany them on the way. (Targum Yonason; Rashi).

The Jews were slaves in Egypt. Whether or not they took to heart this fact that they were slaves in someone else’s land - they felt safe and secure there. They felt at home. And they felt that Pharaoh had their best interest in mind.

This is a very important point! “Pharaoh had let the people go.” The Jews did not feel like slaves escaping.

As the Meam Loez puts it:
Slaves escaping their master do not return. But since Pharoah had even gone so far as to escort them, they were left with good feelings toward Egypt. At the slightest hint of hostility, they would run back into Pharoah’s arms.

G-d knew the shortest route from Egypt to Israel leads straight through Gaza!

As the Meam Loez tells us - that route was problematic:
The logical route from Egypt to Canaan would take the Israelites along the Mediterranean coast through the Philistine territory. Although this was the shortest path, G-d did not let the Israelites use it.

G-d did not let the Israelites take this road precisely because it was short. If anything had frightened them, it would have been too easy for them to return to Egypt. G-d knew that the slightest hostility might cause them regret leaving Egypt and drive them to return.

Today, when Jews makes Aliyah from America, they certainly don’t feel like slaves escaping. One wonders if today as well, at the sight of hostility (such as in Gaza perhaps) would the American Jew run back into Pharoah’s arms?

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Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Same Jews



Sometimes I feel like I'm beating the Jews-need-to-return-to-Israel-and-their-collective-lack-of-initiative-is-a-sign-of-their-lack-of-faith-in-G-d issue like a dead horse. I don't know how we could express this seemingly obvious fact any further.

But I'll try.

One thing that really bugs me is when people read the Torah as a legend of days gone by. The Children of Israel coming out of Egypt are usual catalysts for a sort of global Jewish headshaking - we wonder at their ability to be so kvetchy all the time, to make golden gods, to ask for ridiculous things in the face of miracles. Yet I find that the post-traumatic-stress-riddled Jews of Egyptian slavery time are not a whole lot different than the average Moishe of Central Parkway. Granted, the Hebrews saw wildly unnatural-seeming miracles, splitting seas, weirdly selective plagues like darkness and firstborn slaying and what have you. They had a lot of chutzpah being so faithless.

But it's not like your snazzy LA Jew hasn't seen miracles. His bizarre success wherever he goes, the way he is so oddly and frequently spared from tragic or disasterous events, the birth of the State of Israel far across the ocean and its uncannily rapid growth and prosperity in its old haunts, with its old language. Honestly - it's pretty obvious that G-d is still taking care of His people Israel. There are a lot of American Jews who would heartily testify to the omnipotent kindness of our Lord to the Jewish people, and latch on to many of his commandments in loyalty and affirmation.

But when we talk about getting out of good old Flatbush... ooohhh nooooo. Suddenly, everything is too hard, too scary. To me, it sounds something like this: "Let us be and we will serve Egypt, for it is better that we should serve Egypt than that we should die in the Wilderness." This wilderness was a place where the Israelites' every need would be cared for, where they would learn the Torah and eat to satiety. At least we can give them the benefit of the doubt in regard to their disbelief - though they should have known that Hashem would take care of them in the Wilderness, they had no forward lines who had preceded them, whose well-being they could take comfort in.

Yet the American Jew of today has that very thing. Israel is filled with flourishing beauty, holy Torah, rich agriculture and comfortable living, experienced currently by almost 6 million of his relatives. But he sees his road to Israel, his Wilderness, as not being worth the potential costs. Yes, he knows he's giving up SOMETHING. But his lack of faith causes him to seek comfort in that which is killing him, and to see his ladder up and out as certain death.

As an aside, one could say similarly of those living in Israel today who believe that we are sure to face doom and destruction, who mock those of us who begin to get a whiff of the burning offerings in a future Temple or plan our vacation homes in Basra. To them, anything bespeaking growth and uncharted territory is farcical, impractical, or dangerous. Better to be safe than sorry.

How ironic it is that all of these people rely on things which are utterly unsafe and uncertain and don't run like hell for the Wilderness, which is in fact the only safety there is.

May we all embrace our personal Wilderness, and let it lead us on a path to all things holy, right here in our holy land.

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Monday, January 07, 2008

If Everyone Would Be This Honest....



Shalom Yishai!

thank you for some of ur comments about making aliyah...

I'm struggling right now with the fact that I had originally wanted to make aliyah this month... I however, accepted a "good job" that will allow me to save some extra money, yet there in is a trap, saving money in the USA is like trying to collect water with a stainer! expenses always mount and "needs" are always pressing... I am sensing my galut/exile more and more... I do not feel at home even though I struggle to "be at home" - I work for a yeshiva here in chicago... a good paycheck.

I am struggling with not with my desire to make aliyah yet with the timing and functionality of my aliyah. Everyone has said "make sure you have a job when u go to Israel" yet when I went to Israel for the 1st time in 2004 I went with no expectations and no agenda, $900 in my pocket... I stayed three months, and got a job in Tel Aviv, where I actually made more money there then i would have in the USA... SO WHY AM I STILL IN USA/Galut? because I allow my passions for what i'm familiar with to override my concern for what Hashem has for me!

chas v'Shalom... I should use this job to save some mony and get the H*ll out of here... it means breaking up with a girl who may (or may not) be a good shidduch for me, it means leaving my mother (aging, nearly 75), it means leaving a child here in the USA (divorce situation), it means going beyond what is "commonly thought of as common sense" - emunah...

thanks for letting me vent! I have an open TIK, I have paperwork to complete might take me a month or two... who knows perhaps Hashem has put me in this situation so I can fight a little harder...
am chai Yisrael!

Hey, this year would be better than next year, yet next year might be more realistic than right now! whichever it is bezraht Hashem "not by might, nor by power, yet by His Spirit..."

todah! chaver,
yehonatan

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Sunday, December 30, 2007

Say Hello To The New Olim!!!








Words Can't Add Anything To These Photos!




20 Photos From Thursday's NBN Winter 2007 Aliyah Flight








































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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Kids, Teenagers, Beware!



by Tzvi Fishman

According to Jewish Law, every Jew is obligated to study the Torah, whether he be rich or poor, healthy or ailing, youthful or old. He must set aside a definite time during the day and at night for the study of Torah, as it says, “Thou shall meditate therein day and night” (Rambam, Laws of Torah Study, 1:8). In addition, the Torah is read publically in synagogue twice during the week and on Shabbat.

We learn Torah because this is G-d’s will for the Jewish People. Throughout the ages, we have been known as “The People of the Book,” and the Torah is our book. There are a lot of books in the world but the Torah is ours. The only way a Jew can understand what it is to be a Jew is by learning the Torah. If he doesn’t study the Torah, he may think he knows who he is, but he really doesn’t.

The Torah is not a long ago, once-upon-a-time story. The Torah teaches us what G-d expects from us today. The tales of our holy Forefathers are examples for us to follow, as our Sages have taught: “The doings of the Forefathers are signs for their sons.”

As we have previously written, give any ten-year-old child the Torah and let him read about Avraham, Yitzhak, and Yaacov, then ask him where G-d wants the Jewish People to live. Ten out of ten will say, "Israel!" G-d commanded our Forefathers to live in the Land of Israel, they only departed from the Land in time of severe famine, and then returned as soon as they could. To highlight this to his children, when it came time for Yaacov to die, he made Yosef swear that he would bury him in Hevron, so that his children never forget that, no matter how good a life they had it in Egypt, they were strangers in a strange land.

Our Sages explain that Yaacov wanted to establish for all posterity the principle that Eretz Yisrael was the Jewish People's only heritage. He knew that his burial in Hevron alongside Avraham and Yitzhak would forge an unbreakable bond between his descendants and the Land that Hashem had promised to give them. Yaacov was especially assertive in making Yosef swear because Yaacov saw that his children had become possessed by the foreign land. “Soon,” he reasoned, “they might substitute the Nile for the Jordan, and what began as a temporary sojourn in Egypt would no longer seem to them as an exile” (See, Artscroll, Bereshit, Vol. 6, Pg. 2090).

Rabbi Shimshon Rafael Hirsch summarizes: “This was his motive for so ceremoniously insisting that they should not bury him in Egypt, but that they should carry him to their true homeland. This was the reason he told them, ‘Though you may wish to live in Egypt, I refuse to be even buried here.’ This is why he used his name Israel in expressing his wish – he spoke as Israel, the bearer of their national mission.”

Our national mission is to be a holy nation in Israel. Yaacov Avinu’s teaching was not only for his children, but for his children’s children, and for their children after them. His teaching is for us – those of us in Israel today, and those of us who have not yet absorbed the message.

So kids, teenagers, BEWARE! If they tell you that you are American or Australian or Englishmen – don’t believe them! Your parents and rabbis and Federations are lying. You are the Children of Israel. The Land of Israel is your country. Jerusalem is your capital. If your Birthright leader lets you believe that by visiting Israel you are a full-fledged Jew who can continue to live a life of dual loyalty in America, he is lying.

Being a complete Jew means living in Israel. That’s what our Forefathers wanted to teach us. That’s what the Torah tells us over and over again. That’s what G-d wants for His People – to abandon the graveyards of the Diaspora and be living Jews in His Land.

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Thursday, December 06, 2007

Ingather


Pic Script by Yehezkel Laing and it says:
"Therefore say, 'Thus says the Lord GOD, "I will gather you from the peoples and assemble you out of the countries among which you have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel.'" Ezekiel 11;17

Also, check out this Aliyah article called "The Persistence of Vision" by Barry Leff

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Sunday, November 18, 2007

And she shall be called in Israel...



With much thanks to Hashem, I am happy to share with you that at 10:10am Shabbat Morning, the 7th day of the month of Kislev, 5768 (November 17, 2007), Annie gave birth to a baby girl. Both Annie and our new daughter are doing well - and Hodaya is excited to be a sister.

Being Shabbat, we had the opportunity, a few hours later, during Mincha (afternoon service) to name our daughter.

And she shall be called in Israel... Eliana Racheil.

Eliana means: (My) G-d has answered - a combination of the two Hebrew words, Eli: (My) G-d, and Ana: has answered.

On the most elementary level, It is the hope and prayer of every couple to be blessed with children, and that, in the aftermath of childbirth, that both baby and mother should be well. It is all too easy to forget or take for granted that not every couple has yet to be blessed with children, and not every pregnancy ends well, either for the mother or baby (or both).

So, on this most basic and human level, Eliana - G-d has answered our prayers - and we have been blessed once again with a beautiful baby girl, and that both she and her mother are healthy and happy, if not a bit tired, understandably so.

Racheil comes from our Biblical matriarch Rachel, who happened to be one of the central figures from this past Shabbat's weekly Torah portion - Parshat VaYeitzei.

The Talmud (Niddah 20b) teaches us that when a baby is in the womb, "he / she is taught the entire Torah...". It is not surprising then, having already become familiar with this past Shabbat's Torah portion that Eliana Racheil chose to enter this world specifically on Shabbat Parshat VaYeitzei.

The Hebrew word VaYeitzei means: to go out - and that is precisely what Eliana Racheil did this past Shabbat - she went out of her mother's womb and entered into the world.

Additionally, one of the central themes of Parshat VaYeitzei is that of childbirth. Over the course of the Torah portion, 11 of the 12 sons of Jacob - the Tribes of Israel - are both born and named (another motivation for naming Eliana Racheil over this particular Shabbat), and in addition to the 11 boys born to Jacob, a daughter is also born to him - bringing the total to 12 children born to Jacob over the span of a single Torah portion.

However, in order to fully appreciate and understand the name, one must look at both names together.

There is a Midrash found at the beginning of the Book of Lamentations (Eichah) which recounts the following (copied from www.Chabad.org):
As the Temple lay in ruins and the Jews were being led into exile as slaves, Abraham came before G-d and said: "Master of the universe, when I was 100 years old, you gave me a son, and when he was 37 years old you told me, 'Raise him as a sacrifice before Me.' I overcame my natural mercy and bound him myself. Will You not remember my devotion and have mercy on my children?"

Next, Isaac approached. "When my father said, 'G-d will show us the sheep for a sacrifice, my son,' I did not hesitate but accepted my fate and extended my neck to be slaughtered. Will You not remember my strength and have mercy on my children?"

Then Jacob beseeched: "I worked for twenty years in the house of Laban and when I left, Esau came to harm me. I suffered all my life raising my children. Now they are being led like sheep to the slaughter in the hands of their enemies. Won't you remember all my pain and suffering and redeem my children?"

Moses rose up and said: "Was I not a loyal shepherd of Israel for forty years? I ran before them in the desert like a horse. When the time came to enter Israel, You decreed that I would die in the desert. Now they go into exile. Won't You listen to my crying over them?"

Before all these virtuous defenders, G-d remained silent.

Then Rachel lifted her voice, "Master of the Universe, You know that Jacob loved me intensely and worked for seven years in order to marry me. When the time of my marriage came, my father substituted my sister for me. I did not begrudge my sister and I didn't let her be shamed; I even revealed to her the secret signs that Jacob and I had arranged.

"If I, a mere mortal, was not prepared to humiliate my sister and was willing to take a rival into my home, how could You, the eternal, compassionate G-d, be jealous of idols, which have no true existence, that were brought into Your home? Will You cause my children to be exiled on this account?"

Immediately, G-d's mercy was aroused and He responded, "For you, Rachel, I will bring Israel back to their place."

This Midrash is based on the verses found in the Book of Jeremiah (31: 15 - 17):
So has the Lord said: In Ramah there is a sound of crying, weeping and bitter sorrow; Rachel weeping for her children; she will not be comforted for their loss. The Lord has said this: Keep your voice from sorrow and your eyes from weeping: for your work will be rewarded, says the Lord; and they will come back from the land of their hater. And there is hope for the future, says the Lord; and your children will come back to the land which is theirs.

Returning to the name, Eliana Racheil...

Eliana Racheil is our 2nd child, and our 2nd child to be born in Jerusalem, the eternal capital of the Jewish People. Annie and I have been blessed to make our home and start our family here, in the Land of Israel, and have our children born in Jerusalem, something which, today, is also something, B"H, that is easy to take for granted.

In response to our matriarch Rachel's tears on seeing the Jewish People led into exile, G-d promised her that "your children (the Jewish People) will return to their borders (the Land of Israel)".

Annie and I, along with Hodaya Leah and Eliana Racheil (and the many other Jews who have returned to the Land of Israel - who have returned home) are the living fulfillment of G-d's promise to Rachel - Eliana Rachel - G-d has answered Rachel's prayer - the Jewish People are coming home.

It is our hope and prayer, in giving our new daughter this name, Eliana Racheil, that she follow in the footsteps of her namesake, Racheil Imeinu, who serves as the embodiment of dedication and self-sacrifice on behalf of the Jewish people, and that our Eliana Racheil devote herself to bringing about the redemption of the Jewish People - may we merit to see it speedily in our - and Eliana Racheil's - lifetime.

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Saturday, November 17, 2007

Surprise: More Jewish Poverty In U.S. Than Israel



That's what Haaretz's Ruth Sinai reports:


Study claims Jewish poverty rate in the U.S. is higher than in Israel


Some highlights:

- "Jewish poverty rate in the United States is higher than that in Israel."

- "One of every five Jews among Chicago's 270,000 Jews is poor or almost poor according to the federal government's definition."

- "New York also has a high rate of Jewish poverty."

- "More than a quarter of the members of the world's richest Jewish community live close to the poverty line."

- "The highest poverty rate is in Brooklyn."

So the next you hear anyone say "Make Aliyah? But there a so many poor people in Israel," simply show them this post. This is actually one of the excuses I do hear. People have said "You talk about how great Eretz Yisrael is, why don't you talk about all the poverty over there?"

How's this? We'll start talking about poverty in Israel when you start talking about poverty in Jewish America? Deal?

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Sunday, November 11, 2007

Many Faces, One Country



Congratulations to the winner of the Nefesh b'Nefesh "Israel In a Minute" video contest, recipient of $3,000 (that's 11,871 shekels for people in Israel THIS minute - cha-ching!), and maker of one kickin' PR piece. Reminds me of some of the material I received when applying to college - young, edgy, idealistic, and there's a chick with dreads - all the necessary components!

If you like it, and you live outside of Israel, click HERE.

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Friday, November 09, 2007

U'M'Beit Avicha - And From Thy Fathers Home: Realizing the Dream of Lech Lecha




Based on what are the Jewish People deserving of having been chosen? What did Avram do that was so special? Why is Avram chosen to be the beginning of a Chosen Nation who will serve as the vehicle through which God perfects humanity?

Let us take a look at the parsha of Lech Lecha and Chazal's commentary on her, and see whether perhaps we are given an answer to this perplexing question.

At the beginning of the parsha, God commands Avram, "Go from your land, your birth place, and from your father’s house, unto the land which I shall show you." Very interestingly, God continues and says, "I will make you a great nation... and through you all nations of the world will be blessed..." (12: 1-3) So we see already, that from the very first words that God command to Avram (go to the land of Israel) God also tells Avram the reason that God is commanding him to do this, namely that you shall become a "great nation" and that "through you all the nations of the world will be blessed."

We will begin a departure here, that only in the end shall return to our original question with what I hope you agree to be a beautiful answer.




In the Talmud Bavli (Nedarim, Page 32a) it says the following:

R. Ammi b. Abba also said: Avram was three years old when he acknowledged the Creator, for it is written, Because [Heb. 'ekeb'] Avram obeyed my voice: the numerical value of 'ekeb' is one hundred seventy two (since Avram lived to be 175 years old, he "obeyed my voice" for 172 of his 175 years of life).

The Rambam sitting both this Talmudic passage as well as another source that says Avram recognized God at the age of 40, synthesizes the two. Rambam says that from the age of 3 Avram began searching out God, but he did not come to the conclusion of a single god until the age of 40.

A point of significance here. The many stories and details of Avrams life that were just stated (he recognized God at 3, 40, etc) along with the many more to follow are not in the Torah! Why not? Why are such important details such as the reason for Avram having been chosen (for comparison, when Noach is chosen in the previous parsha to be the one saved and continue humanity we are told why. It says that Noach was a tzaddik, a righteous man) left out? We are not told anything about Avram. Why? We will come back to this later. However, already now, we can see a great example of the way in which Chazal fill in these missing pieces with midrashim, which sometimes are claimed as part of the oral tradition and as 'true' and other time are merely being created by Chazal. But even in this later case, they are no less true. Rather Chazal are trying to teach us a very important point (or points) and do so through this method of midrashim and commentary.

Let us now look at one of the most famous midrashim on the entire chumash. Midrash Rabbah, Berishit 38.

AND HARAN DIED IN THE PRESENCE OF HIS FATHER TERACH [XI, 28]. R. Hiyya said: Terah was a manufacturer of idols. He once went away somewhere and left Avram to sell them in his place. A man came and wished to buy one. 'How old are you?' Avram asked him. 'Fifty years,' was the reply. 'Woe to such a man!' Avram exclaimed, 'you are fifty years old and would worship a day-old object!' At this he became ashamed and departed. On another occasion a women came with a plateful of flour and requested him, 'Take this and offer it to them.' So he took a stick, broke them, and put the stick in the hand of the largest. When his father returned he demanded, 'What have you done to them?' 'I cannot conceal it from you,' Avram rejoined. 'A women came with a plateful of fine meal and requested me to offer it to them. One claimed, "I must eat first," While another claimed, "I must eat first." Thereupon the largest arose, took the stick, and broke them.' 'Why do you make sport of me,' he cried out; 'have they then any knowledge!' 'Should not your ears listen to what your mouth is saying,' Avram retorted.

Thereupon he seized him and delivered him to Nimrod. 'Let us worship the fire!' Nimrod proposed. 'Let us rather worship water, which extinguishes the fire,' replied he. 'Then let us worship water!' 'Let us rather worship the clouds which bear the water.' 'Then let us worship the clouds!' 'Let us rather worship the winds which disperse the clouds.' 'Then let us worship the wind!' 'Let us rather worship human beings, who withstand the wind.' 'You are just bandying words,' he exclaimed; 'we will worship nought but the fire. Behold, I will cast you into it, and let your God whom you adore come and save you from it.' Now Haran was standing there undecided. IF Avram is victorious, thought he, I will say that I am of Avram's belief, while if Nimrod is victorious I will say that I am on Nimrod's side. When Avram descended into the fiery furnace and was saved, he [Nimrod] asked him, 'Of whose belief are you?' 'Of Avram's' he replied. Thereupon he seized and cast him into the fire; his inwards were scorched and he died in his father's presence. Hence it is written, AND HARAN DIED IN THE PRESENCE OF ['AL PENE] HIS FATHER TERACH.

There are two aspects to this Midrash that I find fascinating.

The first aspect is the similarity between Avram's pattern of thinking as he comes to recognize the One True God, and the thinking that became so famous and widespread as a result of the Greek philosophers, Plato and Aristotle in particular. Plato was most famous for his dialectic manner of speaking, the way in which he would engage in conversation through question and answers in an attempt to arrive closer to the truth about the topic at hand. What was most unique was Plato's gifted ability to ask the right questions in the right way, thereby leading the other person engaged in the dialogue to construct their own meaningful and logical truth. How fascinating that the father of philosophy and the father of monotheism and revelation would have such similar ways of thinking and approaching the world. For we see in the midrash that Avram engages in exactly the same sort of conversations. By asking the presumably innocent question of "how old are you" Avram prepares a comment to the answer he knows is coming that will force his counterpart in this conversation to realize the idiocy of avodah zarah (idol worship). [This being done of course, when Avram retorts to the man's answer of how old are you with the following reply, "Woe to such a man! You are fifty years old and would worship a day old object!"]

We see Avram perform the same type of logical and progressive thinking with his father. This time Avram engages in the seemingly destructive act of destroying the idols, which would serve to do nothing for his father's benefit except perhaps to enrage him. This it does. But Avram has his response ready to this as well, making up the story of the idols smashing one another and that Avram is innocent. This time, Avram's set the framework for the other person involved in the dialogue to come ot the same conclusion as Avram even more perfectly than before. For this time, Avram's father doesn't merely concede the point, he states it himself! "Have they then any knowledge?!" Asked Terach. An amazing achievement that Avram should be able to think up a way in which to cause his father to realize himself the silliness of avoda zarah. Avram wraps up this discussion with his reply of "Should not your ears listen to what your mouth is saying." It is implied (through the midrashes silence) that Terach, though extraordinarily upset with Avram, excepted and agreed with his son's point.

Lastly, and perhaps most fascinating, is the way in which Avram finally comes to believe in the One God. These first two examples indicate that Avram rejected avodah zarah, but they do not say with what Avram replaced it (if anything at all). But in Avram's discussion with Nimrod, we discover the way in which Avram came to believe in God. When Nimrod declared, "let us worship fire" Avram retorted with "let us worship the water which extinguishes the fire." And with every new object of avodah zarah named by Nimrod, Avram pushed the cause back further and further. And, as many Greek philosophers also believed, if pushed back far enough, one reached a Single God. This is known as the First Cause Proof of God.

Avram was indeed a philosopher.

As a quick side point, it is interesting to note, that Avram, though he had not had any revelation yet, and his belief in One God was based solely on his thinking and philosophizing, Avram was already willing to die for this belief. Yet Haran, Avram's brother, had no convictions. He was passive. He didn't engage his brain and think for himself. He was not committed to avoda zarah, not was he committed to the belief in God. I have heard Rav Chaim Eisen of Jerusalem say on many occasions, "it is better to be committed to avodah zarah, then to be committed to nothing at all." I always had difficulty understanding that, if it were to be taken at all literally. I think, and hope you agree, that Haran's attitude, his punishment, and this midrash as a whole help to explain it.



It is at this point, at the conclusion of our midrash, that God first reveals Himself
to Avram, and declares, "Lech lecha…"

So, what did Avram, (soon to be Avraham) do to deserve being the person to whom God declared "Lech lecha" and chose as the father of the Holy Jewish Nation? It should be obvious by now. Avram recognized God! Avram recognized God, and he did so by himself. His conviction in this recognition was so fierce, he was willing to die for it, and the truth that Avram was so positive lay behind it.

I heard it suggested by Rav Kahn, that there is no reason to assume that the commandment and revelation of "lech lecha" was given only to Avram. It could very well be that it was being said to all mankind, but it was only Avram who heard it.

Or was it?

In a brilliant suggestion, Rav Kahn of Bar Ilan University stated that Avram and Terach (his father) had a much closer relationship than we often take notice of. The expression that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree has much truth to it. And I see no reason to suspect otherwise in the case of Avram and Terach.

Now, at this point, we can notice a most bizarre pasuk in the torah. For in sentence 31 of our parsha it says:

And Terach took Avram his son, and Lot the son of Haran his grandson, and Sarai his daughter-in-law, his son Avram's wife, and they went forth with them from Ur of the Chaldeans, to go to the land of Canaan; and they came to Haran, and lived there."
Now, why would Terach just all of a sudden take his entire family, including Avram, and pick up from Ur and head towards "the land of Canaan"? Perhaps, it is because Terach heard the exact same revelation that Avram did! That Terach too had this moment of clarity. That Terach also came to believe and understand that there was only one God. At which point Terach was given the commandment of "Lech Lecha" just as Avram was. And Terach, a believer of God, began to take both himself and his entire family to "the land of Canaan."

But it is difficult to make aliyah. Oh so difficult. It is not easy to travel from Ur (or Monsey, or California, or France, or many other places) all the way to Eretz Yisrael (the land of Canaan). And so, Terach, though he begins the journey, he does not finish it. "And they came to Haran, and lived there." Haran, according to many of the opinions of Chazal, was half way between Israel and Ur. Terach made it half way. But then he had to stop. Afterall, we must live in reality. Aliyah is not realistic. We must support ourselves, our family, etc. We must "live" as Terach understood, and so they stopped in Haran, "and they lived there".

God forbid this should ever happen to any of us!

Realize the greatness of the Terach's of the world, and realize the tragedy of their inability to see the mission to the end! Terach was a great human being and made an enormous achievement. He recognized God (as to so many of the Jews in galut today claim to do). And Terach heard the voice of God commanding him to leave, and go to Israel. And Terach listened. He experienced revelation and truth, both through his own thought process (as was seen with Avram in his conversation with Nimrod in the midrash) and also through the revelation of God saying 'lech lecha.'

But it is not easy to hold onto our moment's of clarity. It is exceedingly difficult. To turn dreams into reality, requires great strength. The Psalmist calls us K'Cholmim - As Dreamers. For the dream should never be seen as a fantasy. The dream can be fulfilled.

Avram did make it. Avram did continue. Avram realized the dream of aliyah, and fulfilled this most difficult test of God. Perhaps "Lech lecha" was not all uttered at once. For such would make sense. If Avram and Terach were traveling together from Ur to Canaan, then it was only when Terach gave up at Haran that God added "u'm'beit avicha" ("and from your father's house"). For it was together that Avram and Terach traveled from "m'arzicha, um'moladicha" (from his land and his birthplace). But when Terach gave in, and couldn't continue any more, when Terach "lived in Haran" then God had to say to Avram, "Do not stop! Do not forget your moment of clarity and revelation! Continue the journey! "Lech lecha m'beit avicha".

My wishes for all the members of Kumah and all who are reading this should be that we all keep our moments of clarity alive. That when we hear a "lech lecha" we chase after it, and do not stop walking until we have reached our goal.

"Lech Lecha" Those Who Are As Dreamers! Know that our God is One, that he watches over us, and that he has commanded to us (among his other wonderful and beautiful mitzvoth) to come home to Eretz Yisrael. To make aliyah. Let us not "live there in Haran". Kumah! Arise, it's time to come home.


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Friday, November 02, 2007

Where Have You Come From - Where Are You Going?





This is the question that lies at the heart of aliyah. It is a question who was first asked by our sages as well as by Socrates. It is a question, that while seeming very simple to answer can prove incredibly complex.

For a Jew, the answer is even more complex. For I can not answer where I come from without also taking into account where the Jewish People comes from. While the why to that question may be complicated, in the briefest form, it is because the Jew is born into a covenantal community. The Jew is born with obligations and expectations. We are not a 'free people' in the sense that freedom is often used today. We are duty bound. To be identified as a Jew, at least in part, means to partake in the pains and triumphs of the Jewish Nation. To be Jewish is to be part of a nationality.

But that is not all. We all know much more obviously that to be Jewish is to be part of a religion. The covenantal community that is Judaism is a covenant of faith, of Sinai, of revelation, of God's truth as revealed in the Torah. So to be identified as a Jew requires our participation in torah as well.

But that is not all. The third prong to our identity is the hardest for Jews living in exile to recognize, as it requires a reworking of our own identities - a task that is never pleasant. The third aspect of Jewish identity is Eretz Yisrael.

The Land of Israel, pieces of rock, a geographical location, is part of a Jewish identity. It seems absurd, but it is true.

I will not go into the why. This is what usually attracts the most attention when someone is speaking to Jews in America and trying to prove to them why they must move. Why Israel really is so important. And everyone gives excuses ("Rashi didn't live in Israel" is always one of my favorites). People are not convinced by arguments, not when they have so much to lose, not when their hearts are telling them to stay in the rich lands of AmReika.

So I will not answer why Israel is so important. At root, my answers as to why the Torah or the Jewish Nation are so important are also weak - they fall flat on their face if you do not already agree with me. One does not partake in the torah because it was proved to him or her. One partakes in the torah because one has experienced the truth of torah, has experienced the truth of the Jewish God's existence. One has experienced reality.

To be K'Cholmim-As Dreamers, is to partake in the amazing path and mission that is Judaism. But such a path and mission is not an easy one. The reason for this is that we are entirely confused as to what constitutes a dream and what constitutes reality. We are unsure what the right path is for us to take as individual human beings. Therefore, we can not even imagine what is the correct path for us to take as Jews or any other specific group of people. We thus lack the capability to make a choice, let alone a meaningful choice about which path will lead us to take part in our greater community, in this case, to take part in the destiny of the mission of the Jewish People. This is the reason that those of us who are looked on as dreamers (by those who are so confused), and who have visions of a better future, those of us who do still believe in such things as that dirty word, 'idealism' or even worse, actually articulate such an *irrational * belief as our faith in God, or perhaps worse of all for American Jews dare to speak of our desire to make aliyah and join our people, are always met with a reply to "live in reality" and to be "realistic". It is for this reason that I am so attracted to that word K'Cholmim-AS Dreamers. For our vision and goal is not truly a dream, rather it is a goal and ideal of a better reality, a truer reality.

But not many are willing to see such a reality, or recognize its validity and existence. Such has always been the difficulty of those who speak wisdom and truth. It was the battle of Socrates, and it was the battle of the prophets. Rav Soloveitchik zt"l in the last chapter of his masterpiece "The Lonely Man of Faith" comments on our prophet Elisha, using Elisha as a model for all the prophets, that, " many a time he felt disenchanted and frustrated because his words were scornfully rejected." (Page 112) This great prophet Elisha had the same difficulty as all men of wisdom, that their words were "scornfully rejected" because most of us, are unable to tell the difference between true and false, between good and evil. We think Dream is Reality, and Reality a Dream.

Further on in "The Lonely Man of Faith" the Rav will comment on Elisha and his life, and will teach us how this relates to the great danger of living a lie and thinking it is a reality. Of confusing what is dream and reality, what is important and what is not. All of this relates to the vision required by someone living 'the good life' in America must have to even seriously consider aliyah - let alone make it. The Rav says that, "Yet unexpectedly, the call came through to this unimaginative, self-centered farmer. Suddenly the mantle of Elijah was cast upon him. While he was engaged in the most ordinary, everyday activity, in tilling the soil, he encountered God (the Truth) and felt the transforming touch of God's hand. The strangest metamorphosis occurred. Within seconds, the old Elisha disappeared and a new Elisha emerged." (Page 110)

It was not with arguments that Elisha was convinced of the falsehood in his life, but rather a life changing experience. It was the touch of God Himself that changed Elisha from the old to the new. From an Elisha of "an unimaginative, self-centered farmer" - a life of meaninglessness and falsehood to the Elisha of truth and prophecy. To an Elisha who would spend the rest of his days walking around Israel preaching God's truth, and this vision of idealism and Yahadut. And of course this is the greatest difficulty that we as K'Cholmim face, the battle for the truth and the ability to create moments of experience that will wake people up to that truth.

So the question is what experiences have you had? Elisha experiences God, and this changed his life. It wasn't with arguments that Elisha was convinced of what is true and what is not, it was with a simple but profound experience. Many of us are chozer b'tshuva, and we all have our own story about what mundane experience proved so profound as to reframe our entire existence and change the course of our life.

So too with Israel. Israel is to be experienced, not analyzed. Have you experienced Israel? Were you perhaps disappointed? When you were searching for God, were you ever disappointed there? I was. Sunday school is not a 'positive' experience of God and Torah for most Jews. But does that mean it doesn't exist, or that your teachers were inadequate? To experience the real Israel is not easy - especially when the places in Israel most laden with kedusha and history are considered 'too dangerous' to allow Jews to visit, or because low and behold, most of our holy places are on the wrong side of this magical green line and therefore we should not visit. Have you ever seen the mishkan in Shilo? Have you visited the hills of the Shomron? Have you looked over Shchem and imagined the fields in which Joseph and his brothers played, and ultimately, tragically, fought? Have you walked on the Temple Mount and infused yourself with the spirit of God - as you stand in awe of His presence? Have you sat in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City, watching hundreds of religious children who at age 8 know more torah than you run around as they fulfill the words of our prophets that children will play again in the streets of Jerusalem? Have you seen the devastation caused to our people at a bus bombing because Jews don't care enough about Jewish blood to do what we must to protect ourselves? Have you seen a desert that after a year was greener because of your presence? Have you?

Israel is to be experienced. Home is a symbol - a symbol is something which has meaning underneath the apparent object. The rocks of Israel are a symbol - a symbol of our home. Chazal say that the redemption will only come when we yearn for the rocks and dust of Eretz Yisrael. Which means, when the Jewish souls remember where home is, when we return home. I can not convince you with arguments WHY Israel is your home. SHE IS! Kacha! And if you have the nerve then you will come and find out why that is true.

So for all those who don't know what the experience of Israel is - come and find it! KUMAH! ARISE! Return home.

But there is one last problem. What of those who HAVE had this experience and yet chose to live in galut? To them, I say, remember with all your might the intensity of that experience. The problem with dream and reality is we confuse them so quickly. My best friend in college and roommate woke me up one morning at 5:30 shaking me hard, "David David". "WHAT?" I asked him. We had been working together non stop to lobby for Israel and had just run two incredibly Aliyah Shabbatonim where we engaged over a 100 Chicago Jews to discuss aliyah - over 50 now live in Israel. So he woke me up and said, "David, I just had the most incredible dream." "Tell me about it" I said. "Well, I was in Israel David, and it was just amazing, I was there" and he started to cry. This friend is not one for tears and I was shocked, but I realized what had happened. He had experienced Israel - without even being there! Because of his commitment to her - she reached out to him. And he cried. And he said, "I have to go David, I have to, how can I go?" So we sat for an hour and a half discussing options and ways he could leave the prestigious education he was receiving at the University of Chicago without enraging his parents and make aliyah this summer. He was so excited. He called his parents. He went to the aliyah agency. And he never came. (I would like to happily add, that since this was written he has made aliyah, married and Israeli, and they are expecting their first native born daughter in the coming months, b?sha?ah tovah!)

But what happened that initially held him back. Why did he not come? He experienced it. There is no question about it. He experienced Israel - but in America he stayed. Why? Because dreams only last for a short while. The experience can shock us into reality, his dream made him wake up to reality - no pun intended. But it doesn't last. You must grab hold of it and act on it right away, or else it dissipates. My friend, for whatever reason, despite all his energies wasn't able to hold on to that dream - a dream with more meaning and reality behind it than many other people's lives. A tragedy. But God willing there will be other moment's of clarity for him (addendum: and there were!), and he will find his way home to Israel again.

I say to you who DO know the experience of Israel - DO NOT LET IT PASS! DO NOT LET IT SIT IN THE BACK OF YOUR MIND AND HEART. "One question I asked from God, to sit in the House of God all the days of my life?" The human mind is stubborn and complex, we prefer the easy 'reality' even if it is a lie. Don't live the sheker, remember your moments of clarity, remember what it felt like to walk down a street where there are more people wearing kippot than not, where there is a Jewish Army to defend us, where the air itself has a different taste - a Jewish taste.

Experience Israel, Remember Israel, Come Home to Israel. Your People await you.
Your people need you. Kumah.

Shabbat Shalom

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Romantic








Sunday, October 28, 2007

Aliyah Revolution - Alive and Well in Chicago IL



The Aliyah Revolution is full steam ahead at the University of Chicago where over 25 students have already registered for an aliyah shabbaton on November 16th and 17th. Will post details after the event - if you have any ideas please leave a comment!

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Monday, October 22, 2007

David Lynch Believes in God


by Aaron Fox

I know because I just asked him.

Many of you have done a better job than I have on keeping your eyes and ears away from bad stuff and therefore have never heard of David Lynch. He's a film maker of dark, absurd, violent and highly creative movies. There, I just saved you about 20 hours of ultimately nonredeemable hours.

Riding on the ray of light of Madonna, Mr. Lynch too has blessed us with his presence. Instead of McKabbalah, he's promoting transcendental meditation as the cure for world strife. I still think Jews keeping the mitzvot will do the trick.

So how did he tell me that he believed in God? No, he did not step out of the shadows of the corner of my living room with a sashaying midget in a red suit with Lynch giving me the message backwards into a flashlight. He was holding a "lecture" series in Israel's three biggest cities and since I live in Haifa (yes we're still #3) it gave me a chance to check him out. Since he doesn't lecture, he has an interesting Q&A format where he just takes questions from the audience for two hours. There wasn't even an opening statement just an opening question. I suggest Rabbis of Israel look into this format because I for one have been lectured to death.

He is a former hero of mine, an idol I have since smashed. I wondered, did my interest in him have any sort of commonality to what I'm into today: God, Torah and Eretz Israel?

I formed the simple question that would get to the wild at heart of the matter.

On my turn at the microphone I asked, in the presence of an auditorium filled with the classic young secular Israelis, "Do you believe in God?"

"Yes, absolutely," Mr. Lynch doesn't hesitate.

Someone in the crowd shouted, "Which one?"

Lynch didn't flinch, "The all-powerful, merciful one."

A buzz breaks out in the auditorium. I was afraid that this was the end to his answer. So I asked, "Why?"

He said, "You and I should have a long talk." That would be welcomed (with anyone for that matter). He explained himself using the unified theory of quantum mechanics which I admit did lead into his transcendental meditation pitch, much to the chagrin to our protectionist Jews out there.

But that's not the point. The point is that I made aliyah. This enabled me to send a message to my unbelieving brethren. The next time one of them is confronted with the question of God he will remember to himself that even the darkest, most violent, most way-out-there director in the history of Hollywood basis his search for happiness and enlightenment on a firm belief of an all-powerful, merciful God. Maybe God is not such a nerd after all. How's that for Jewish outreach?

If I never made aliyah, nothing would have interrupted the onslaught of technical questions from the secular Jews about lighting, sound, digital versus film, movie theater versus internet, blah, blah, blah...

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Yemenite Aliyah? Nice.



Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, left, greets immigrants prior to a conference in the southern Israeli city of Ashdod, Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2007.(AP Photo/Jack Guez, pool)

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Sunday, October 14, 2007

Consumer Zionism - Buy Buy Buy!


You can talk Zionism and Aliyah, or simply shop! Ariel is the capital of Samaria, 35 minutes from Tel Aviv, great air, a cool college, and only $169,000 for a 6 bedroom apartment with a view. LISTEN TO THIS INTERVIEW FOR DETAILS, or email ArielAliyah@gmail.com

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Revenge of the Oleh



Revenge of the Oleh.

Share your stories of oleh justice in the comments section.

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Sunday, September 23, 2007

Aliyah Is Something Only Russians Do, Right?


Jewsweek reports about The Jewish Reconnection Project which joins five young Jews in New York with four young Jews in Jerusalem. (Why not five on five? I guess Israel always does more with less!) In the series a host of issues are discussed. Naturally the one of most interest to Kumah is Israel vs. Diaspora. Some thoughts of mine follow below the clip.


When asked what "Aliyah" is, one young American Jew (or Jewish American depending on who you ask) responded matter-of-fact-ly, "Aliyah is like coming from Eastern Europe." She caught herself and very quickly added "or coming from wherever, and immigrating to the land of Israel."

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Here's something odd:

Secular Israeli guy remarks how if he grew up outside Israel he might have a stronger Jewish identity because here he takes it for granted because "everybody is Jewish." Now aside for the fact that the rate of Jewish intermarriage in America has proven that statement to be utterly ridiculous and of flawed logic, I was struck by something else I saw. On the words "[in Israel] everybody is Jewish" the film editor cuts to, if I'm not mistaken, scenes from Maron on Lag B'Omer. We see hundreds of Chassidim dancing. This is curious. When this Chiloni said he was surrounded by Jews in Israel I don't think he was thinking of Maron. He was more likely thinking of night clubs in Tel Aviv. And yet when the American producer of the video heard the words "everyone is Jewish in Israel" he thought of Chassidim dancing at the Kever of Reb Shimon Bar Yachi. Most curious indeed! Pray tell, why?

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Israel is a bad place for a Jew to live another American concludes because it's "too easy" to be Jewish and you don't have to "think about it." And here we are at Kumah using the very same logic to promote Aliyah! (Truth be told you ALWAYS have to "think about it" no matter where you are. It might just be a bit easier to find kosher pizza and falafel here. That's a bad thing?)

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Best line. "Well I find that kind of sad!" remarked by a young secular Israeli lady responding to a religious American Jew when he explains he doesn't wear his Kippa in college because he wants to hide his Jewish identity. Sad indeed.

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Other words of wisdom from the same chiloni, responding to the Americans who said how important the "Homeland" is (it's nice to visit, but they wouldn't want to live there):

"If you feel that Israel is a place for the Jews, and it should be there, then you should step up and do something about it." We, here at Kumah, agree.

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She also (the very same chiloni) got the last word in:

"I don't love this county because it's the prettiest country or it's the nicest country, you know, I love it because it's mine, and it's the only - the only home I've got."

Excellent! But, just for the record... it IS the prettiest! :)

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Thursday, September 20, 2007

How To Pray for Aliyah




By Adam Kenigsberg

As many of you know, one of the central components to Jewish practice is prayer. Three times a day, we engage in a conversation with our Creator. The central portion of this conversation is known as the Shemoneh Esrei (which means 18, although there are 19 parts to it - long story, not for now). This prayer is also known as the amidah (which means standing) because it is said while standing.

Of the 19 sections, the first three are praises of G-d, the last three are "thank yous" to G-d, and the middle 13 are requests.

What you may not know is that one is allowed, and even encouraged, to add personal prayers within the paragraphs of the Shemoneh Esrei. It is preferable to do this sometime before the last line of each paragraph (which always starts with "Baruch...") and should be related to the general topic of that request - as you will see below.

What I noticed from my own prayers is that EVERY ONE of the requests has something to do with a Jew living in Israel!

Below is a list of the 13 requests in the Shemoneh Esrei. Each paragraph is noted by the first few words of that paragraph, transliterated and in quotations. Then, I put in my own personal Aliyah-related prayer that relates to that specific paragraph. You can find a copy of the standard Shemoneh Esrei in any traditional Jewish prayer book (I believe the most popular publisher today is Artscroll - particularly if you want an English translation of the prayers)

Anyway, here it is:

"Atah Chonein" - Please give me understanding to realize how important it is for my soul to dwell in your holy land.

"Hashiveinu Avinu" - Just as you "return" me from transgressor to righteous again, please return me to the land that you promised my righteous ancestors.

"Selach Lanu" - Please erase any of my sins that may be stopping you from granting me the privilege of doing Your Will in Your Holy Land.

"Re'eh B'anyeinu" - Please make me part of the beginning of the redemption by placing me in the land of redemption.

"Refaeinu Hashem" - Please heal me from my own doubts and worries about moving and give me full spiritual health in the land that you created for the Jewish soul.

"Barech Aleinu" - Please give me the money I need to (get out of debt here, and) move to Israel - and please provide me with a livelihood in Your Holy Land.

"Tikah B'Shofar" - You promise through prophecy to eventually gather in all Jews from the four corners of the Earth and bring them to Israel. I volunteer to go now!!! Please gather me first!

"Hashivah Shofteinu" - Please remove me from the laws of a foriegn nation (U.S., Canada, UK, wherever you are) and bring me to the land where only You, G-d, are in control.
{Jewish teachings say that G-d appointed an angel for each nation on Earth, to control day-to-day life - except for the nation of Israel, where G-d controls every detail directly}

"V'Lamalshinim" - The Talmud compares one who lives in the Diaspora to an idol worshiper!!! Please remove my wicked status of idol worshiper and bring me to the only land that You created for the Jewish people to serve You!

"Al Hatzadikim" - In the merit of the truly righteous, both those that are with us today and those that have passed into the world of Truth - please consider my pleas to live in the Land of Israel.

"V'Lyerushalayim" - The return of the Jewish people to Israel is the first step to rebuilding Jerusalem and the Holy Temple - please enable me to be a part of this rebuilding.

"Et Tzemach David" - The Kingdom of (a descendant of) King David can only be established when the People of Israel dwell in the Land of Israel. Please bring me to Israel as one more step towards this Kingship.

"Shema Koleinu" {This is traditionally where the person praying will insert any additional requests. Pray for Aliyah, as well as any other personal needs, in the middle of this prayer}

I hope that this will improve your focus and intention in your prayers. Obviously, feel free to re-word any or all of these personal requests as you like. Also, feel free to copy and distribute this to anyone.

May we all merit to live in the Holy Land of Israel very soon!!!

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Sunday, September 16, 2007

JOBOPP: Jerusalem of Chocolate



From the Efrat list:

"worker required for centrally located jerusalem chocolatier - cafe.

twentyish, diligent, to operate coffee machine, make sandwiches, serve, wash
dishes. afternoons (4-10 p.m.) and fridays.

call etty 054-8081001"


Mmmmm. Chocolate in Jerusalem.

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Sunday, September 09, 2007

Fun with Shmittah!




Are you ready for some Shmittah?

Well first let's get one thing straight once and for all. The word "problem" should never EVER be used when referring to one of Hashem's commandments and certainly not by anyone living in Eretz Yisrael regarding Shmittah. Shmittah is not a problem! It's a mitzvah! And what's more? It's a mitzvah only us Jews zoche (worthy) to be living in Eretz Yisrael this year can keep! Yes, by the use of exclamation points in this post you could tell I'm a bit "pumped" and excited about what begins in just a few short days! I just got back from an awesome shuir on Shmittah that cleared up a whole bunch of questions I had.

Do you realize you get a mitzvah for every bite you take out of something that has Kedushas Shvius? And you get a mitzvah when you treat that Holy produce the right way as well. You know what else? All those Jews sitting in Brooklyn, New York... no better... all those Jews sitting in Lakewood, New Jersey know less about Shmittah than your average four year old playing on the monkey bars in Ramat Beit Shemesh! Here is a whole important section of the Torah that these Jews just "don't care about" because it "doesn't apply." I don't know about you... but if Hashem gave us a few more mitzvos to do, and all we have to do to keep these mitzvos is change our zip code... ehh, nevermind. Just a thought...

Now for the important points. The halachos of Shmittah are detailed and numerous with many different opinions and many different approaches. I was thinking of somehow trying to summarize them right here and now but I tell you, the best summary I have ever seen online was written by Rav Asher Balanson of Yeshivat Ohr Yerushalim. It is an absolute must read if you are just waking up now and realizing that Shmittah is just a few days away. Aside from that it is recommended that you go into any bookstore and ask about books on Shmittah. Many bookstores have them all laid out on tables in front. And finally ask questions to your LOR. If you don't have a Rav to ask all your halachic questions now is a VERY good time to get one. And in Eretz Yisrael B"H rabbis are not hard to find.

Okay... now for the fun part. Various organization put out "Shmittah calendars." These calendars contain three important dates.

1. When a certain produce can be considered to have Kedushas Shvius.
2. When a certain vegetable or grain can be considered Sefichim.
3. The date that Biur must be done on the produce.

These dates vary for all different grains, fruits and vegetables. To understand what these dates mean read the Rav Balanson summary.

In any case I have obtained the Council of Young Israel Rabbis in Israel's "Shmittah 5768: A Practical Guide" (which you can order for yourself here.) It was compiled by Rabbi David Marcus who I had the pleasure of meeting tonight. And I do recommend you get the guide!

So here's the plan. Here at Kumah, Bez"H before every Rosh Chodesh we will post the important dates that will become relevant for various produce that month. It should be exciting and we'll get to learn a lot more about how, when and where things grow. For example much to my chagrin I now know that both cashews and pistachios (that I would bring to NY to brag about how great the produce here are) are actually imported! (The good news about that is that this mean I can still bring them outside EY to NY.)

Anyway stayed tuned to this blog as a whole lot of produce can already be considered to have Kedushas Shvius come sundown on Wednesday night!

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Tuesday, September 04, 2007

One Flight Closer to Redemption



Another plane full of Nefesh B'Nefesh Olim landed this morning, the last charter flight of the 7 this summer. Former Chief Rabbi of Israel and current Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau was there to greet the olim, along with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, and many others. You can read more about it here. Here are links to my 6 photo albums:
Album 1
Album 2
Album 3
Album 4
Album 5
Album 6



A Torah Scroll also made aliyah:

Chief Rabbi Lau:

Prime Minister Olmert:

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