Friday, August 19, 2011

Eighteen Years in Israel: Light and Darkness and Light

In our family, today is a holiday. Eighteen years ago, we had the זכות to make Aliyah with our children (and to undo the expulsion of my great-grandparents by the Turks, exactly one hundred years ago). We made Aliyah in the days before Nefesh b'Nefesh. In fact, we were the only Olim on our flight. We were met by a nice AACI volunteer, who told us to meet with an Aliyah counselor, and that was it. We sort of winged it, בסעייתא דשמיא and advice from a lot of friends.

It has not been easy. ארץ ישראל נקנית ביסורים. Our's have been tangible, both easier and harder than those encountered by others. There have been moments of personal and national joy, as well as four wars and personal and national loss. One thing, however, has never changed. We may have had a more challenging harder life, but it is always, but always, a worthwhile life. Nowhere else have I felt more grounded, more purposeful, more at home than here in Israel. Every step you take contributes to the eternity of the Jewish People in the only place it can call home. I appreciate the yeoman's efforts undertaken by institutions and individuals around the world to preserve the Torah and rescue Jews from oblivion. The real action, though, is here. I know this not only from being personally, intensively, involved in dialogue and Modern Orthodox initiatives, teaching Torah (in the broadest sense of the term) in both academic and non-academic settings. I know it from the flow, and power, of daily life in the Land that God Himself gave to His People. I firmly believe, with every fiber of my being, that the future of Judaism and of Jewry will be secured here, and not abroad.

Being a Jew requires sacrifice. Sometimes, that sacrifice is one of time, or of money. Sometimes, God Forbid, we are asked to sacrifice our lives. That was brought home, tragically, with yesterday's attack on the road to Eilat. I'm not going to mar this post with a discussion of Islam, Al Qaeda and so on. The truth is that much of the Christian World, as well as the Dar al Islam, wishes that we would all disappear. They have been nursing that hope for thirty five hundred years, and will keep on nursing it.

I want to focus, instead, on what the Jews do (as Ben Gurion once put it). Last night, my wife and I decided to go out in honor of our Aliyah anniversary and (belatedly) to celebrate the acceptance of my book for publication. We chose to go to En Kerem, because it's beautiful, quiet and I'd never really seen it up close (mirabile dictu). It's a gem of Jerusalem. We explored galleries and dined at a novelty (a kosher restaurant in the vicinity). There were no tourists, only Israelis. We all knew what had happened. One gallery had the news on, and it was blaring from the makolet. Whoever heard, looked at one other in that deep look of silent understanding that expresses the rock bottom, steeled determination of Israelis to defend ourselves and build our country, with God's help.

We all went on living. It was dissonant, but real. That's how Jews live, and thrive. We acknowledge our pain, and our sacrifice and we go on living. As friend of my wife, a child of Holocaust survivors, used to observe: 'The best revenge is living well.' I would add, that the best revenge is living well here, in Eretz Yisrael.

And that is precisely what I'm going to say tonight as we have Shabbat dinner in our home in the Hevron Hills.

And it is precisely for that, that I will thank God tomorrow night אי"ה at the Kotel.

1 comment:

Rebecca said...

Beautiful post. Very touching and so true.I hope to come home soon! What a zchut to be able to build a life in artzenu hakdosha.