I have a confession to make. In 1985 I left Israel with the intention of spending a few years back the the U.S. before I would return to Israel and settle there for the rest of my life. 35 years later I am still living in America and having either been limited by time or budget have made only one trip back in January of 1994. And while today I celebrate with love and appreciation the 72nd birthday of the modern State of Israel, I question the authenticity of my affection.
This would mean less if it wasn’t for the fact that I am not alone when it comes to being someone who left Israel “for just a few years”. I would imagine a rather large city, maybe even comparable to Jerusalem or Tel Aviv could be formed in Israel from people such as myself that had every intention of going back soon after they left to make Aliyah. But the truth is, that with the opportunities to earn, the accessibility of so many products and so much entertainment, and for those it matters to, which is a large percentage of people who love Israel, a large Jewish community, leaving America wasn’t easy. For many Jews, in the age of COVID-19, and a New York Metro area clobbered by the virus, coupled with a rise in anti-Semitism that has a frightening likelihood of only getting worse, moving to Israel might seem a whole lot easier than it once was.
While there would be nothing pioneering about jumping ship and moving to Israel in light of a changing landscape for the Jewish population outside of Israel, would it be any less acceptable or moral? To answer that question one need only understand the initial purpose of the modern State of Israel. It was, and is, first and foremost a safe haven for the Jewish people. It says the following in Tehillim, Psalms,. Chapter 147, Verse 2:
בֹּנֵ֣ה יְרֽוּשָׁלִַ֣ם יְהֹוָ֑ה נִדְחֵ֖י יִשְׂרָאֵ֣ל יְכַנֵּֽס, The Lord is the builder of Jerusalem; He will gather the outcasts of Israel.
Israel was formed in the wake of the worst catastrophe the Jewish people ever faced. In 1948, when the Jewish state was formed, the word was a mere 3 years removed from the end of a war that saw 6 million Jews murdered by Hitler’s Nazi party. In the coming years Jews would continue to find themselves living in countries in which situations changed either significantly for those countries, for the status of Jews, or both. Israel continued to be a safe haven then as it was after the Holocaust. It remains one today.
So as we celebrate Israel’s 72nd birthday, many that once left intending to return, as well as those who never went, may have more to be grateful for than ever before. Maybe once they get out of the house and reassess our lives as they are today, they may find that L’Shana haba’ah b’Yerushalayim, Next year in Jerusalem, may become more than just a catch phrase, it may actually become a reality.
Happy Birthday Israel!
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