The Case for Life in Israel: Letters to an American Jewish Friend

By HILLEL HALKIN/ MOSAIC
November 12, 2013 13:17

I don’t know if there will be an Israel a hundred years from now. I don’t know if there will be one in fifty years. It depends on many things. One of them is you.

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Israeli postage stamp commemorating the twentieth anniversary of Youth Aliyah, issued May 10, 1955

Israeli postage stamp 370. (photo credit: Courtesy Mosaic Magazine)

Hillel Halkin writes for Mosaic

It’s happened at least a half-dozen times. Somewhere—at a social gathering, after a speaking engagement, while sitting in a café—someone has come up to me and said, “You know, the reason I’m living in Israel is Letters to an American Jewish Friend.” The same is true of some portion of the reactions to the book that I received in the mail, the bulk of them in the early years after its initial publication in 1977. Of them all, the most memorable was a postcard from 1986. On one side was a photograph of Jews praying at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. On the other, next to my address, was written:

                      Hillel Halkin:

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Thank you for helping me find my way home.

AN AMERICAN ISRAELI JEWISH FRIEND

There was no signature.

Today, re-reading the book from cover to cover for the first time since writing it, I ask myself why it had such an effect on some people. I suppose its epistolary form had something to do with it. It drew readers in; many responded with letters of their own. Not all of these agreed with me. From my point of view, disagreement was almost as good. I had never thought I could convince American Jews to move to Israel by writing a book. I had thought I might help start an argument that was missing from American Jewish life.

Read the rest of the essay and debate at Mosaic


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