Three Ladies, Three Lattes: Dual loyalty?

A Jewish worshipper prays at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City (photo credit: REUTERS)
A Jewish worshipper prays at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City
(photo credit: REUTERS)
I am a 60-year-old American who made aliya 30 years ago. Most of my five children were born here, and my wife and I call ourselves Israelis. We are modern Orthodox Jews and pray three times a day for the health and safety of this country. Once in the Holy Land, every step we take is considered a mitzva. I wonder sometimes whether we are living in the Messianic age. I believe there is a moral imperative for every Jew to live in Israel – the home of the Jews – and I find myself wondering how religious Jews, especially, can put Jerusalem above all their other joys but still live in the Diaspora.
– Living the Dream
Pam Peled:
Growing up in South Africa, I re- member long discussions about dual loyalty. For example, who would we support in the (unlikely) event that the Springboks [South Africa’s rugby team] played Maccabi Tel Aviv? “Next year in Jerusalem,” we intoned faithfully each year, but every spring found us firmly around the Seder table 6,000 miles away. It seemed weird to pray three times a day to rebuild Jerusalem “soon in our days” while we built our futures in Cape Town or New York. And why pray for rain in the summer and for dew in the rainy months? I’m not sure how any self-respect ing religious Jew wriggles out of these complications, but I’m sure there’s a way. As for the “moral imperative” to live here, I believed for decades that it was more of a privilege to do so, a chance to be part of the biggest miracle of the millennium. Somewhere, I suppose, shreds of that naïve enthusiasm remain, but burgeoning religious extremism, ongoing craziness on the roads and in supermarket lines, and constant existential threats have somewhat worn down my wide-eyed enthusiasm for “Hey! The bus driver is wearing a kippa!” I don’t think religion is the key here. It’s pleasant to imagine millions of educated, wealthy, polite Western immigrants who’d change the driving culture and stand patiently in queues as they up the GDP. But where would they live? And is there a place to bury them when they die? And no more Diaspora? Would that be good? It’s way too complicated for me; God will have to work this one out.
Tzippi Shak-ed:
I’m not sure there’s a moral or hala- chic imperative for moving to Israel. Let’s call it an ideal based on personal preference – a “Jewish calling.” When my family considered making aliya, we consulted a rabbi in Israel who wrote back, “Peel yourselves off America’s walls before Hashem [God] does it for you.”
I don’t believe in coercion, especially not in the religious sphere. No one glove fits all Jews. Those in the Diaspora should ask, “Am I making a contribution to the greater society? Will I regret living in Lawrence, Sydney or Hendon as I turn geriatric, lamenting being an armchair Zionist who never reached the Promised Land? Do I want to give my children the gift of being pioneers in their ancient homeland or be a fading Jewish statistic in the Diaspora?” Is there a need for the Diaspora? If you believe in a Jewish mission to spread ethical monotheism to the world, you would approve of Jews remaining abroad. If you think Israel is just a country that receives too many headlines, then aliya isn’t for you.
Is there a mystical aspect to living here? The strange reality of our survival in the midst of a hotbed of enemies in a world spewing anti-Semitism might suggest so. However, the fact that Jews are tossed and shifted aside by international political currents doesn’t mean you should board the next plane to Ben-Gurion. Just keep in mind there’s only one place in the world that will always welcome you home, for better or for worse.
Danit Shemesh:
I was always a kid in the back seat bugging her father, “Are we almost there?” I was referring to going home to Israel. My father, sadly, never made it, but my husband and I finally returned. And yet, while I admire the conviction of our reader, I cannot sweep a Zionist brush across all Jews. It’s true we’re all one family, but until our Father explicitly calls us home, we cannot judge the children who stray in other lands. Yes, we’re living in the gateway to the Messianic era: we need to function from top down to hasten the Messiah’s imminent arrival. We don’t make the rules, we follow them. When the time is right, the Messiah will blow the beckoning horn. Until then, it’s a merit to live in Israel; but it’s a choice, not a mitzva. We still pray for Jerusalem to be rebuilt, for the Third Temple to ascend. We’re not there yet. “Sit tight, darling,” my dad could have answered. “Soon.”
Israel isn’t simply another geographical mark on the map. It’s home to both the Jews and Hashem, when we merit His company. Other countries have colors and grandiosity; Israel is imbued with sanctity and inviolability. Halacha is the path we walk to honor Hashem’s home. Yes, every step here is a mitzva. While this begets quality of life, it also has a more ambitious end: inviting Hashem to join us here, as in times of yore, until we lost merit. Our job is not to force a political reality but to live the Truth.
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