“Lech Lecha… to the land I will show you,” God says to Abraham at the beginning of this week’s Parsha, aptly named the same. The meaning, literally “go for yourself” is an interesting yet powerful one.
Here, Hashem is telling the patriarch of the Jewish people to go to the land of Israel and settle it. What stands out is how God says it: it is not “go for me,” or just “go,” God says “go for yourself.” Because only in this land can Abraham fulfill his mission as the patriarch for our people.
For thousands of years, Jews have heeded this call, leaving their birthplaces to go to the land of Israel and settle it. In generations past, this was typically a permanent goodbye, as the voyage to the holy land was often long and treacherous.
Moreover, those who made Aliyah in the past did so recognizing that there was not much structure awaiting them. How different today is from then.
A dream of generations
For the first time in 2,000 years, the Jewish people have sovereignty over much of their historical homeland. Not just that, the state of Israel possesses one of the strongest militaries in the world, a thriving economy, and a colorful culture that inspires millions across the world. The fulfillment of God’s words to Abraham is more relevant than ever.
What is interesting about the Aliyah waves post the establishment of the state is that they have been all forced. This is despite the fact that until recently, Jewish communities in the diaspora had remained mostly traditional in their religious practice and in their view of Israel as the central pillar of our collective tradition.
For this reason, it seems puzzling that today even the most observant of Jews in places such as Borough Park, Monsey, and the Five Towns forgo the possibility of moving to Israel.
The state of diasporic Jewry
I recall learning about history in elementary school; confused by why we were learning about events from the 15th century, I asked the teacher why. His response changed the way I view history and its implications today, giving me examples of how both Napoleon and Hitler met defeat, he explained that if we do not learn history we are bound to repeat it.
Why am I mentioning this? Because if we look at modern Jewish history, meaning post the destruction of the Second Temple, it becomes abundantly clear that throughout our diasporic travels, we often stumble upon a country or civilization that is friendly to Jews and that allows us to prosper.
As we gain prestige and positions of power and influence in society, the people of that civilization or country begin to turn on us. This is usually following some sort of economic, social, or political upheaval.
Jews were integral in the foundation of the United States and ever more so in its growth. One need not search hard to find examples of Jews who contributed and still do to this day greatly to practically every professional field in the US. For this reason, people are perplexed as to why antisemitism is at its highest levels in history, with Jews being victims of more than 50% of all hate crimes in America.
Of course, studying history will show that this is no clueless issue at all, but rather just a repetition of a history that has plagued our people for generations. Today, the world is still coming out of the economic and political disasters that came with the COVID-19 pandemic.
This, coupled with extreme division, has resulted in the poorest sectors of society seeking to put blame on someone or something for their downturns. Naturally, as has happened forever, that blame comes upon the heads of the Jews.
This form of antisemitism touches all members of society. Even people like Ye, formally known as Kanye West, who is the richest black man in America today, have turned his hate towards the Jewish people.
Looking for a scapegoat for negative things that have occurred to him, he sees Jews all around him; his doctor, lawyer, agent, and business partners. Everyone that could potentially hurt him happens to be a Jew, as a result, he has taken part in the age-old coupling of all Jews together in order to make a point.
As mentioned, history tends to repeat itself. Fortunately, today is not like the past when horrid acts such as burning at the stake or mass genocide are possible.
However, that does not rule out an angry populace turning on Jews and hurting them financially, vandalizing Jewish businesses and houses of worship, or in extreme cases like the tragic attack on the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, murdering us in cold blood. As a result, many Jews are now openly asking, “where do we go?”
Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank recently wrote in a piece titled, “American Jews start to think the unthinkable” that it is becoming openly more dangerous to be a Jew in America. Simple acts such as wearing a Magen David necklace or kippah can result in a violent attack.
He asks himself, “where will Jews go?” Moreover, he asked ADL head, Jonathan Greenblatt, the same question. Both of them have no idea.
Fortunately, there is a solution today, and it is one that can permanently end our millennia-old misfortunes of roaming the Earth in search of a permanent home. We can heed the words of God to Abraham and “lech lecha.”
Prior to the situation in America or elsewhere spiraling too dangerously out of control, we can go, for ourselves, to our ancestral Homeland, the only country in the world where Jews are in the majority and safe from internal and external threats, Israel. The Land of Israel and the modern state of Israel are alive and well, and ready to welcome home Jews from all corners of the Earth.
The writer, a Jerusalem Post staff member, is an entrepreneur and Hebrew thinker, known as Osher in Hebrew. A recent Oleh, he also helps oversee the start-up ecosystem in Jerusalem with Made in JLM. On Twitter: @troyfritzhand.