How troubled times will impact American Jews making Aliyah

In responding to the challenges the coronavirus has thrown at the world, Israel, like many countries, has made serious errors.

COVID-19 VACCINATIONS being administered at a Maccabi Health vaccination center in Givatayim last week.  (photo credit: MIRIAM ALSTER/FLASH90)
COVID-19 VACCINATIONS being administered at a Maccabi Health vaccination center in Givatayim last week.
(photo credit: MIRIAM ALSTER/FLASH90)
Troubled times in the Diaspora are a trigger for increased aliyah. So when racial unrest came to a head in the US in the last year, talk of aliyah among American Jews hit a high point. Then the riots cooled off (though not the underlying tensions), and so did the mad dash to get out of Dodge.
In 2020, Americans made up only 10% of new immigrants, and there were 14,000 fewer olim (new immigrants) overall than in 2019. The violence in the US Capitol has some Jews questioning their future in the US, but there is no reason to believe that this unease will not again give way to complacency. It’s not that Jews who let their Nefesh B’Nefesh files lapse don’t love Israel, but they don’t love it enough to buy a one-way ticket.
Having made aliyah with my family five and a half years ago, driven not by a calamitous wakeup call but by ingrained idealism, recently I’ve been experiencing a different seesaw phenomenon: a love-hate relationship with the State of Israel which exists alongside a deeply held commitment to the Holy Land.
In responding to the challenges the coronavirus has thrown at the world, Israel, like many countries, has made serious errors. These repeated mistakes have, I believe, caused far greater harm to the country and its citizens than the virus itself. I have never felt as angry, disappointed and just plain down on the state as I have these last several months.
Yet I can’t help but marvel at how, in a few short weeks, Israel has managed to lead the world in vaccinations against this virus. You know we’re doing something right when the antisemites are whipped into a jealous frenzy against us. Israel’s acquisition and swift distribution of the vaccine – America’s example shows that having the doses is not enough – should be a source of pride to all of us.
This does not, however, absolve the government for its ongoing assault on our civil liberties and entrenched reliance on flawed models to squeeze the life out of the economy, the school system and just about every sector of society.
Throughout this roller coaster ride (for the record, I hate roller coasters) not for a moment have I regretted our aliyah or questioned our commitment to living here.
And not just because the US, and our home state of New York in particular, are presently in shambles. We are here because this is the Jewish homeland, the place where we can simultaneously fulfill God’s word and our own destiny as part of the Jewish people. Neither the decisions of the current prime minister, the number of times this country goes to an election nor anything else can change that.
Like a romance built on beauty or riches, an aliyah based on Israel’s strengths – of which there are many – will not stand the test of time. Hopefully the coronavirus is on its way out, but there will always be challenges. Israel (the state) will sometimes fail and disappoint. Israel (the Land) – never.

The writer, who holds a J.D. from Fordham Law School, is a contributing editor to The Jewish Press and a freelance writer and editor.