Top Ten Reasons for Not Making Aliyah

Excuses, excuses.

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Orit Arfa,

Excuses, excuses. People make excuses for anything and everything: why they're stuck in their dead-end job; why they're stuck in a bad relationship; and, of course, why they're "stuck" in America.

Excuses are not "reasons," which are carefully identified and examined causes for refraining from taking a specific action. Excuses are blank, empty statements that hide laziness, fear and some other crippling emotion. Usually, they speak of a lack of desire. Often, they smack of dishonesty.
"I don't want to live under Olmert and Peretz." Well, neither do I.

American Jews who believe in the mitzvah of settling Israel provide a stock of excuses for not consummating this Jewish calling. Here's my top ten (notice they begin with the word "but"):

    10. But I can't leave my family members.
This convenient excuse pardons your life in exile with your great sensitivity. Have you spoken with them? Maybe they'd resist at first, but eventually support your decision. Who knows? Maybe they'll even follow? Unless a serious effort has been made to confront family members, blaming them remains an easy way out.

    9. But I can't make a living.
Without seriously checking career options in Israel, this is an excuse. Israel is not without good jobs. I know many people in my hometown of Los Angeles who are struggling there as much as they'd be struggling in Israel. It's true they have a support system of family and friends, but Israel is equipped with an automatic support system: fellow olim who band together to help each other succeed. Furthermore, there are plenty of companies hungry to hire English-speakers.

Until you find or create your profession in Israel, work for less and live frugally. You may not enjoy the comfortable American lifestyle right away, but it can be achieved with hard work and determination. If there is a will, there is a way.

    8. But I don't speak Hebrew.
It's called ulpan, and it's offered free to olim. Hebrew is not difficult to learn if you do homework and practice. I recently met an oleh who made it a point to read Hebrew newspapers everyday, and he is now reading high Israeli literature.

In addition, it's easy to get by with minimal Hebrew. English is practically a second language here, and Israelis love to exercise English with olim.

    7. But I'm afraid for my life.
This past year, car accidents have been the cause for more deaths than terrorist attacks, but Americans continue to ride Israel's highways.

Life can't be lived in fear. There's that well-known story about the Israeli who moved to London to escape terrorist attacks only to get blown up in a London bus. We all take precautions, and while there is a constant risk of war, isn't that why we are here? To fight Israel's battles head-on. Chazak v'amatz.

    6. But I don't like the mentality.
It's hard to argue with this excuse, because it speaks of preference. It says: "I prefer the American mentality," i.e., the American life. Whoever makes this "excuse" really doesn't want to live in Israel, and that's legitimate - if you'd only say so.

The Israeli mentality can be abrasive at times, but I've learned to love it. People aren't fake; they tell it like it is. I don't like to be called "ma'am" all the time and constantly have to wish everyone a good day. So, in response to this excuse, I say: "Have a good day."

    5. But I don't want to live under Olmert and Peretz.
Well, neither do I, but at least I'm here to help change that.

If people lived in a country based on their approval of the current leadership, than half of Americans would be leaving the US. We get bad leaders once in a while, but we weather them and work to get better ones - or become better ones.

I agree that America's (relatively) free-market, presidential system is superior to Israel's socialist, parliamentary, Jewish concoction. But I believe that if more Jews steeped in positive American principles moved here, we'd consist of a serious mass poised to influence the political and intellectual landscape of Israel.

    4. But I can do more for Israel in the US.
And you are making plenty of sacrifices as well: your six-figure salary, three-bedroom house, Volvo, and friends from shul.

We don't need your favors, please. Unless you are a gazillionare supporting other olim, host a successful radio show, or raise money for pro-Israel organizations, we don't need your letters to the senator or your rallies at the United Nations. Change has to occur within Israel. We can't constantly beg the American administration or people to support our cause. We must influence the leadership and people on our soil.

We have a great many Christian and conservative friends who will fight our cause in the US, and that is their rightful place. Let's be their allies from the land we're fighting for.

    3. But my spouse doesn't want to go.
Is that really the case, or is it a convenient excuse? Why should your spouse be the one
Offer real reasons, even if some of them may reveal your clash of values.
to decide, while your vision of Israel remains suppressed? A word to the wise: before getting married, agree on Aliyah.

    2. But I'm a rabbi or Jewish educator bringing hundreds of Jews closer to Yiddishkeit.
What is the value of teaching Judaism if you side-step the one theme that permeates the entire Torah: settling the Land. It would be better to go on shlichut (missions) from here to the galut. Or better yet, bring your great talents to the exiled minds of the rabidly secular Tel Avivians. They need lessons in Judaism far more than the average, unaffiliated American college student. American Jewry is one big revolving door: for every Jew that enters the fold, another out-marries. Jewish continuity - and physical and spiritual survival - begins in Israel.

Orthodox Jews who stay in the US are, in some ways, "pick and choose" Jews. They wiggle their way out of Aliyah with fancy interpretations of halachot, pitting Aliyah against Torah study, making a living and other such ideals. Rabbis and educators who claim to believe in Aliyah but remain in the US are often the excuse-generators par excellence, the perpetuators of the galut.

What better way to educate Jews than to lead by example?

    1. I'm sure the above list is not exhaustive, so feel free to share your favorite or come up with your own.
In the meantime, I ask Aliyah-dodgers to please stop offering excuses, and instead offer real reasons, even if some of them may reveal your clash of values or lack of integrity. It would be much more honest and praiseworthy if you submit: I like Israel in theory, not in practice; I don't want to give up my comfortable life; it's too hard and I don't want it bad enough.

At least we'll understand that we live with two different value systems, that American Jews who remain in the galut may just be another Jewish sect. And we should respect each other, even though we disagree, just as the Chabad, dati-le'umi, Haredi, Reform and Conservative should respect each other. But let's get one thing straight: you claim America as your true Promised Land, not Israel.