Where do We Belong?

This is a call for us to come home to the land of Israel, the land that needs us. If you also read Looking on the Bright Side (the following oped article) next, you'll have a host of current reasons to consider "aliya" [emigration to Israel].

Myles Kantor,

Arutz 7

Where do we belong?  This is a fundamental and persistent question in Jewish identity.

Soon after emigrating to Israel and moving to Be’er Sheva, I was walking home and came upon Yehuda HaLevi Street.  I was happy to find this tribute to the 12th century Spanish sage, poet, and physician.  Of the few books I had brought with me, Rabbi HaLevi's The Kuzari was one of them.

Rabbi HaLevi's classic treatise consists of an extended dialogue about Judaism between the king of the Khazars and a rabbi.  One of the most famous exchanges concerns the unique holiness of Eretz Yisrael [the Land of Israel-ed.].  After the rabbi enumerates the properties of this holiness, the king responds, "If [this is] so, then you are shirking the duty imposed by your Torah.  You have not made Eretz Yisrael your goal, nor your place of living and dying.  He continues:

“I see that all your knee-bending and bowing toward Eretz Yisrael is... insincere...  Your forefathers chose to live in Eretz Yisrael rather than in their birthplaces, and they even preferred a life of wandering in Eretz Yisrael over a settled life in their homelands. This was despite the fact that the Divine Presence had not yet been seen there; indeed, the land at that time was teeming with immorality and idolatry.  Nevertheless, their only desire was to dwell there.

The rabbi responded,  "You have shamed me, king of Khazaria."

The rabbi then calls life in exile a sin and refers to the unwillingness of most Jews to return
Israel now as much as ever needs Jews to return home.
to Israel from Babylon in the era of the prophets Nehemiah and Ezra after the destruction of the first Temple.  "They preferred... the Diaspora, so that they would not have to part from their homes and affairs," he states.

There is a painful relevance to Rabbi HaLevi's words.  Israel now as much as ever needs  Jews to return home.  Why?  Among other reasons, consider the cultural demography of contemporary Israel.

Approximately 20% of Israelis are Arabs, who for obvious reasons do not identify with Jewish sovereignty in Israel.  Approximately another 20% are Israelis who immigrated from Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union, many of whom are not Jewish according to Jewish law.  Many of the remaining 60% of Israelis are intensely secular.

This demography is not conducive to the preservation of Judaic values as the basis for Israeli identity, nor to the growth of those values.  Given this context, is it any surprise that the government of Israel—elected by the people of Israel—has expelled thousands of traditional Jews from their homes, destroyed their communities, and surrendered Biblical land?  Even the fundamental sacredness of the Sabbath day is publicly desecrated on a regular basis in venues such as athletic events.

Jews understandably express concern about external threats like Hamas, Hizballah, and Iran.  But if these dangers disappeared tomorrow, Israel's internal crisis would remain.

Consider what the aliya of 1,000,000 or even 100,000 traditional Jews would yield in
If external dangers disappeared tomorrow, Israel's internal crisis would remain.
Israel: a momentum toward a Torah-based society and reverence for the incomparable holiness of the land.  Yet, as Israel cries out for its faithful to infuse it with righteousness, how many observant Jews in the Diaspora are even considering emigration?  I have in mind especially those prosperous observant Jews in North America who have the means to move to Israel comfortably but still choose the Diaspora.  Should this not be a perturbing situation for thse in whose prayers Israel figures so centrally?

After his remarks about Babylonian Jews choosing subservience in the Diaspora, Rabbi HaLevi optimistically refers to King Solomon who wrote in the Song of Songs: "I sleep, but my heart is awake.  Hark!  My beloved is knocking..." King Solomon asks again in Proverbs, "When will you arise from your sleep?"

Wake up, my people, and come home to the land you pray towards, the land that needs you.