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      Hollywood to the Holy Land
      by Tzvi Fishman
      Tzvi Fishman was awarded the Israel Ministry of Education Prize for Jewish Creativity and Culture

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      Before making Aliyah to Israel, Tzvi Fishman was a Hollywood screenwriter. He has co-authored 4 books with Rabbi David Samson, based on the teachings of Rabbi Kook, Eretz Yisrael, Art of T'shuva, War and Peace, and Torat Eretz Yisrael.


      Iyar 2, 5768, 5/7/2008

      Thoughts During the Siren by Daniel Pinner

      …And as the siren echoes through the calm air of the Samarian hills, the faces swim before my eyes. The faces of friends who did not return to base with me, the friends who will never return home. The landscape blurs in my eyes; once again I see Baruch, who was born in the Soviet Union. We were in the same platoon; I lived in Jerusalem, he lived in Beit Shemesh, and more times than I can recall, we hitchhiked home together from the Negev Desert, from the Golan, from Lebanon. Baruch (he hated being called Boris, the name that was still on his te’udat zehut, a throw-back to his unhappy past) and I often played chess together – in fact, when we had an informal platoon chess championship, he and I were the joint winners. We were level, having won two games each; the fifth one was to be the tie-breaker. Baruch will never play that fifth game, and we will be forever joint chess champions of A Platoon.

      And I recall Rachamim, who I spent hours trying to teach English to. He had begun to realise how important an education was, and wanted to go back to school after the Army, to matriculate, and go on to university. He needed English, and those long patrols together were ideal for learning. We would talk in English, and then I would give him simple written assignments – sentences in Hebrew for him to translate into English; when I would find the time I would mark them. His English improved amazingly, until the day he went on patrol; the previous day I had been on the jeep, this time was his turn. He jumped on to the jeep, turned his sunburnt, rugged face to me, and called out, in his atrocious accent, “You find my paperrr on my bed. I sink I do betterrr zis time. Tell me when I getting beck”.

      Those were the last words he ever said to me: he came back from that patrol in south Lebanon on a stretcher, and never recovered consciousness.

      And the faces of friends who were murdered by terrorists swim before my eyes, drifting in and out of focus. The face of my friend and mentor, Rabbi Binyamin Ze’ev Kahane Hy”d and his wife Taliya Hy”d, murdered by Arab terrorists as they were driving home on a bright Sunday morning eight years ago. Amihud Hassid Hy”d, who died preventing an Arab suicide terrorist from approaching the petrol station in Ariel. Gila Hy”d, whose voice and smile are forever seared in my heart, whose soul is bound up with my soul, who was murdered at the hitch-hiking station in Jerusalem, and now waits for Mashiach in the cemetery of Eli.

      Just a handful of soldiers out of 22,437 who have died defending our country, a few of the 1,634 civilians who have been murdered by Arab terrorists. This is the price of freedom. This is the price for being responsible for our own destiny.

      Sixty years ago, when Israel was born in the crucible of fire, my mother z”l fought in the Gadn”a – the g’dud no’ar, the youth battalion of the Haganah. She conquered Sheikh Munis, the village today called Ramat Aviv Gimmel, home of extreme leftists like Shimon Peres, the Rabin family, Shulamit Aloni, and others who call me an “occupier” because I live in Samaria.

      I think of the price of freedom, of independence. And then I think of the price of not having freedom. In the four years of the First World War, 1,500,000 Jews fought in the battlefields scattered across the world; 140,000 died. 320,000 Jews served the Austro-Hungarian Empire alone. My grandfather z”l, a pious Jew and a proud Austrian, volunteered to fight for his country, and became an officer in the Cavalry. He asked to be transferred away from the front lines when, facing the Russian trenches, he shot at an enemy soldier; in the darkness, he saw the figure convulse, and heard the dying scream, Shema Yisra’el…. Such is the price of not having our independence in our own Land.

      40,000 Jews died fighting for Austria-Hungary in the First World War, and another 12,000 for Germany. A generation later, we saw how these countries repaid their loyalty. Such is the price of not having our independence in our own Land.

      …And as the siren dies away, the hills of Samaria drift back into focus. The country is starting to move once again. We have paid the price of not having our independence in our own Land; for 2,000 years we paid that price.
      Baruch and I will never play that final chess game; Motti and I will never learn the final chapter of Tractate Megillah together. There are friends who will never come home, who will be twenty forever. They, and those who love them, have paid in full the price for our independence in our Land. They are sleeping in the dust of the Land of Israel – the Land that they paid for with their lives.

      As Yosef Trumpeldor said as he lay dying, felled by an Arab bullet in Tel Hai on the 11th of Adar 5680 (1st March 1920): “Eyn davar – tov la-mut be’ad artzeinu” (No matter – it is good to die for our country).

      How sweet the word artzeinu sounds! OUR country! The only country on God’s earth that we can call home. On this day, we all commemorate friends and loved ones whose smiles we will never see again, who will never grow old, who will never complete that tractate of the Talmud. And the comfort comes tonight, celebrating our independence in our Land. After the hardship comes the redemption, after slavery comes freedom, after mourning comes celebration – celebration of life, of freedom, of independence.

      And in spite of the worst that our enemies can do, tomorrow Jewish children will play in the streets of Jerusalem, and Hebron, and Tel Aviv. “And in this place, about which you say that it is a wasteland, desolate of man and beast – in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem, which are desolate, with no man, no inhabitant, and no beast – there will yet be heard the sound of joy and the sound of rejoicing, the voice of the groom and the voice of the bride” (Jeremiah 33:10-11).

      Iyar 1, 5768, 5/6/2008

      Happy Barbecue, Friends

      The Torah states again and again and again that G-d wants the Jews to live in Israel. So how can it be that some Jews think the very opposite, believing they are following the Torah by living in gentile lands, and that Medinat Yisrael is the worst exile ever?

      This is especially puzzling since the Talmud teaches that whoever lives in the Diaspora is like someone who has no G-d, as the Torah verse says: “I am Hashem your G-d, Who took you out of the land of Egypt, to give you the land of Canaan, to be your G-d,” meaning that in the Land of Israel, Hashem is our G-d, and not when we live outside of it (Ketubot 110B).

      We have already explained this startling statement in a previous blog, but since it is so overwhelming in its import, we will take the time to explain it again by reminding readers of what the Ramban teaches at the end of the Torah portion that we recently read, “Achre Mot.”

      In explaining the uniqueness of Eretz Yisrael, the Ramban describes how G-d assigned celestial ministers (angels) to rule over all of the countries in the world, excluding Israel, where G-d alone reigns. In the Land of Israel, a Jew’s connection to G-d is direct. Thus the Land of Israel is known as the Holy Land. In contrast, outside of the Land of Israel, a Jew can only reach G-d through the intermediary angel that rules over that land. In effect, when a Jew prays in the Diaspora, his prayer goes up to the national angel of America, or the national angel of Japan. This is what the Talmud means when it states that a Jew who lives in the Diaspora is like someone who has no G-d.
      Angel of America
      Angel of Japan

      This is the reason that praying feels flat and hollow in the Diaspora, and why the Jewish Holidays feel empty of meaning there, as the Ramban states: “For the principle meaning of the commandments are for those Jews who reside in the Land of Israel” (Ramban on the Torah, Vayikra, 18:25). The performance of the commandments in the Diaspora, he explains, is merely like practice, “so we don’t forget how to do them when we return to Eretz Yisrael” (ibid). In essence, the practice of Judaism outside the Land is like an exercise bicycle to keep us in shape until we come back to Israel. The bicycle will help to keep your body in decent condition, but it won’t take you anywhere.
      All Pooped Out

      These interfering angels not only adversely affect the Diaspora’s Jew’s performance of Judaism, they also affects his thoughts.  The foreign angels appointed over the countries in the Diaspora determine the cultures, languages, and beliefs of the people living there. These foreign ideas and values seep into the brain through a process of cultural osmosis. For the nations of the world, this is the way things are supposed to be. But when it happens to a Jew who is living in a foreign land, if he is not connected to the Land of Israel through his prayerful yearnings for Zion, through his occupation with the secrets of Torah, or through fervent activities on behalf of the settlement in Israel, then his brain can become lobotomized, as if it has been soaked in a jar of formaldehyde for years.
      "Aliyah is suicide."
      His intellectual faculties can become so confused that he comes to believe that living in a foreign land is a mitzvah, even though the Torah plainly states the very opposite time and time again.

      We don’t ignore the fact that there are many problems in Israel. After all, we live in a world of tikun. It is our job to make things better. But after 2000 years of Egyptian zevel, and Babylonian zevel, and Greek and Roman zevel, and Moslem zevel, and Christian zevel, and German zevel, and Soviet zevel, and Turkish, British, and American zevel, thank G-d that today, with the establishment of the State of Israel, the zevel we have to contend with is our own.
      Roasting Talkbacks

      This year on Israel Independence Day, I have decided to print out the talkbacks of the scorners who discourage Jews from living in Israel, and use them to light the coals of our holiday barbecue. That way, by helping to cook our hamburgers, chicken wings, and marshmallows, they will have a part in the festive celebration. Let that be their tikun for all of the negatives things they have written this year about the mitzvah of living in Israel. Let it be like a sacrificial offering of thanksgiving for them, thanking G-d for having granted us our own Jewish State in our eternal Jewish homeland, after an exile of nearly two thousand years.


      Nissan 30, 5768, 5/5/2008

      Guest Blogger - Rob, usa

      I am better suited for writing technical articles on my companies web site explaining the functions of  modern motor vehicle systems and related technologies. In fact I have spent most of my adult life in study of the chemistry, engineering, mathematics, computer science, electronics, metallurgy behind this technology. I and others consider myself an expert in this field. I am much better at re-engineering an electrical circuit for better performance and reliability than I would ever be at explaining why Aliyah is important, But I will give it a shot.
      I am not an expert in Torah, in fact,  I became interested and aroused after my grandmother, who was an orthodox Jew, passed away. I will spare you the details of my family history as I am sure others have far more interesting and amazing stories.  When I hear people who say Aliyah is suicide, and accuse the faithful Jews of Israel of doing nothing, I find it offensive and demeaning  to those who first and foremost, pioneered the modern state of Israel, and those who choose to obey the mitzvah. As I stated, I am not an expert but I do not recall Hashem telling us to wait until those who are already in the land,  "fix all the problems there" before we have to obey His command,  common sense would indicate otherwise.
      I have read long eloquent Talk back's explaining all the reasons for not making Aliyah, some of the reasons actually make sense when looked at from a secular, humanistic view. yes rockets continue to fall on towns in the Negev, security forces are to be withdrawn from  the so called settlement area's, leaving the jewish who live there without protection, but I am not  in any way discouraged or seriously alarmed by these reports, Why?, because every Jew I have met from the land of Israel has an inner peace and optimism that could only come from living in the land. I have neither of these things in my life, sure, I can make as much money equal to the amount of effort put forth, but money does not bring peace. I live in a nice place in the foothills of a western mountain range, very beautiful country, but it somehow does not even compare in my mind, to  a picture of any town in Israel where Jews are living.
       To call me a fool, or tell me it is suicide to make Aliyah, and to not drag others down with me when they do not know my motivation and dedication to my ideology, and my fellow Jews, is a very presumptuous and arrogant, and in itself  foolish. This is a personal decision, an agreement to follow Hashem and obey his laws, something that is very difficult in the Diaspora. I have to ask myself, am I responsible in part for holding up redemption?.what purpose do I personally serve living outside of the land?. These are honest questions that only I can give a satisfactory answer. These are questions every Jew living in galut should be asking themselves, listening to the voice of Hashem, and not to those who have decided Aliyah is suicide for one reason or other.
      It has been a long time hope to live in the land of Israel. all these years of spinning my wheels, looking for something that is not here, I have finally realized where completeness lies. To preempt those who would counter my opinion, I have been shot at by hostiles and returned fire in like, fought with authorities, challenged superiors , protested both in non violent and semi non violent fashion, and lived as a law abiding, taxpaying citizen as well. I am up to any challenge life in Israel has to offer.

      Rob, usa

      Nissan 29, 5768, 5/4/2008

      The Greatest Exile of All

      The very first time I visited Israel, I was overwhelmed, thank G-d, with the crystal clear recognition that if I seriously wanted to live a Jewish life and get close to G-d, Israel was the place to be. This awareness was so powerful and obvious, there was no room for speculation or doubt. The people were all Jewish, Hebrew was the language, the highway signs were in Hebrew, advertisements were in Hebrew, the radio news was in Hebrew, it was the land of the Bible, with Jerusalem, the Old City, Shilo, Hevron, the Dead Sea, Tiberias, Safed, the gravesites of our holy Forefathers, Prophets, and Sages, a Jewish government, a Jewish army, Kosher food everywhere, and more yeshivot and synagogues than anywhere else in the world combined. The list goes on and on. In addition, everything was holy. The people, the buses, the hillsides, the buildings, the air, everything was saturated with an aura of holiness with the feeling that G-d is watching every minute.
      In contrast, when I returned to New York, I crashed. There was no holiness there at all. Everything was gentile. The people, the language, the architecture, the culture, the television programs and politics were all gentile. For the first time in America, after having stepped foot in the Jewish homeland, I felt like a stranger in a strange land. Even the air was missing. There was no holiness in it at all. I felt like I couldn’t breathe. And the feeling that I had experienced in Israel, that G-d was every present, simply did not exist.
      As days passed, the feeling of emptiness and strangeness grew stronger, as if I were extra terrestrial E.T. stranded down on earth.
      Desperate to feel something Jewish, I went to a Woody Allen movie. I listened to Carlebach tapes. I walked through Little Italy and Chinatown to the Lower East Side to get a kosher meal at Shmulka Bernstein’s Deli. Finally, I decided to take a subway ride to Crown Heights in Brooklyn, figuring that for sure I’d find holiness there. But when I walked up the stairs of the underground station to the street, I found myself in a Black neighborhood like any other. Here too, there was absolutely no holiness in the air. Even as I walked into the nearby Lubavitch neighborhood, my Geiger counter picked up no crackling of holiness, as if the battery were dead. Suddenly, there were a lot of religious Jews on the street, but there was no holiness in air. Compared to the towering holiness of the Holy Land, the Chabad shtetl was like the empty back lot of a Hollywood set. Only when I saw the Rebbe, did a feeling of holiness return. A holiness exuded from him like a laser, sanctifying everything it touched. But the neighborhood itself, with all of its Hasidim and Jewish life, couldn’t compare with The Land of Israel at all.
      The point is, if a Jew really wants to get closer to G-d and to live a full Jewish life, Israel is the one and only place. Anywhere else, even in the most Ultra Orthodox ghetto in New York, it’s a make-believe world, a pantomime going through the motions, a Purim masquerade. For two thousand years, before we had the State of Israel, there was nothing we could do, so we had to make the best out of the exile, and the Jews who clung to Judaism were true heroes and champions of faith. But now that we have our own thriving Jewish country, for any Jew who can make aliyah to Israel, it is like adultery not to come. When we prefer gentile lands to the Land of Israel, when we prefer a world of make believe to the real thing, that is the greatest, most tragic exile of all.

      Nissan 29, 5768, 5/4/2008

      The Greatest Exile of All