Today we have the distinctive pleasure of interviewing INN's always fun and controversial, all-star blogger, Tzvi Fishman.
Q: Can you please tell us why you are so gung-ho on living in Israel? You write about it all the time.
A: I don’t understand the question. I am a Jew, and Israel is the Jewish homeland. G-d gave Africa to the Africans, and China to the Chinese, and Israel to the Jews. Can anything be more straightforward than that?
Q: There are many Jews in the world, and they don’t all live in Israel.
A: I can only speak for myself. I don’t want to live in someone else’s country. I don’t want to live with gentiles. I want to live with Jews.
Q: There are those who say you harp on the subject too much.
A: G-d harps on the subject. He told Abraham to go to Israel. He told Moshe to bring the Jews to Israel. Over and over again in the Torah, God commands the Jews to keep the Torah in the Land of Israel. The whole pageant of Biblical history unfolded in Israel. For 2000 years, we have been praying and dreaming to return here. For the last hundred years, God has orchestrating world wars and world history to bring his exiled children home. The truth is that I don’t harp on the subject enough.
Q: How did you become so in love with Israel?
A: When I realized that there was a G-d, and that He is the King of the world, and that we are on earth to do His will, and that He wants us to keep the Torah, then, because I wanted to get as close to G-d as I could, and do everything I could to please Him, the way a dutiful son wants to please his father, of course I came to Israel. This is where G-d wants us to live, as He says again and again in the Torah.
Q: There are those who say that they will come to Israel when Mashiach comes.
A: Why wait? Why get to the movie theater in the middle of the film if you can be there at the beginning? Putting on tefillin isn’t connected to the Mashiach’s coming and neither is living in Israel. Millions of Jews are already here. The doors are open.
Q: A Jew can keep the commandments anywhere. Why should he come to Israel?
A: First of all, you can keep many more commandments in Israel. Also, as the “Kuzari makes clear, the commandments can only be complete in the place that was especially designed for their performance. In the Holy Land. Everywhere else, as our Sages explain, we do them as reminders, so we will remember how to perform them when we return to Israel. Furthermore, outside of Israel the Torah is truncated into a private individual Judaism without any national element. It becomes a practice of rituals like with other religions. The true intention of the Torah is different. The Torah is the national constitution of the holy JEWISH NATION. We are not meant to be a minority in someone else’s land, immersed in foreign cultures. We are meant to have our own country and national format. That’s how we become a light to the nations.
Q: That sounds very grandiose. How does that come to expression in your day-to-day life?
A: Every morning when I wake up, I am overjoyed to be in Jerusalem. I am filled with gratitude to G-d for having brought me here to His Holy Land and Holy City. Whenever I want to pray at the Kotel, it’s only ten minutes away. When I visit Beit-El, I get shivers knowing that I am actually in the place where my forefather, Yaacov, dreamt of the ladder to Heaven. When I visit Hevron, and the Tomb of the Patriarchs, I am overwhelmed with an exalted feeling of closeness to G-d. When I watch my children growing up speaking Hebrew and identifying 100% with their heritage as the Children of Israel, I am incredibly thankful that they don’t have to suffer the schizophrenic, dual identity that I grew up with as an American Jew. When I buy something at the supermarket, I know I am bolstering the economy of the Jewish people in Israel. When I did army service, and when my sons serve in Tzahal, I feel proud to do my share in defending the Jewish Nation. When I put money aside for the marriages of my kids, I know I am building the Jewish Nation in Israel and fulfilling the promises of our Prophets of old. My Judaism isn’t just the performance of individual mitzvot, like it would have been if I had stayed in America – rather, it is an all-encompassing national Jewish experience 24 hours a day and the realization of the ingathering of the exiles in our time.
Q: You paint a rosy picture, but what about all of the real problems in Israel, like constant security threats, social inequality, religious tension, media bias, governmental and judicial corruption, destroying settlements and surrendering land, to name just a few.
A: What about them?
Q: Where do they fit in with your great love for the Land?
A: One thing has nothing to do with the other. Every place has problems. That’s life. In addition, the greater the undertaking, the greater the problems which arise. In rebuilding Israel, we are involved in a world historic undertaking of colossal proportions. The joy of living in the Land of Israel isn’t lessened by the problems and challenges we face. Not at all. Remember, G-d told Abraham to come to Israel when idol worshippers filled the Land. G-d told Moshe to bring the Jews to Israel when the seven hostile nations and giants ruled over the Land. All of our great forefathers had lifetimes filled with problems and trials. Problems, even temporary setbacks and tragedies like Oslo and Gush Katif, don’t annul the commandment to live here. Just like G-d tested our forefathers, He tests us with all kinds of trials to see if we really set Jerusalem above out chiefest joy. The Gemara teaches that the Land of Israel is acquired by sufferings. The problems and challenges are all a part of G-d’s plan. They come to make us stronger.
Q: Still, when you open a newspaper or a webpage, Israel is beset with problems.
A: It all depends where you put your focus. Rabbi Kook explained that the problems are like a smokescreen, hiding the great light that is getting stronger every day. Israel has never been stronger economically, technologically, and militarily. The baal tshuva movement is gaining new adherents every day, and there has never been such a boom of Torah learning. The religious community is growing at a high-speed rate, and soon the religious will be the clear majority in the country. The Almighty could have created the universe in one day, but He created it in seven days instead to teach us patience. Only a juvenile thinks that things should be complete all at once from the start. Also with the Redemption of Israel, the Gemara tells us that it unfolds little by little, stage after stage, like the dawning of day.
Q: Many people have genuine difficulties which prevent them from making aliyah. What do you say about that?
A: Aliyah isn’t always a possibility for everyone. But certainly, all Jews should do whatever they can to encourage aliyah, especially amongst the young. The focus of Jewish education and philanthropy in the Diaspora should be on building Israel and not on strengthening Jewish life in the exile. It should be obvious to everyone that the future of the Jewish People is here.