Start a blog

Blogs Zion's Corner

Why People Don't Make Aliyah

By Tzvi Fishman
11/1/2010, 12:00 AM

Now that we’ve established beyond a shadow of a doubt that it is a great mitzvah to live in Israel, we have to ask why more people don’t come on aliyah?

In my humble opinion, the answer is fear. People are simply afraid. Some are of afraid of leaving their parents. Others are afraid of leaving grown children behind.  Some are afraid of Israeli army service. Others are afraid they won’t find suitable work. Some are afraid of starting life all over. Others are afraid of tackling Hebrew. Some are afraid of losing the standing they have in their Diaspora communities to come to a new place where no one knows them. Others are afraid of culture shock. Some are afraid of terrorism. The bottom line is fear.

All the other excuses are smokescreens in an effort to hide this basic underlining fear. The real reason why people don’t choose to come is not because of Bibi, or the bikini beaches in Tel Aviv, or because of what happened in Gush Katif, or because of Israeli rudeness, but because they are afraid.

I don't mean the people who truly can't come because of whatever sincere reason, but rather the majority of people who could come, but don't.   

Also, I don’t mean to be critical or condescending. Making aliyah is indeed a difficult and challenging endeavor. Surely, it is the hardest mitzvah there is. In my case, in addition to the great and constant kindness of G-d, my successful absorption in Israel was aided by Israeli friends whom I had met through the volunteer work I did for several Israeli organizations while still in America.  Plus, while it was painful for my parents that their son was so far away (until they themselves made aliyah) , they always were there to offer financial backing in times of need. I understand that making aliyah is not easy. It wasn’t easy for our forefather, Avraham. It wasn’t easy for Joshua and the Children of Israel. It wasn’t easy for Ezra and Nechemia and the olim who came up to Israel with them from Bavel. It wasn’t easy for the pioneer settlers of our time.

So what’s the solution? Emunah. Faith in G-d.

This isn’t something new. A lack of emunah was the cause of the tragedy of the Spies, who rebelled against G-d’s commandment to journey on to Eretz Yisrael. They were afraid of the giants they saw, who made them feel like “grasshoppers.” They were afraid of dying in battle. On a deeper level, the Zohar and “Mesillat Yesharim” reveal that they were afraid of losing the honor they enjoyed as the Torah leaders of the tribes in the wilderness. They realized that a new, more all-rounded type of leader would be needed to meet the challenges of settling the Land, a more physical, fighter, farmer, activist, and organizer; and so, to protect their positions of esteem, they rebelled against G-d and refused to journey on to Israel.

Even though the Spies were the distinguished leaders of the Jewish community in the wilderness, they didn’t have emunah, as the Torah testifies: “In this matter, you did not believe in the L-rd your G-d” (Devarim, 1:32). In other matters, they did believe. But in the matter of aliyah, they didn’t have emunah. Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook called this a state of half-emunah. However, the foundation of emunah begins with Avraham Avinu, as it says, “And he had emunah in the L-rd” (Bereshit, 15:6). He wasn’t a half-believer. He believed with complete faith, “emunah shelama” (Thirteen Principles of Faith of the Rambam). When G-d told him to go to Israel, he went without hesitating, with no questions asked.

Rabbi Kook emphasized that emunah has to be learned. A lack of emunah, as in the case of the Spies, occurs when the Torah isn’t studied or understood in the proper fashion. This comes about in the darkness of exile when people forget that living in Eretz Yisrael is the foundation of keeping the Torah, when they are not taught by their local Diaspora rabbis that the goal of Judaism is to build the Jewish Nation in the Land of Israel according to the laws of the Torah.

For now, I’d like to leave you with a practical tip. It’s always helped me in times of uncertainty and fear. I memorized it by heart and say it like a mantra. The 23rd Psalm of King David. He had plenty of difficult trials and opposition in his life too, and he conquered them all with his great emunah. Immediately upon reciting this Psalm, it reminds me that Hashem is with me, and that there is nothing to fear. Here’s a translation in English:


The L-rd is my shepherd, I shall not lack anything that I need.

He makes me to lie down in green pastures;

He leads me beside the still waters.

He restores my soul.  

He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His Name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I will fear no evil.

For Thou art with me,

Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.

You anoint my head with oil; my cups runs over.

Sure goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,

And I will dwell in the House of the L-rd forever.