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The Aliyah Intersection

By David Lev
6/15/2012, 1:06 PM

The following is an amusing encounter I had in London before making aliyah and setting up Aliyah Magazine. A few names have been changed to protect the guilty! 

I left the synagogue feeling great, there's nothing like praying & then shmoozing with other Jews. A few of us turned left and took a path that narrowed, as it crossed over a polluted stream. Our attention was focused on a squirrel that swiftly darted up a tree. How I love London, and its gorgeous nature trails.  Mark avoided slipping over some rubbish left on the ground. We continued walking towards Kenton Road.

It was Sabbath eve and we had some heavy obstacles to navigate. Those Jews in Israel really can't understand the challenges we face over here. A pedestrian immediately ahead triggered off an automatic exterior lighting system outside an old house. Mike whistled with relief that it wasn't one of us that innocently could have broken Shabbat by causing electricity to flow into those bulbs.

'Stop whistling, its forbidden!' Mike looked irritated, it wasn't a melody, I just let air escape through a gap in my teeth. Mark disagreed. 'No! I've told you before, its written somewhere that whistling is prohibited.' I kept quiet, not really knowing if that was true or not.

'Joe made Aliyah' We both looked at Mark. 'When?' Mark looked pleased with himself, he was obviously more in the know than we were. 'Oh, last week. A few rabbis tried to dissuade him, but he wouldn't listen' It was my turn to show surprise. 'Why would rabbis try to talk a Jew out of making Aliyah?' Mark looked astonished at my ignorance. 'Did the Moschiah come last week and say it was time to go? No! Of course not. He could have waited, at least a little longer.'

Joe, the thin guy who wore a Union Jack flag on his kippur, proudly displaying our British heritage. Who would have imagined that he was such a deviant?

We arrived at the traffic lights. Surely someone would come and press the green button for us, so that we could cross that busy intersection without breaking Shabbat. After 20 minutes and no slowing down of the heavy traffic, an elderly Pakistani walked by. Mike was the boldest of us, and approached the gentleman. 'Psst, Mike take off your kippur, he's one of them!' We instinctively all removed our head coverings. Who knows he could be a Hamas representative? Living in London was getting dangerous.

'Good evening.' The Pakistani looked at the three of us with suspicion. 'We're new here, how does one stop the traffic?' So far so good, it is forbidden to directly ask a Gentile to do something for you on Shabbat. The old man slowly answered. 'You press the button.' Mike adopted a bewildered look. 'Which one?' As we carefully studied his reactions for signs of coming to our assistance by actually pressing it for us, we failed to notice that a couple had pressed the button from the other side of the road. Mark was the first to quickly step into the road, but the lights had already changed back.

It started to rain, and we would have to wait for the next pedestrian to come. More Jews joined us at the lights. A passing nun also joined our group waiting patiently and politely for someone to activate the button. The rabbi felt a little embarrassed to raise the issue, so we continued our debate.

'I guess waiting for Moschiah to come before making Aliyah is a little like our problem now?' We stared at Mike, waiting for him to explain what he had in mind, but he didn't. I took up the thread instead. 'You mean like waiting here for someone to press that damn button?'

Just then there was a pause in the traffic and they all rushed to the other side, all except us.

Mike looked philosophical. 'Maybe, its permissible to wait for a gap in the traffic before making Aliyah? I mean none of us needs to break any laws to move to Israel.' It was Mark's turn now to turn the organized chaos into something even less tangible. 'What if we're all getting it wrong, maybe making Aliyah will actually bring the Moschiah to us, rather than the other way round?' Mark answered in his best British accent. 'Let's ask the rabbi? We looked round and realized he was also ahead of us on the other side of the street.

I knew that there were at least two other traffic intersections ahead, and I was already late for the evening meal. I eventually said goodbye to my friends and prepared myself for cold fish and chips.

'Joe! Who would have thought of all people that Joe would have left our community to make Aliyah?'

All I knew now is that I couldn't wait to join him!