Caravan in Negev village
Caravan in Negev villageCourtesy

My recent article on why more Jews don’t make Aliyah drew over 200 comments. While most of the remarks were angry diatribes from the breed of people who write talkbacks on Israel National News just to vent their frustrations and personal hang-ups about not living in Israel, others shared a serious charge that deserves a response. These people say that they would like to move to Israel but that apartment purchasing and rental prices are beyond their reach. Similarly, many Israelis who leave Israel to live elsewhere also voice this complaint.

I am not writing this article to deny that housing prices in Israel are high. However I would like to present another viewpoint on the matter.

This week my wife and I visited our married daughter and grandchildren who live in Bnei Netzarim on the Sinai border. Pictured along with this article is their modest caravan on the half moshav/half private settlement. My daughter pays $300 per month for the small cozy home with 3 bedrooms and a front and back yard. Building a 6 bedroom villa on an acre of land would cost about $300,000.

Bnei Netzarim is 50 minutes away from Beer Sheva, 2 hours away from Tel Aviv and a little further away from Jerusalem. It is an idealistic Religious-Zionist community with lots of children, excellent schooling, and a respected yeshiva. Everyone gets by economically. And of course the mitzvot of building the Land of Israel and preventing it from becoming desolate, and keeping it under Jewish sovereignty, possess enormous reward as set down by such Torah Giants as the Ramban, the Rambam, Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi, the Vilna Gaon, and Rabbi Kook, to name just a few.

Needless to say, readers who complain about life in Israel will say that the location is too far from the big cities, too dangerous, too hot in the summer, with too many flies and no nearby golf course, cinema complex and shopping centers.... demanding a life of impossible SELF-SACRIFICE. Self-sacrifice? What's that?

Allow me to remind readers that Judaism is founded on self-sacrifice. Every morning we begin our prayers by reading about the great willingness for self-sacrifice that our forefathers Avraham and Yitzhak manifested in the Akeida. In Joshua's time, the Children of Israel, with the exception of the Spies of the Wilderness, entered the Land, ready for war and the great self-sacrifice involved.

Also in more modern times, the early Zionists returned to settle the Land of Israel with a spirit of towering self-sacrifice. 50% died draining the malaria-filled swamps. Others perished in plagues or were murdered in the constant attacks of warring Arabs. The new immigrant pioneers, including Ben Gurion, lived in very modest lodgings. A little later, entire communities arriving from Yemen and Morocco lived in tents. Not to mention the exalted self-sacrifice of the soldiers of Israel who gave their lives in defense of the Jewish State.

But then something happened. When Jews thought they had found a golden future in the West, then American Comfort replaced the spirit of self-sacrifice upon which the Jewish Nation was built. Sure, Jewish immigrants to the United States had to work hard and they lived in crowded tenements in the early days of Ellis Island, but once they rose up the ladder of success, the spirit of self-sacrifice, a foundation of the Torah, disappeared from America Jewish life.

In other words, if Diaspora Jews really want to live in Israel, with a little self-sacrifice they can find respectable housing in the town where my daughter lives, or in beautiful surrounding communities such as Naveh and Shlomit, in settlements throughout Judea and Samaria, and in the Golan.

As our Sages teach, the reward a person receives in performing a mitzvah is equivalent to the effort expended. And the reward for living a Torah life in the Land of Israel, in the Promised Land of our Forefathers, in the Land of Hashem, is worth more than all of the material pleasures and comforts of this world. Need I say more?