Why so many Jews don't come on aliyah

It's not because they don't care.

Tzvi Fishman

Judaism Largest French aliyah in history
Largest French aliyah in history

First, let me state clearly that every Jew wants to live in Israel. Since this declaration will surely raise some eyebrows, let me explain. Deep down, every Jew wants to live in the Holy Land, in the Land of our Forefathers, in the Land of Hashem, or, as King David declares, in the Land of our Life. This is because the soul of a Jew is the Torah, and the Torah and the Land of Israel are one.

As the Zohar, and the Gaon of Vilna, and Rabbi Kook, and many deep thinkers of Israel teach, the Torah and the Land of Israel and the Jewish People are all intrinsically united. Both the Torah and the Land of Israel are indivisible components of our souls. Just as a Jew cannot divorce himself from G-d, he cannot divorce himself from the Torah or from the Land of Israel. The Torah is our soul, our history, and our future, and the Torah was given to be lived in the Land of Israel. Three times a day we pray to return to the Land of Israel.

All the visions of the Prophets of Israel picture our Redemption in the Land of Israel. Ask any ten-year-old reader of the Bible where G-d wants the Jewish People to live and he will answer, “In the Land of Israel.” Both Torah and Israel are inerasable parts of our souls. This is true whether a Jew feels it or not. Wherever he lives, whatever national identity card he may have in his wallet, Israel is an inescapable part and essence of his soul.

This is why Rabbi Kook could state that even the most ardent Jewish heretic and denier of Hashem has more intrinsic belief than the most diehard believer amongst the nations. The same is true of the lovers of the Diaspora who stridently maintain that Jews don’t have to live in the Land of Israel. Deep down in their hearts they want to live here too.

If this is the case, what causes, in so many Diaspora Jews, a lack of outward connection to Eretz Yisrael? For most, the reason is a lack of education. While the Land of Israel is an eternal and component of our souls, this “segula” or spiritual treasure lies dormant, in a state of potential, needing to be awakened. Just like a flower needs water to grow, a Jew needs to be taught the centrality of Eretz Yisrael to Torah and to true Jewish Life in order for him or her to develop a passionate yearning for Zion.

Unfortunately, Jewish Education in the Diaspora is centered about strengthening Jewish Life in the Diaspora. All too often, the Land of Israel is turned into a nice place to spend a vacation, or a place to send the kids to learn for a year, but Jewish Life is to be played out in America. Parents, Rabbis, and the leaders of American Jewry teach each new generation that they are loyal American Jews, and that George Washington is their nation’s founder. Instead of having Jewish-Israeli heads, they have American heads.

This unfortunate misunderstanding of Torah resulted from nearly two-thousand years of exile, when Jews stopped learning about Eretz Yisrael, and about all of the mitzvot which apply only to it – two-thirds of the Mishna – and concentrated only on the mitzvot which could be performed in the exile, like laws of kashrut, laws of Shabbat, personal laws of justice, and the like. Since living in Eretz Yisrael was no longer a daily reality for the exiled Jews, it became a faraway dream, or the slogan, “Next Year in Jerusalem.”

Thus, tragically, with the establishment of the state, Medinat Yisrael, when the time finally arrived when we could get on an airplane and move to Israel, Jews from Western countries didn’t come. Not having studied about the importance of Eretz Yisrael to a full Torah life and full Jewish Identity, they didn’t feel anything missing with their lives in foreign lands.

They didn’t need Tzahal – the American army would fight their wars.

They didn’t need a government run by Jews – the Congress and Senate took care of all of their needs.

When the Torah portion, Lech Lecha, came around, the Rabbi spoke about the importance of kindness and not about the importance of making Aliyah – the very first thing which Hashem commanded Abraham to do in order to become the founder of the Jewish People.

Sometimes, not only was the subject of Eretz Yisrael dropped from the curriculum of Jewish Learning in Yeshivas and Jewish Day Schools, some Orthodox groups claimed that it was forbidden to settle in Israel until Moshiach (Messiah); or that Zionism was trayf; or that kippah-less leaders of the government of Israel were less Jewish than the goyim who ruled in America. This superficial way of thinking brought about the annihilation of many Orthodox communities in Europe which could have found a refuge in Eretz Yisrael had they listened to the call of the Prophets and the warning voices of Rabbi Kook, Ze’ev Jabotinsky, and others.

Still today, this distorted understanding of Torah can be found in bastions of some proponents of haredi Judaism, while the rest of the Jews of America are perishing in an ever swelling tsunami of assimilation and alienation from everything Jewish.

The soul of every Jew yearns to live in the Land of Israel, but the proper education is needed to awaken this deep and essential part of his being until it becomes an active part of his psyche. In the meantime, both his body and soul are imprisoned in exile. The Jews of the Diaspora aren’t to blame. Either they never were taught, or they were taught the wrong thing.

The time has come for a new-old teaching, the teaching of the Torah as it was meant to be taught, the Torah which Moshe taught to Children of Israel – the Torah of Eretz Yisrael.