Getting into Israel today is no simple matter. With a quota of citizens allowed entry each day into Ben Gurion airport, combined with the multiple bureaucratic loops of fire one needs to jump through to get a boarding pass, one has to be both incredibly determined and lucky to get back home to Israel today.
For Jews that are not Israeli citizens, it isn’t even possible. And while we all look forward to coming back to visit Israel in the near future, just as soon as Corona quiets down, it's sobering to think that already a year has gone by since the gates of Israel have been effectively closed for world Jewry. A year of missed weddings and brisses, a year of grandchildren growing older that grandparents have lost the chance to experience forever.
Living in today’s surreal times when Jews, despite their best intentions and efforts, are physically unable to come back home to Israel, provides us all with opportunity to reflect. I recall when I was still living in New York, I must have heard more or less the same monologue from different people at least a few dozen times. This monologue went more or less as follows: “Eretz Yisrael- of course, we all want to be there. What’s more special than davening at the Kotel. When Moshiach comes, we’ll be the first one’s on the Elal Plane. Im Yirtze Hashem- one day soon. Ok, see you later, got to get back to work/carpool/yeshiva/real-life.”
Even before immigrating to Israel myself, I was always taken aback by “the monologue”. As Jews, the people whose guiding principle is faith, how could it be that when it comes to Aliyah, even the most “religious” amongst us are so pragmatic and lacking in faith? When it comes to the far off, theoretical concept of “when Moshiach comes” we are all fervently religious in our convictions that the time will come when we will all pick up our belongings and go. When it comes to practical, direct, and immediate concept of moving to Israel in the near term, we are big pragmatists and look for any excuse to exempt us from the Mitzvah.
Could it be possible that we are only fervent in our beliefs as long as it does not require any difficulty or practical commitment? It is easy to be religious as long as it requires no difficulty, sacrifice or risk. There are many wonderful religions out there that don’t require any of these things. Judaism is not one of them. A Jew does not shy away from challenges because they are difficult or even seemingly impossible.
Furthermore, I never understood why the “When Moshiach comes” Jew believes that he will be one of the lucky ones that actually merit to return to Israel when Mashiach actually comes. Just a while ago, 80 hareidi Jews, Israeli citizens for that matter, were blocked from boarding a rescue flight to Israel from Frankfurt Germany, which many of them had planned and waited for weeks to arrange. Forced to sleep on the airport floor with no guarantee of when the next rescue flight will become available, these desperate Jews are learning the hard way, that when it comes to returning home to Israel- there are no guarantees.
Even the best of Jews with the best of intentions do not always have the merit to return home. How many great Torah scholars over the many centuries dreamed to return to Israel, but were held back by one difficulty or another, and in the end never made it. Moses and Aaron, the greatest of our people, did not merit to enter this land. What brazenness must we have to assume that we will be the ones to merit to return “when Moshiach comes,” while at the same time refusing to take the opportunity to come when it is granted to us on a silver platter.
The truth is, “when Moshiach comes” is nothing more than an excuse clothed in piety. If a Jew has a goal, he naturally works and prays for that goal. Whether the goal is getting married, finding a job, improving one’s health, improving one’s marriage or battling an addiction. A person who truly wants something, takes action to make it happen. If you want to return to Israel, make it happen. If you don’t really care, there’s no reason to assume that Moshiach will make it happen for you.
Avraham Shusteris is an accountant in Ramat Beit Shemesh. He made aliyah from Monsey with his family in 2018.