Posted on April 22, 2013 by Liviah Landau
April 15th, 2013
It’s Erev Yom HaAtzma’ut and just a few days ago I had my first meeting with Nefesh b’Nefesh, an agency that works for North American Jews intending on immigrating to Israel. My application is in, and a few more papers are needed, but the decision has been made. I am making Aliyah to the State of Israel.
I have been grappling with this decision for a long time. My family lives very far away, but even farther away from following any sort of path that vaguely resembles my own. My decision feels like signing a contract of fate: to always being distant from them. It doesn’t mean that I will literally be cut off, nor are they disavowing their filial connection or love for me. But I am ensuring that my parents will never have a close relationship with their grandchildren, my brother’s children will never be regular playmates of mine and I may not always be able to afford to come and see them every year. I am hurting us both. I take it all very seriously. Even the concept of this sacrifice has quite frankly been too much for me to bare in the last few months I have been chewing on the decision. In order to become part of my greater Jewish family, I must in a way, give up my very own.
In the last four years, I have cannot even trace how much I’ve grown. I only say four years because it is for that long that have actively been navigating a Jewish journey, using the Torah as my compass. Now my purpose in life is to serve the Holy One, Blessed Be, as a Jew and as the devout and pious person I aspire to be. Although I don’t always remember in my mundane, daily actions, all of my priorities revolve around this ambition, and over this time, I have come to realize that Israel is the only place that encourages my chosen life path by providing all of the necessary means for me to do so. Making Aliyah is a logistical and convenient choice in these terms.
I have also come to realize that this State is the center for the continuation of Jewish life in the world. It’s a pretty bold statement, but I believe it firmly. The diversity of her people is accentuated by the fact that they must live together in one small place. Through all of our almost irreconcilable differences, the Jewish people in Israel are unified by their physical closeness which has either the possibility for great spiritual elevation or a soon-to-erupt socio-religious disaster. Israel is also the center for Jewish learning. Besides isolated pockets of Yiddish speakers in galus, it is the only place left in the world where Jews speak their own Jewish language. The phrases we use every day represent millennia of Jewish liturgy, scripture and collective memory, and despite our majority secular flavor, we resist assimilation by simply being together. You must really go out of your way to not at least recognize when Yom Kippur comes around. You have to also go to great lengths to marry a non-Jew and leave the people completely. Outside of Israel, these choices are served to us on a silver platter and seem almost immoral to resist. We’re living in a globalized era where our consciousness’ have been trained to believe that universalism equals civilization, while particularism is outdated and prejudice. It is only after two years of living in this country, with an exciting range of Jewish and non-Jewish people that I am able to truly understand just how important it is for us to remain… us.
I refuse to write a narrative of an inspiring and beautiful Israel. A narrative that talks about a mystical, ineffable pull that ties me spiritually to the land. Quite frankly, I’m still not sure I buy it. I am among the last people to show up for an Israel advocacy convention or Israel political defense group. My Israeli friends have even called me “our little smolanit temimit” (innocent leftist) because of my philosophical stubbornness and supposed lack of life experience. Despite the many things Israel is doing to try and show the world that they are good and actually mean well, I believe the state of the Jewish people is in danger, and I believe that we ourselves created that shadowy threat. It isn’t all the Palestinians, it isn’t the Iranians, it is not only the Nazis (not that I deny the power of anti-Semitism and how it has gravely damaged us over the millenia). Every day, I feel how we’ve become so inflamed by the anger and hatred of the “other”, we often do not recognize our critical role in creating our own enemies. For too long we have (rightfully) claimed victimhood. Most of us are not 2-4 generations post-Holocaust; an event that decimated our population so severely, 70 years later we have still not recovered our pre-War numbers. Not to mention the thousands of non-Ashkenazi Jews who made an exodus from their homelands turned hostile. Yet at this point, I am not so convinced we are truly victims anymore. Whether we are locked into this country with morally complex political engagements, or in countries outside of Israel that pull out our cultural and spiritual roots, I am not convinced that we are living in messianic times and the creation of the State is somehow a fulfillment of an Isaiaic prophesy. I am not a Religious Zionist, although both religious and Zionist. It is the foundations of the State of Israel that terrify me and with a heavy heart, I admit to a perspective that says “we are failing”. We are failing to come together through the bonds of ahavat Yisrael and failing by continuing to entrench ourselves in a moral and spiritual pit through our stiff-necked political policies and ferocious military endeavors.
I am twenty-three years old, and several months ago, when bombs were raining in Gaza and Israel, I called my mother in tears to confess my true doubt in humanity. I told her that I don’t think we, human beings, can survive the immensity of our own hate and destruction of the planet. My adult life is just beginning and I am moving forward despite my deepest doubts in the probability of our success, trying my very best at “goodness”. By (the wrong half of) my blood and through a recent Orthodox conversion, I am (have become) inextricably tied to the Jewish people and have gone through enormous efforts to do so… to prove so. Like a bad relationship, I had to prove my Jewishness because my essential self did not originally merit the the love of ahavat Yisrael in this country. Just four years ago I was for the first time rejected by the Jews I believed to be my people. I was told both in ambush and in painful slashes, that I do not belong.
I can only see fit that I do my best to be a positive contribution to the continuation of the Jewish people here in Israel. I have questions for the ethical and religious premises in which this nation-state was created but it was created, and in no way do I believe we can now question the right for Israel to exist. So I feel it is my obligation to Am Yisrael to do my best to help shape our nation into a place that I can feel good about. We are told to be “a light onto the nations”, but first we must actually shine and not be engulfed by our own flames. I will not give up on Am Yisrael, so I can not give up on medinat Yisrael.