Whenever things get bad in the United States, my friends start talking about moving to Israel. At this moment, I can think of 10 friends off the bat who are considering aliyah. They range from young families to empty nesters, from those who have family in Israel to those who have none, from fluent Hebrew speakers to those whose vocabulary is limited to “shalom.”
To some degree, moving to Israel is another “move to Canada” threat: a panic-driven escape hatch when life in America seems to have devolved into a lose-lose proposition. Has anyone ever actually moved to Canada when politician X won the election? I’d love to know. The anecdotal ultimata on Facebook can hardly constitute data.
The desire to have such an escape hatch is not foreign to me. My non-American relatives of the older generation always pressed us to maintain updated passports for ourselves and all our children. There was an implicit and explicit warning that Jews are never really safe anywhere, that “it” happened before and could happen again. (“It,” like the movie, retains its horror in remaining unclearly defined, but generally indicates at best anti-Semitism and at worst, another full-on Holocaust.)
While my rational brain registers that this is possible, my natural spunky optimism rejects this apocalyptic paranoia as a driving force in decision-making.
But the aliyah fervor is much more than that.
My friends who have already made aliyah are constantly telling us to “come home.” “We’re waiting for you,” they implore. Because making aliyah isn’t really about leaving the U.S.A. It’s about arriving, or more specifically, returning to our roots.
Singer, songwriter and rabbi Shlomo Katz, originally of New Jersey and currently of Efrat, Israel, in a video and article in The Jerusalem Post on June 11, said, “We could give a million different reasons as to why someone should come home, but the truth is that one doesn’t need a reason to come home.
“I am fully aware of the difficulty behind a commitment like this. It’s probably one of the most difficult decisions anyone could make – to uproot oneself and one’s family from that which they know, from that which they feel comfortable with. It is extremely tough.
“But I want to tell you something even more important. We here in Eretz Yisrael, we need you. We are still trying to figure out what this dream of coming back home is all about. We are working very hard on it. And it would be so beautiful and so right if we could figure out the rest of our journey to our destiny together with the rest of the mishpacha (family).
“As I write these words, I am praying stronger than ever that you hear how much sincere love and care are in these words.
“I’m asking you all to seriously consider committing to coming home, to Eretz Yisrael.
“For no reason and for every reason in the world. Love, Shlomo.”
I feel no torment as I read these words. Moving back to Israel, a dream of ours, is unequivocally the wrong decision for our family right now. But I do feel a stirring. A pang of truth punching me in the gut. As grateful as I am to America, to Ohio, to Cleveland, it’s not home. I will ever be a stranger in a strange land. To paraphrase the biblical Ruth, their land is not my land, their holidays are not my holidays, their sabbath is not my sabbath and their god is not my god.
Aliyah for us is not an if, but a when. Not because of “it,” but because of everything. Not because of guilt or fear or panic, but because home is where the heart is.
Read Ruchi Koval online at cjn.org/ruchikoval. Connect with her on Facebook at ruchi.koval and on Instagram @ruchi.koval.