There are things that should not be said out loud, at least by people with little authority, because they might come out wrong. They might be construed as arrogant, naïve, impossible. The tone of voice must be just right, timbre calm and measured – even the pauses between words dare not be too great or noticeable, or you run the risk of being dismissed as preachy and holier-than-thou.
That’s why many of us from the U.S. who have chosen to make aliyah also choose to maintain a relative silence about our life’s path, hoping very much not to distance those we love and leave behind.
The hardest thing, though, is to keep quiet in the face of such a drastic move – hence the reason many of us write when it’s nearly impossible to speak.
I’ve discovered that if aliyah were motivated by practicalities, such as a better job or superior educational opportunities for the kids, I’d have a much easier time chatting with everyone about our decision:
Oh, Tamar, your husband just landed a fantastic job in Tel Aviv? Well I was just awarded a solid fellowship in Los Angeles, so we’ll be moving out of town shortly too. You say that you’re dissatisfied with schooling options here so you’ve enrolled the kids in schools in Jerusalem? We found a superb yeshiva day school in Boston, so we’re also making a pragmatic move from our current locale.
If I could have conversations like that, my friendships and family relationships would be smooth and easy. We’d be in the same ballgame, making separate but equal choices to suit our individual lives.
Very few of us are afforded the luxury of such easy conversation, because our decision to uproot and leave is rarely motivated by pragmatism. I’d venture to suggest that most of us North American olim are ideologically driven, since the move from the Land of the Free to the Land of the Jews offers very little in the way of financial reward or heightened personal security.
There are wonderful elementary schools in America which we firmly believe would offer our children a solid and satisfying education; jobs in our fields are readily available; our extended families in the main remain here; and, most important, there are quality yeshivot and shuls with caring, talented rebbeim who have much to offer ourselves and our kids.
Who leaves a place of familiarity, family and comfort to venture forth to a strife-torn region of foreign cultures and languages?
Perhaps you’d have to be slightly nuts.
It happens that visionaries and pragmatists alike are good candidates, although we all have the common conviction of acting on what we believe is the right thing to do. Those who believe an action to be good, desired and correct must strive to perform that action or risk being wracked with guilt. As an old proverb would put it, “There is no pillow so soft as a clear conscience.”
Is this a strong argument? I’m positive, based on my eavesdropping on related conversations, that many would disagree with my definition of “the right thing to do.” Is it right to put one’s children in harm’s way by living willingly in such a hostile area of the world? Is it right to cause pain to one’s family by moving so far away and depriving them of regular interaction? Is it right to inadvertently disparage a wonderful community such as our current home in Baltimore, with its kindness of character and solid religious infrastructure, by asserting that it would be better to live elsewhere?
My response: Yes, it is a good, desired and correct action if you are a Jew living in America in the twenty-first century to seriously consider moving to Israel.
The reasoning is quite simple and straightforward. We are a generation that has been granted an opportunity to fulfill that which is expected of us at this historical juncture: to take possession of our homeland, to raise our families there and work there and join our collective nation on the soil that God has set aside for us, the Jewish people.
Kol dodi dofek – the voice of my Beloved knocks through the reverberations of the Holocaust, the founding of a Jewish state in our historical borders, the military and technological miracles that have shaken modern-day Israel.