Is Aliyah, Moving To Israel the “Elephant in the Room” for Jews Who Live in the Diaspora?
To be perfectly honest, I’d say “no.”
I grew up like most Jews, totally ignorant of the concept of “Aliyah.” I also didn’t know about Shabbat, kashrut and most of the Jewish Holidays. Jewish History was also pretty much a blank in my mind, as was the Bible, stories and Land. I was made vaguely aware of a bit of it in the Hebrew School I went to six hours a week for five years, in the Conservative Oakland Jewish Center. The teachers there were between a rock and a hard place, as the saying goes.
The vast majority were actually strictly practicing and believing Orthodox Jews, but they had to dilute their teaching to suit the Conservative theology and the even less Jewishly committed parents, who would have had them fired or pull their kids out of the school if there were signs of “brainwashing.”
But I knew very well that I was Jewish, even if I couldn’t define exactly what that meant.
As ignorant and oblivious as I and my Jewish peers were in the 1950’s and early 1960’s, I know that today’s young Jews, with the very minor exception of those who are strongly committed to their Jewishness, know much less than we did.
Many diaspora Jews today either have no real idea that they are Jewish or think they are Jewish and don’t realize that there are halachik (Jewish Law) complications which make their Jewish identity very problematic. Assimilation and intermarriage are causing a bloodless Holocaust, which shouldn’t be ignored. The big problem there is that there really isn’t a solution, simple or otherwise.
The actual percentage of olim chadashim, new immigrants to Israel of diaspora Jews is horrendously minuscule. We all do our best to make olim chadashim feel as welcome as possible, but the actual success of one’s aliyah depends more on the oleh/olah (immigrant) than it does on the welcomers, veteran Israelis and the systems here.
We’re here in Israel for almost half a century, and I’ve never been sorry about our move for even a second.