We’ve been told a picture is worth a thousand words, yet sometimes additional text creates a clearer understanding of the photograph. I refer to the photo snapped last week in the White House of President Joe Biden kneeling before Rivka Ravitz, Israeli President Rivlin’s chief of staff and Orthodox Jewish mother of twelve children.
Biden was impressed by Ravitz’s maternal status. His introduction to Mrs. Ravitz – her work title as well as her maternal title – sincerely touched the president. He led Ravitz into an adjoining room and showed her a picture of his mother, whom he remembers fondly.
So how does one explain the fact that the same president, who claims to be an observant Christian who personally believes in family values, heads a party and a nation that has accepted non-Christian values, a party and nation that is slowly turning hearts and minds toward a far-left ideology that was considered nearly dead when John Kennedy became president, in the early sixties of the last century?
An article on The Jewish Press’s website informed me of the politically correct expression for the institution of motherhood today. No longer referred to as “Mom” or “Mother,” we are now expected to perceive women like Rivka Ravitz and refer to them as “birthing persons!”
Too many parts of The United States are under sway to a far-left, almost Marxist, ideology, the foundation for a crumbling empire. Is that where America is headed? If the politically correct term for “mothers” has now become “birthing persons,” then yes, America is self-destructing.
My writing colleague Ruth warned me in her latest WhatsApp message, “The barbarians are no longer at the gates, they’re pulling down the walls.” She urged Americans, especially observant Jews, to pack their Louis Vuitton luggage, grab their babies, and flee to the airport. She mentions that Moshe the taxi driver will be waiting for them at Ben Gurion.
I wouldn’t count on Moshe. There will be piles of bureaucratic forms to contend with before boarding, departing, and disembarking from their flights. The reason is due to the handwriting on the wall that was ignored for too long. Now there are more people trying to make aliyah than there are flights available; more newcomers seeking housing than there are homes to rent or buy. And, of course, there is Covid-19.
Israel needs the aliyah of Jews with Jewish values. We see the poison of the secular world dripping into our homes when there are not enough Rivkas to provide us with healthy, normal continuity. If we rely on our Meretz and Labor coalition partners in our newly formed Israeli government, we may find ourselves identified as siblings of “birthing persons” similar to the way our American sisters and brothers are being identified these days.
Aliyah was a simple procedure when we arrived in Israel as newlywed immigrants in 1960. Housing was a problem then, too, perhaps because there was so little housing and so little non-border area available on which to build in Jerusalem. Monthly rentals did not exist, only “key money” rentals best described as “somewhere between buying and renting.” The Six-Day War changed that situation and allowed for massive building projects all around the city, country, and in Judea and Samaria.
Housing in Israel is still problematic, mainly because where housing is available, prices are sky high. Potential olim can sell their spacious five bedroom homes, plus attic and fully finished basement, plus manicured lawns and private garage in America, and still have difficulty funding a three-bedroom apartment in Israel. It is never wise to expect prices in Israel to fall. They never do. For the last one hundred years real estate prices have continued to rise.
So what will finally bring Americans to leave their comfortable two-car family homes and make their way to the land promised to our forefathers? Not their president kneeling to an Orthodox Israeli mother, chief of staff to Israel’s President. And definitely not the crumbling of a 12-story building in Florida. And surely not notably high-profile antisemitism, with Nazi-like bullies beating up Jews across American cities.
The only thing that will do it is Jewish education, pro-Israel education, and a switch in the mindset of ruling Orthodox rabbis and roshei yeshivot. Only an organized and unified Orthodox rabbinate can present the case for the mass aliyah of our Jewish brothers and sisters; for their participation in the mitzvah of Shivat Zion in this century.
Over two thousand years ago, Ezra haSofer did not succeed in convincing the Jews in Bavel to leave their comfortable homes and return to Eretz Yisrael to participate in living as Jews in their land, and rebuilding the Beit HaMikdash. Ezra’s return with his followers, the poor and downtrodden, was not encouraged by the leaders of the Jewish communities in Babylon; thus it failed.
Aliyah is in the hands of American Orthodox clergy. It was in the hands of the Orthodox rabbinate in Europe, as well: had they encouraged members of their flock to leave Europe when it became evident that antisemitism was on the rise, millions could have been saved from the Holocaust.
American aliyah will counterbalance the desire of Arab Israeli citizens and left-wing non-observant Jews who want to be a state like any other, and not a Jewish state. Massive presence of active American immigrants as citizens of Israel can raise the percentage of observant Jews serving as lawmakers in our Knesset. Thus laws pertaining to Jewish values will pass with a majority.
It is time to make the mitzvah of settling the land, and of keeping the mitzvot dependent on the land, a significant part of Orthodox Jewish life. It is never wise to be kicked out the back door devoid of one’s belongings. It is far wiser to walk out the front entrance with one’s possessions intact.
President Biden responded with awe to a woman, a mother of 12, who served an Israeli member of the Knesset, and ran his office when he became president of the State of Israel. President Biden did not know that Mrs. Rivka Ravitz is also a doctoral candidate finishing her graduate studies. In fact, what Mrs. Ravitz has accomplished, while extraordinary in the secular world, simply exemplifies the Torah values with which she was raised: the centrality of “family, home, motherhood, and sacrifice for the sake of the next generation,” as Sivan Rahav-Meir noted in an article about Rivka Ravitz. “She is an exceptional person, a member of an exceptional people, living her Torah-based values in the Jewish national homeland, the sovereign State of Israel.”
May the time come when Israel will be bursting with many such women of valor, refugees from the moral wasteland that is contemporary America, immigrants committed to living lives of individual and communal service here in Israel; when a description and photograph of such a woman inspires Jews living temporary lives in other people’s countries to follow in her footsteps, and join the chain of Torah-observant Jewish history here in Israel.