In Parshat Ki Tavo we learn that a person is required to bring their Bikurim (first fruits) to the Kohen in the Beit HaMikdash and say the following words (Devarim 26:3): “I ascertain today to HaShem your God that I have arrived in the Land that God swore to our forefathers to give us.”
There is no differentiation made here between one who was born in the Land of Israel and one who immigrated to the Land.
We can learn from here that all Israelis must look at themselves as olim (immigrants) no matter how long they have been in Israel.
Some of the students who attend the classes that I teach are from families who have been in Israel for ten generations, others arrived around the time of the founding of the State of Israel in 1948 and the rest have arrived any time between the 1950s and this past year.
No matter how long a person has been in Israel, they have to remember where they came from. We were all new at some point. We must keep in mind that just like once upon a time we were new immigrants who needed help getting adjusted now we must help those who have just arrived.
Once a person who has made aliya has finally integrated it is very easy to not want to look back and see who may now need their help.
When a farmer has a basket of Bikurim, first fruits from the seven species of the Land of Israel, the inclination is to eat them (after all it was the farmer who grew them) and not give them to the Kohen. However, we are taught that they are grown with God’s help and therefore we must humble ourselves and show appreciation for what God has done for us.
The Land of Israel is also a gift that is constantly given by God to the Jewish people as we can see from the miracles performed in Israel on a daily basis. Just because someone has been in the Land for a longer amount of time doesn’t mean that they have more ownership of the Land.
Some people are afraid to make aliya because they feel that they will never fit in and become a “real Israeli”. What is a real Israeli? Everyone who lives in Israel is a “real Israeli” and everyone was new at one point.
In Devarim 26:9-10 we are reminded that God brought us to the Land of Israel and we have to give back to the Land: “And He brought us to this place, and He gave us this Land, a Land flowing with milk and honey. And now, see! I have brought the first of the fruits of the soil that You have given me Hashem.”
We must show appreciation for the privilege of being able to live in the Land and one way of doing that is by giving back to the community.
In sentence 11 we are told: “You shall rejoice with all the good that HaShem your God gave you and your household; you, the Levi and the convert in your midst.”
We are commanded to be happy together as a community with people of all different backgrounds.
A question that has been asked a lot lately is why aren’t more people making aliya? One answer is that some people don’t want to leave their comfortable homes knowing that they will never be fully accepted as Israelis. If every Israeli looked at him/herself as a new oleh and was more welcoming to the newer immigrants, then more people may be inclined to make aliya.