In 2011 over 21,000 Jews made aliyah. 21,000.
I’m not one of those people who can look at a number and see the number standing in a room in the form of people so I don’t really know what that means but I know it’s a lot. 21,000 x me.
So when 21,000 people are making aliyah it becomes very easy to forget what aliyah means. Amongst the Jewish community (particularly those parts I have experienced) aliyah is a word banded around a considerable amount. And like many good words, it slowly loses meaning.
I was recently asked what other countries I had considered moving to before I decided to move to Israel. I explained that it wasn’t about simply moving country but specifically of moving to Israel. No other country would do. It wasn’t a case of running away from something in England, of starting again or wiping the slate clean. It wasn’t something pushing me away from England but something pulling me towards Israel.
It got me thinking. When we talk about aliyah, how many of us mean ‘moving to Israel’ and how many of us mean something more than that?
Some people are moving to Israel like they would move to any other country – it has considerably less rain than England, a warm people and a good life for young people. Understandable.
But for others, and I include myself in this category, it means something more. I won’t say what it means for everyone but I know what it means for me.
A couple of months after I made aliyah a relative asked me if I now felt I could tick the ‘making aliyah’ box on my life checklist and I said no. I may have the Teudat Oleh, Teudat Zehut, a considerable number of ‘Only in Israel’ moments under my belt but I had not yet made aliyah.
For me, the aliyah part is important. It means ‘to go up’ and I take this not just as an individual aim but as a communal one. I myself should be trying to go up, improving and bettering myself, but maybe more importantly I should be bringing Israel with me.
I believe that aliyah is being part of a people who are trying to make Israel a Jewish country in the sense of morality, human relations and justice. Your contribution can be small or big; we aren’t all going to be Prime Ministers or social protest leaders, but we all have a responsibility and can affect the people around us.
Whether it is bringing your children up in Israel and educating them to have sympathy and understanding for others, or giving some of your time to a charity helping the many people living under the poverty line in Israel or helping to build a grass roots movement effecting real change in your country it all counts. We are part of a country, not someone watching on the sideline criticising from afar with a lack of sense of ownership. It is ours, yours, mine.
This weeks attack in Bulgaria served as a reminder that I was Israeli, that because you have citizenship of Israel you become a target of terror; not because you did something wrong but because under the heading citizenship it says Israeli. This works the other way around as well, we are Israeli for the good and the bad.
We have a long way to go, but this very fact should propel people rather than deter them from the task at hand. So if you find me resting on my laurels, enjoying the sunsets, oblivious to what is happening behind me, remind me what I said. Remind me to make aliyah.