I am Not Leaving
I am a spiritual man, Even if that means I will be alone
Now that I have been here, in the Holy Land, I have learned that Israel is much more. I understand that is a very deep statement. I will also make sure that everything else that follows is unintelligible. As I have learned over my many years in Jerusalem, the less sense it makes, the more spiritual it is. When somebody asks you to explain your Aliyah, they want to hear something about Gd and near death. Logic kills a good Aliyah story. Making any point of a move for financial benefit or anything constructive, puts you at the bottom rung of Olim. If you have a job, keep your Aliyah story to yourself. ‘I love Israel, I have a home…I live in a suburb.’ You might as well live in Long Island or Golders Green. Keep your smile to yourself and tell me about how you were homeless and you found a thousand dollars that you used to purchase an Etrog with. That is an Aliyah story I want to hear.
To live in Israel, somebody needs to want to be here with all their heart. That is why it is the land of religions. There is nothing logical about moving to the Middle East. It is hot, and thus almost every religion was born here. That is how the first Aliyah stories began. First Abraham, then the exodus from Egypt. Nobody wants to hear about my love of Torah and the Jewish Home Land. There is nothing spiritual about that. In a neighborhood like Nachlaot, a weak story like that can keep you single for a long time. Then Jesus tried topping the stories with his own religion. And then Muhammad tried topping all by basing his religious center in every city in the Middle East. I cannot explain Mormonism; it is cold in Upstate New York. If you are not starting up a cult, you need heart to make it in Israel.
Aliyah is hard, it is painful and there are a lot of Israelis. Israelis being anybody that does not speak perfect English. Couple angry Aliyah with a relationship and you have child support and children you will probably never see. Any ‘Anlgo’ is going to have a hard time with the Middle Eastern culture. Anglo is what they call us in Israel- probably means something nasty, like gringo or person with an education. As an Anglo, there are things I never get used to. I am not used to getting ripped off exclusively. I am used to being ripped off collectively, with a price tag. There is a communal understanding of paying a lot for an item that is marked ‘suggested retail price.’ I am fine with that. We ‘Anglos’ are not used to haggling and being ripped off on an individual basis. I appreciate knowing that nobody is getting a good deal, including me. Knowing that everybody else is also getting screwed over comforts me. But I am a capitalist. If your spouse comes home all ripped off, how are you going to respond? There is nothing. The ‘we are supporting the Israeli economy’ does not work when you are on welfare. You need other people with that spiritual story about how, ‘I found strawberries in the shuk for only 5nis a kilo, and then I this guy wanted an extra shekel on the cashews…I said no, but I decided that Gd helped me save money on the strawberries, so I could get scammed by the cashew guy.’ The shekel story, and they are still married.
As hard as it may be, if that naturally blond Yemenite moved down to England or Florida, I would not follow. As the fox and that little boy developed that great love in that story my parents never read me, I too have wasted so much time planting flowers that I cannot just let them die. I am not The Jewish National Fund. When somebody gives me money to plant a tree, I plant it. I don’t extort money from first graders, telling them they will have a tree in Israel. Where is my tree you took from the charity box in elementary school, JNF? I have planted trees and I am connected to them. I have not planted anything, but that is not the point. It is a metaphor for roots, in the ground; a kind of spiritual planting, if you will. I live in Jerusalem, I will get a fine if I plant. It is spiritual and does not make a lot of sense, and thus makes for a good Aliyah story.
The point is that Aliyah is for the single person. So, my married friend, you ask how I can’t leave Israel to be with a woman. Yes you are asking. It is because I made that decision to love Israel. To make it meaningful; something that I want to water and allow to grow. I am a product of Western culture, and I therefore know how everybody else in the world should do stuff. I will make this society proper and there will be marked up price tags at every shuk. I am planting a dream that one day we will all be able to live in Israel with equality, every man woman and child overcharged equally. A new society where everything is the Mamila Mall, outside the Old City of Jerusalem. A new society where fifty percent off is still expensive.
That is the decision of the Oleh. Will I force myself to love Israel and listen to what the rabbis say about the Torah or will I not run away from my enjoyable life? What do the rabbis say about the Torah? A lot of stuff. Torah is important. You should keep the mitzvoth (commandments). They were commanded. Keep Shabbat. You shouldn’t learn it in the bathroom. Keep kosher. Pay for kashrut. Don’t talk bad about other people or speak gossip, which you are probably doing now. Judge everybody favorably. Do not watch the Kardashians. Do not waste time. Learn the Torah. Do not cook on Shabbat, unless it is already cooked. You should leave Israel to get married. Be an example. Should I keep going on? Israel is the only place you can keep hundreds of mitzvoth. Living outside of Israel is like living in a graveyard. Be offensive to people who don’t keep the Torah right. Work the land for six years, then let it rest on the seventh, which means do not work it. The rabbis also say stuff that is written explicitly in the Torah.
Aliyah is a decision you will have to make, as the Temple has not been rebuilt yet and I cannot stone you. That decision is especially hard when you are married. I pray that you and your spouse are able to come to that decision together, with your children, so that you do not end up hating each other. Because after three years, you cannot justify getting taking advantage of and not knowing what a Vopper is, or why Burger King sells them. After three years, you cannot apologize enough to your teenage daughter and son, for ruining their high school years and depositing them in a culture with a people that hates them. After three years, you cannot get angry at your children for speaking Hebrew, yelling, ‘We speak English in this house. We did not move to Israel to speak Hebrew.’ Yes it is hard, and if you do it with your family, you better have a good story about how you moved to some wealthy area and you now have the only two car garage in all of Israel. Then you might keep your family.
Success can also come if you all learn to accept that you are an immigrant and will always be an immigrant in the Jewish Homeland of immigrants. A cause. You must accept the decision that you are a cause, a cause for the future of the Jewish people. A cause you will regret each and every day of your life.
I am an immigrant, and I do need my Israeli or Chutznik immigrant to join me. I need other people to complain to. I am dependent on your support in my move to Israel. Don’t judge me, you happy married person, but learn a bissel from the single man. You too are a single, sharing your life and love and funds, and married. So let’s stick to love and sharing a journey. Sharing a Jewish journey. A Jewish journey different than that of your chutznick routes. The journey of a new religious life, with no community. The good old days of your developed childhood identity, gone. My whole upbringing of Jewish routes, of knowing what it means to be Jewish- shattered. Jews have money, Jews have two days of holidays and off of school, Jews cannot build. All shattered. I am in Israel now. Jews have no money, Jews have one day holidays, Jews can build. In Israel, Jews are not Jewish.
Can you accept that?
Are you going to be that new Chalootz? Chalootzim are people who left their families to dig Israel. That sounds bad. Sorry I cannot come up with a more direct way of translating Chalootz. Are you going to be that chalootz who abandons your Jewish ancestry and grandparents who left the Ukraiine, for the Jewish Promised Land of America? Are you going to be that chalootz who abandons the Queen of England? Are you going to join me in this new story of the chalootzim and how we spiritually left our home land to pay a non-Jew to dig for us, while we found our Jewish National Fund trees, which we all paid the same price for?