The raison d’etre of our one and only Jewish homeland, 75 years young, is aliyah.
Even as I write, thousands of Russian-speaking Jews are trying to make their way here – about 70,000 in just the past year.
From my personal involvement, the majority of this new wave are “Zera Yisrael” (literally, Seed of Israel) – either halachically Jewish or with close Jewish roots, whom the War in Ukraine, but ultimately God, has awakened in them a desire to rejoin the Jewish People now in our Land, after decades of Soviet – enforced disconnect.
They have chosen Israel over other countries of refuge, and, as in the past, those without real connection will not stay here long.
This aliyah is the biggest story of modern Israel, even if it is eclipsed by our internal and external struggles.
This week on Yom HaAtzmaut, this story came home to our backyard, in the form of 125 new Russian-speaking Olim in their 20’s and 30’s, many just a few months in Israel.
Shishi Shabbat Yisraeli’s traditional Independence Day hike and BBQ was especially joyful and meaningful this year.
Two busloads of enthusiastic, talented and hugely appreciative young Olim walked the Path of the Patriarchs (“Derech HaAvot“) and explored sites throughout Gush Etzion, which fell defending Jerusalem, one day before Israeli Independence was declared.
At the “Lone Oak” (which is no longer lonely) in Alon Shvut, our big group was met warmly by Mayor Shlomo Neeman , who was himself born in Birobidzan, Siberia – where the Soviets tried to create an alternative Jewish Autonomous Republic and hugely failed.
Instead, Shlomo, a rabbi and long-time Jewish educator and public activist, is helping the real Jewish homeland prosper, to the benefit of its Russian-speaking community and all the rest of us.
Another significant, devoted player in Soviet Jewish history, Rabbi Joe Schonwald, came to visit the group at our house. He shared his family’s personal story in the Shoah – the price of not having Israel – and his work with young FSU Jews after the fall of the Soviet Union. He urged these new, young Olim, who listened intently, to perceive Israel and their lives here not only intellectually, but with their hearts, to feel their innate connection to their fellow Israelis and the miracles that surround us, and blessed them that they share their stories of Aliyah with their children and grandchildren.
Our wonderful SSY team – all recent Olim themselves – ran games and icebreakers, we sang in Hebrew and Russian, met many new friends, and ended the day with a song by our PhD guitarist soldier Tal, who will be contributing his brains to the Israeli Air Force beginning next month.
זה היום עשה ה’, נגילה ונשמחה בו!!
“This is the day that God has made,” we sang en masse in our musical Hallel in the Neve Daniel shul on Yom HaAtzmaut morning. “We are hugely glad and joyful in it!”
Mazal Tov to our precious nation!