A Soldier’s Perspective: What we Really Need From Diaspora Jewry

Families trying, in any way they can, to connect to their loved ones

Am Yisrael needs help.

We all want to make a difference, but being so distant from Israel has left many Jews wondering what substantial difference they can even make. As someone who appreciates Diaspora Jewish identity, having grown up in Teaneck, New Jersey, while also having spent the last three months in Gaza, I want to offer a perspective which can hopefully speak to your heart.

Life in Israel hasn’t been simple for anyone in the last few months. We all know someone killed or kidnapped on Simchat Torah. We all have friends or family who have been killed in battle, and the cycle of pain doesn’t end. Regular life, for all intents and purposes, has completely paused. However, while sadness has definitely anchored itself in our lives, no feeling has been stronger than the display of hope and pride that our wonderful nation has put forth. The support I, and everyone around me, have received is a testament to the unbreakable will of our People. And as a relative of one of the kidnapped told me this week, the silver lining of all the horror he has gone through has been Am Yisrael.

This reality speaks to one of the core differences that divide Israeli and Diaspora Jewish society, a schism which today is driving a wedge between our two communities. It’s why I feel a difference in the barbeques I’ve received from Israelis and Americans, and why the entire enterprise of solidarity missions has been so controversial throughout olim communities. To live the American Jewish dream means to create for oneself a personal spiritual utopia, while in Israel, it means to become one with our nation around us.

Many ask how they can help but are not willing to sacrifice anything that removes any real comfort from their personal lives. Of course financial help is important. In fact, it’s vital. But that doesn’t discharge us of our obligation of עמו אנכי בצרה! With that being said, we Olim appreciate the struggle of connecting to Israel while not physically being here because we, too, once lived that reality. Even so, there are many passionate Jews still doing whatever they can to do their part, by sending money, coming to Israel, raising awareness, and most importantly never letting Israel leave their hearts. And this is all the more impressive, given that many others around them seem to go on with their lives as if it’s time to move on. What more can these Jews do? After all, whether they’re happy about it or not, the reality is that they don’t live in Israel.

To these people, I’m really grateful; their perspective is not self-evident. But at the same time, while all the gear, snacks, and missions support us physically and allow those helping to feel a connection, it’s not enough. It’s not what we need. The best way to help our soldiers, the families of our חטופים, those who lost their homes, and the nation as a whole is to genuinely show that you’re with us. Show that you wish to join in the pain of the nation. Show that you wish you were here with us, both suffering the lows and rejoicing in the highs. The greatest boost of strength I can receive as a soldier is the knowledge that what I’m doing is inspiring those around me to want to take part in what we’re building as well. 

From our perspective as Torah Jews in Israel, the choice to live here and fight rests on the holy notion that all of this sacrifice is required in order to enable our nation, our holy nation, to take off and become a light to the rest of the world. And the more of us invested in this mission, the greater the impact we’ll be able to make. It’s possible that this isn’t the goal for some Diaspora Jews, but if so, it’s important that they don’t hide behind their barbeques and solidarity missions and instead, own that belief. This is what we’re fighting for. This is what our whole nation is fighting for. For us, we’re not merely protecting a safe haven for Jews. We’re building our future. And each Jew in the world must think deeply about whether or not they want to be a part of it. While it’s easy for me, as someone already quite integrated in Israeli life, to demand that everyone make Aliyah immediately, such a demand is neither realistic nor fair. Therefore, I want to offer a proactive solution which both empowers anyone willing to capture the moment, and additionally, may show Israeli Jewry a form of comfort which no donation can impart. All you have to do is prove to yourself that while you may not be here yet, your heart and soul are, and when the time comes, the rest will follow.

I created a pledge which states that you will genuinely try your best to one day make Aliyah, and that already now, you’ll commit to a proactive change in your life (of your choosing) to keep those convictions real. You’ll be sent a monthly reminder of your pledge with a personal note you can choose to write to yourself, capturing your feelings during this deeply emotional time.

The ball is now in your court. Am Yisrael Beeretz Yisrael is standing at a crossroads and needs all the help it can get. This simple pledge will stand before us as a testament to our true convictions. Destiny is watching. Are you ready to join us? 

The Pledge: 

For questions or comments, please feel free to reach me on Whatsapp at +972 53-448-1196                 

About the Author
Jacob Lerer made Aliyah with his family four and a half years go from Teaneck, New Jersey and currently resides in Raanana. After finishing his Hesder army service, he returned to Yeshiva, where he learned until Oct 7. Since then, he's been fighting with his battalion in Gaza.
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