Uri Pilichowski
Author, Educator and Father - Brother to All

How I Became an Aliya Snob

The first time I heard the phrase it took me by surprise; especially considering its source. My friend, a fellow colleague in the Rabbinate, was expressing his annoyance about a comment someone had left on a post of his on Facebook pushing him and his community to move to Israel. “These aliyah snobs that just moved to Israel,” he snorted, “They’ve been in the country less than a year, and all they do is preach aliyah.” I didn’t really know what to make of his complaint. Did he have a problem with aliyah? He was a Rabbi, could he really have an issue with people preaching? Was it the fact that they’d only recently made aliyah that irked him?

Although he didn’t know it at the time of his comment, my wife, Aliza, and I had already decided to make aliyah within the next few months. I wondered if I would become an “aliyah snob.” Most of all I wondered what turned a person into an “aliyah snob?”

I have never been happier in my life. My prayers to live in Eretz Yisrael were literally answered. For a decade I dreamed that I’d be able to live in Eretz Yisrael. I prayed for it, I wished it and I imagined it. Today I live it. I am living mine and countless others’ dreams. I live with the excitement of destiny fulfilled, and dreams realized. It is absolutely amazing.

My family and I moved here a little over 160 days ago (yes, we, or at least I count each day.) We live in an amazing community, Mitzpe Yericho, with people who respect each other, help each other and share our values. I have neighbors who seem to help us in a new way everyday. My family and I live in a beautiful large home that we could never have afforded in America. It has a view that overlooks the Judean Desert, Jericho, the Jordanian Mountains and on the walk to my Synagogue, the Dead Sea. My children attend a public school that rivals any observant day school in America (forget about the tuition difference – I pay 500 Shekalim a month for three children). My kids are learning Hebrew better than Jewish high school seniors and transitioned seamlessly into a new school, with new friends.

I work in a fantastic job; I am the Director of Overseas Programs at Yeshivat Hakotel. I direct three diverse groups of students from all over the world who have gathered to study Torah in one of Israel’s most prestigious Yeshivot. My Yeshiva overlooks the Temple Mount and everyday I walk to and from work through the streets of Jerusalem’s Old City. This is remarkably different from my commute from Exit 44 to Exit 16 of the I-95 in Florida over the past few years.

I understand that not everyone shares my experiences. I know that aliyah is tougher for some than others. I moved to Israel once before and after eight years moved back to America for ten years, only to return this year. I know of the financial, emotional and physical struggles families suffer when coming to Israel. Yet, with all the challenges moving to Israel can incur, I know one thing that makes it worth it.

While in America, we aimed to strengthen our Jewish identity.We created programming, curricula and events to ensure the continuity of Jewish life, culture and tradition. We extolled our connection to Israel, taught Zionism and Israel Advocacy. Yet we were on the sidelines of the Jewish future.

It would be naive to think that the future of the Jewish people is anywhere but in Israel. Whether you’re religious, secular or somewhere in between, leading Jewish thought, tradition and culture is all taking place in Israel. In Israel we aren’t strengthening our identity, we are creating it. The excitement in the streets of Israel, the constant building, growth and development is palpable. We’ve all felt it on visits, missions and vacations here. There is a sense of pride, of shared enthusiasm, of a partnership in something much larger than ourselves that is happening all around us.

When I pray and look out my Beit Midrash windows and see the Temple Mount, I know that our future has arrived. When I look out over my porch at the Western Bank of the Jordan River, in my settlement, something my grandfather could only have dreamed of while lying in barracks in Auschwitz, I know our future has arrived. When F-16s fly by my porch and dip their wings, so close that I can see the star of David on their tail, I know our future has arrived. But most of all, when I see hundreds of Jewish children skipping through the streets of Jerusalem’s Old City on their way to study their first words of Torah, I know that our people’s future is here in Israel. New immigrants to Israel don’t want to be on the sidelines for our people’s future, we want to play a part in it.

People ask me if I ever see my excitement of living in Israel dying down. I know in my first month here I couldn’t sleep through the night I was so overjoyed to be here. I sleep fine now, exhausted by a day’s work. Yet, as I watch the sunrise each morning over the Jordanian mountains, and it’s shadow set over the Western Wall each night, it’s hard for me to believe I’ll ever get used to living in Israel.

Do all of these feelings and emotions make me a snob? Does boasting to my friends of my commute through the very paths our ancestors walked, make me an “aliyah snob?” I don’t know, and frankly, I don’t care. Maimonides wrote that one who truly loves something – he was talking about the love of God – can’t stop talking about it. He wrote that love of God was the driving force that pushed Avraham to tell everyone and anyone, even at the risk of his life, about God. I think fresh olim, new immigrants to Israel, are so excited about creating our future, of being a part of something so much larger than themselves, and of setting Jewish destiny, that they can’t stop talking about it. If that makes us “aliyah snobs,” then so be it. I’m happy to be called an aliyah snob, and I take it as a compliment.

About the Author
Rabbi Uri Pilichowski is an educator. As a teacher, author and speaker, he teaches Torah and Politics, where he specifically emphasizes rational thought and conceptual analysis.