Why Did I Make Aliyah

Shimon in Gaza
Shimon in Gaza

“Why did you make Aliyah?”

This is a question that has been asked of me countless times over the past 20 years. As a tour guide, I often spend many days together with tourists with lots free of time to converse while traveling the roads of Israel. It is a question that comes up quite often at some point during a tour.

In a certain sense, the question can be perceived as being a strange one. I could respond to the question with a very simple answer; “Why? Because I’m Jewish.” No one has ever asked me why I keep kosher.

Obviously, the “simple” question is a more complex one. The way I understand the question is; You enjoyed a good life in the United States. Most of your friends and family are living in the United States. You were a success in the United States. Your children were safe and sound in the United States. Your future in the United States was great.

Why take a chance at this stage of your life with the unknown?

Our decision to make Aliyah was made in 2001, post-9/11, just after spending our summer vacation in Israel. The decision was made during the Second Intifada, a horrific time in Israel that saw suicide bombings with over 1,000 Israeli deaths and over 8,00 injuries. Every death and every injury affected countless families and friends.

My “classic” response to the question of my Aliyah is that; A. It’s a combination of several things and B. That after spending an extended time in Israel with my family I had the epiphany that Israel was in fact the best place to raise Jewish children.

By the way, both responses are honest, and I still hold them to be true even until today.

But the truest answer is connected to October 7th.

While still living in the United States, during the Intifada, like many others, I had this gnawing feeling of not doing enough for my brethren in Israel. True, we all have our missions in this world to fulfill, no matter where we live, but still…

I felt very strongly that at this point of Jewish History, I belonged in Israel. That my family belonged in Israel together with our fellow Jews who were suffering through terrific challenges.

So I took the leap. Twenty years later I am living in Israel together with 9 of my children and 19 of my grandchildren.

The best decision of my life was deciding to marry my darling wife of 42 years. The second-best decision was choosing to throw my lot together with my Jewish brethren in Israel and to make Aliyah.

The news these days is heartbreaking, to say the least. Every day we hear of more soldiers being killed in battle in Gaza. And we know that the road ahead is long. Every day we are reminded of our children, young and old, men and women who were savagely kidnapped by Hamas, who continue to suffer from untold horrors while still being held captive, and the families of the hostages waiting helplessly for the return of their loved ones. Every day we hear of the families who have been evacuated from their homes, not knowing when they will again have a home to return to. The missiles continue to fly. The funerals continue daily. The horrors of war continue, with the end nowhere in sight.

But I don’t feel helpless anymore.

I am comforted knowing that my 26-year-old son Shimon is wearing the uniform of the IDF and that he is part of the fight in Gaza.

That is the reason I made Aliyah.

About the Author
Rabbi Mordechai Weiss was born in Miami Beach, Florida, and served as an emissary for Chabad in Teaneck, New Jersey for 21 years. Together with his family, he made Aliyah in July 2003 and is the author of "You Come For One Reason But Stay For Another." He is a licensed Tour Guide, a father of 12 children, and a grandfather of many. He resides together with his wife Ellie and family in Mitzpeh Yericho, Israel.
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