Some Good Ole’ American Pride - In The Holyland
It's hard to believe but today marks three full weeks since I made Aliyah. And only now is it really starting to sink in that I'm here to stay. See I've always made an effort to visit Eretz Yisrael every year – sometimes even twice a year. But I would never stay for more than three weeks – usually a lot shorter. And for the first three weeks as an Oleh it could easily feel like you're an ordinary American tourist. Of course tourists don't run around town opening up bank accounts or health insurance plans. But none-the-less it felt oddly similar to past trips. Until last Shabbat that is, when I stayed by my cousins in Givat Shmuel. Well the bus from Yerushalyim travels right by Ben Gurion airport. And I looked at the airport and smiled because this time I knew that's not where I was headed – I am here to stay! (One of the gals here at the ulpan designed an Aliyah T-shirt that says "Here To Stay!" on the back.)
Since I've been a little bogged down getting my new life in order I haven't had too much time to blog (see my "Aliyah can be hazardous to your blog" post). So here's a quick update of how things are going.
The ulpan – Ulpan Etzion is amazing! It really is living up to its reputation so far. I have to say though – America, and New York especially, is woefully underrepresented here. Especially considering New York is the current temporary home to over a million Jews. If the ulpan here is any measure, it's a little embarrassing, per capita, how poorly we are doing with Aliyah compared with the rest of the world.
The population breakdown here goes something like this: It feels like half the ulpan speaks Spanish (coming from Brazil, Argentina, Chile, and even Columbia among other countries most Americans have never heard of except for every once in a while when some star baseball player comes from one of them). And the other half speaks French (coming mostly from France, from Belgium and from parts of Canada.) There is also a surprisingly small contingent of Russian speakers. And as for those few of us that are native English speakers – lots come from England, Australia, South Africa, and Canada... along with some of us Americans. And as for us few Americans... we come from Los Angeles, Cleveland, Miami, New Jersey and even Upstate New York – but from the City itself (and by "City" I mean the five boroughs) there are just two (or three – long story and I'm not explaining) of us.
Now this actually does not come as a surprise. France in the 21st century is not the place for a Jew. "I hate the French. They are the worst!" one of my French dorm-mates told me. "Hey – you're preaching to the choir," I replied. And as for South America – I understand life there too is not a walk in the park. And so – not to take away any ideological reasons they may have had for making Aliyah - but by coming to Israel they are giving up a horrible life for one that is far better. This is of course also true of the Russian olim. (They talk about how horrible life was in Russia.) And I’ll even go as far as to say it holds true with the British as well. Anti-Semitisms is beginning to flare up all across Europe and the nations of the world are chasing us Home. I look around this Ulpan and that is what I see.
And so I'm going to hold my head up high now and say while us Americans (and Canadians) don't fill up one full side of the cafeteria like the French do – were not running from anything at all. G-d Bless America! Life for the Jew there couldn't be better. A strong case (that I believe is terribly flawed) is often made that life in America is better for the Jew than life in Israel. How many of my hermanos y hermanas, of my frères et soeurs, or of my Братья и сестры can say they gave up and awesome job and basically luxuries most of the rest of the world can only imagine. (The guidance counselor here could not believe - in a good way - the job I gave up to make Aliyah!)
So you know what I say? When a million Jews come Home from the former Soviet Union it's a huge simcha. And when another million come from South America it's equally joyous! And when over half a million Jews come from France who can't celebrate the "Ingathering Of The Exiles" happening before our very eyes?!
But still, there are two ways to move a donkey with the stick or with the carrot. And when SEVEN Nefesh B'Nefesh planes full North Americans – that are living the "good life" go ahead and "throw it all away" to make Aliyah – not because we are being beaten by a stick but because we are chasing the carrot – that's something to sound the proverbial great Shofar about and announce to the world! I'm here because I WANT to be here. I'm here because I WANT to be Home!
The fourth of seven flights from North America just landed today.