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Wednesday, April 13, 2005
Why move to Israel?
Moving to Israel
By: Sim Zacks
"Why are you moving to Israel?" Surprisingly, this question most often comes from Jewish people, as non-Jews find it very understandable why a Jew might want to live in Israel. It is very hard to come up with an answer to this question; it is so simple and profound at the same time.
God himself gave Israel to the Jews as an inheritance. He said to Abraham, "And this land about which I have spoken, I will give to your descendants as an inheritance forever." While we are currently in exile, even in our own land, the holiness and special feeling of living in Israel still exists. The existing government, no matter what form it may take, cannot remove that holiness no matter what they try to do. Thankfully, we currently have a Jewish government in Israel, and while it is mostly secular it does incorporate a number of religious precepts into the daily living. For example, on Shabbos public buses do not run and commerce is not allowed in most situations. Jewish holidays are national vacation days. The religion that the government espouses is mostly cultural in nature, as opposed to religious, such that non-religious Jews are allowed to violate Shabbos without punishment, but businesses are symbolically closed.
The entire culture of Israel is Jewish. Christmas passes with nary a whimper, except in Christian strongholds like Bethlehem. On Purim all the stores and malls have Purim themes and religious and non-religious alike dress in costumes and celebrate being saved from the wicked Haman. On Yom Kippur, there is barely a car on the highways as everyone keeps the Day of Atonement. There is no need for excuses when you want to take off 8 days for Pesach, or compromising and working during chol hamoed. No matter what religious or cultural philosophy you follow, modern day Israel has a distinct Jewish character. The holy sites around the country are Jewish, for the most part, and respected as such. History that is learned in secular public school contains the Tanach, for the most part, and Israeli non-religious public school kids could beat American religious yeshiva students in a Tanach contest.
The Jewish culture in Israel makes it easier and more enjoyable to live there, but that in itself is not the reason we would want to live in Israel. If that same environment existed in Uganda, as was proposed by a Zionist convention, there would not be the same desire to live there. The land of Israel is only the Jewish place that it is because God gave it to as a special place where he rests his presence on Earth. In Israel everything that happens is magnified. Events that happen in Israel will make front-page headlines globally, while similar events in other countries will never make the news. The powers and inclinations of good and evil are especially powerful in Israel. There are no fence sitters living there. Everyone has an opinion and needs to tell it to everyone, whether it be religious, political social or just about anything else. The Torah learning in Israel reaches levels that cannot be seen in the United States or elsewhere in the world. The Jewish anti-religious groups, on the same note, also reach levels that cannot be seen anywhere else in the world among people of the same religion. The entire world is focused on Israel, a small country about the size of the State of New Jersey, and everything it does has an effect on the world. I don't remember a day in the past 15 years that Israel has not been in the headlines.
Jews have a concept, "If I forget you, Jerusalem, let my right hand be forgotten." It seems that in the 21st century, when Israel has a good economy, there are jobs available and the move is not as difficult as it once was, that Jews have forgotten Jerusalem. Instead of making excuses, which may be very valid, for not going to Israel, they ask for rationale of why someone would want to move there. I believe that since we have forgotten Jerusalem, God has taken it into his own hands to ensure that we remember. Terrorist attacks and national news headlines keep Israel in the Jewish public awareness. If we would all do our part and really remember Jerusalem by moving to Israel and waiting for Mashiach there, rather then merely putting one day, Tisha B'av, to be set aside to mourn her destruction, maybe God would be able to lessen his actions and keep the global headlines to a minimum.
Another great story.