Chazal teach that the Land of Israel is acquired with suffering, which is not the best sales pitch for aliya. Moving and acclimating to any new environment is difficult, but it seems moving to Israel has a built-in spiritual requirement for the transition to be difficult in the beginning. Why?
Making aliya is not like any other relocation. People relocate for many reasons: education, work, marriage, opportunity, health, medical, family, or simply to make a change. Many of these reasons may factor into when one will choose to move to Israel, but it should never be the driving force behind the move. The real reason to move to Israel – and to remain there – is because it is the home of every Jew, and every Jew belongs there.
The process of moving to Israel is, in many ways, like a courtship. There is the infatuation stage, typical of those who come for a trip or a year in seminary and “fall in love” with Israel. In most cases, infatuation quickly wears off, especially because vacationing somewhere and living there are two completely different experiences. The traveler is left with some fond memories and then returns to real life, finding someone else to love.
There are those who develop a greater connection to Israel and wish to visit periodically, for holidays or special occasions. They support the economy as tourists, show support for Israel in various ways, and admire those who “make the leap”. Ultimately, however, they are betrothed to another land, and their relationship with Israel can best be described as casual dating.
Then there are those who have a second home in Israel and come for extended visits, maybe even a sabbatical. When push comes to shove, however, their connection with another land is simply too strong to commit to Israel. Their love is strong and sincere, but they are like those who need to see other people, too. They can’t be tied down to one person.
Israel is like a beautiful princess with every virtue. Many admire her beauty and praise her virtues, competing for her love. But, like any woman, she wants to be desired not for her beauty and charm, but for her neshama. She has to ensure that those who love her are sincere. Her heart is tender, and she does not want to be hurt.
So, like a true princess, she is coy and enigmatic. She does not display all her beauty and bare her soul to all who come to court her – just enough to be tastefully attractive. She tests her suitors to determine whether they are sincere or superficial. She makes them work for her heart, and those who give up easily have proven themselves unworthy of it.
Those who are worthy of her will not be deterred by the challenge of winning her heart. They know that the beauty she allows them to see is only a fraction of her true beauty. They know that the unflattering aspects of her personality are largely a protective shield. She plays hard to get – but she is worth the effort.
Many are discouraged by her defense mechanisms. They call her rude, ugly, immature, unreliable, cold, unlovable. She is none of those things – entirely the opposite – but she will not give herself to those who will abandon her in difficult times. Her suitors must be tested and prove their commitment.
For more than seventy years, the Jewish people have been “dating” Israel. Many have fallen in love with the land and built beautiful lives here – not perfect lives without any problems, for such lives don’t exist, but beautiful, deeply satisfying lives.
Many others came not looking for love but with a list of demands, scrutinizing the land with a microscope, sneering at any blemish. This land is not good enough for me, they proclaimed! The land was hurt by their betrayal, and responded with the pride of a true princess. I see many blemishes in you as well, she replied, with no need for a microscope or scrutiny. You are covered in warts from head to toe. I was willing to overlook your faults if you loved me, but since you don’t love me, I will make your life intolerable. You can return to your mistress. One day you will realize what you gave up.
Still others have flirted with Israel, enjoyed a dalliance with the land, but can’t make a commitment. The land waited patiently for them, offering her love, but has been deeply disappointed by the lack of reciprocity. Like any woman with dignity, she has finally made an ultimatum. You need to decide once and for all. Either settle down with me, or we cannot see each other any further.
For generations the Jewish people have dated Israel. It’s time to settle down and get married.
Copies of my sefer, Go Up Like a Wall, are available at no charge upon request.