He recently wrote a somewhat tongue-in-cheek piece called The 50 Top Excuses for Not Making Aliyah.
Then, in response to a challenge, he wrote a more positive spin on the same idea and called it 50 Reasons to Make Aliyah.
One of the comments struck me as both incredibly harsh and also sharply illustrating something essential about the difference in perspective between some American Jews and olim from America.
Paul S., from Scarborough, CA wrote:
1. When I can make a living there comparable to here within my skill set, that would go a long way to encouraging aliyah.
2. Jail or deport the following: Hareidi rioters and inciters to violence. All left wing traitors who consort with our enemies. Arab MKs who are linked to terrorism. All illegal entrants to Israel who don't register with the authorities or who commit any crime (no matter how small). Naturei Karta (expel them). Tzvi Fishman (for advocating violence against Jewish girls)
Paul is saying that Israel doesn't live up to his expectations. Too many things are wrong here. And until Israel matches his vision of an ideal society, he's not coming. He's clinging to the Diaspora where, presumably, things make sense to him.
On some level, I can hear his point. Why would he want to leave a civilized society for a place where social chaos seems to run amok, where prices are high and salaries are low, where nothing seems to make any sense?
If this were a decision about which job offer to take, or which flavor ice cream to choose, or which new couch to buy, these rational considerations are completely appropriate.
But choosing Israel does not exist in the rational sphere. Indeed, for most of us, it's completely irrational to give up what most of us have given up - professional jobs, community prestige, late-model cars (two!), a support network built up over decades, friends and family we love, large homes, cultural fluency, linguistic fluency, the feeling of being a competent adult, etc. etc.
It's anything but rationality that accompanies most olim to Israel.
We come, I came, because G-d calls. Because tradition calls. Because religious commitment calls. And I came prepared to sacrifice in the material realm. What I sacrifice by living here is the price I pay for the privilege of living closer to G-d.
In other faith traditions, monks choose asceticism, choose to live materially austere lives, as an aid in the pursuit of spiritual goals. Although my materially limited lifestyle of today can't compare to the sacrifices of monks (or of olim from previous generations), perhaps this is a useful analogy for understanding the experience of olim today.
I sometimes joke that I earn approximately the same now as I did in 1984. But I always, always come back to this idea I learned from Rabbi Moshe Lichtman in his book Eretz Yisrael in the Parashah
Why can't it be easy to live in God's Chosen Land? The answer goes back to the Ibn Ezra's statement mentioned above. Since Eretz Yisrael is superior to all other lands, both spiritually and materially, it "costs" more. Wouldn't you be willing to pay more for a nicer house (assuming you had the money)? If Eretz Yisrael was the easiest, safest, and most profitable place to live, all of world Jewry would be here. "So what's wrong with that?" you may ask. The answer is, God wants is to live here in order to get closer to Him, in order to live a more meaningful life, and because it is a mitzvah; not in order to buy two cars, a villa, and eat kosher McDonald's. He wants to be able to give greater reward to those who forgo their physical pleasures in order to live here, as Chazal teach, "The reward is proportionate to the pain" (Avot 5:26).
I didn't walk across the desert barefoot for six months, risking desert marauders and starvation to get here. I didn't move into a tent in a muddy field or a tin hut in a ma'abara or even a development town. I didn't wait 3 months to get a phone installed and was able to buy Cheerios and toilet paper with embossed red hearts from the first day I arrived.
Without question, there are tremendous compensations, but it would be dishonest to say that there are no nicks.
Every nick this country inflicts on me, from inefficient bureaucracy to laughable salaries coupled with inexplicably elevated prices to linguistic frustration and irrational government policies, I see every single nick as the price I pay for the privilege of living here. And I pay it willingly. Because I believe that I am doing what G-d asked me to do.
Whatever works smoothly for me is a blessing. And whatever challenges me, I work to accept with emuna.
Without that perspective, I imagine it would be impossible to live here in peace.