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Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Paying the Price

Tzvi Fishman
Tzvi Fishman reminds me of me. Except that he says things to American Jews that even I wouldn't say. And, as I said once before, he gets a lot of hate mail.

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.


12 comments:

Tamar said...

To the reasons why we come, I would add, in the spirit of Menahem Begin, because national commitment calls.

rutimizrachi said...

My favorite paragraph (with R' Moshe's running a close second): "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."

Beautifully stated. And please don't grow a beard. Tzvi has his approach. You have yours. I like yours.

Penina Tal Ohr said...

I really brustle at the newly popularized term, "complaingos" because many of us have sacrificed (comparatively) a lot to be here and are truly uncomfortable with our challenges. It would be very hard-hearted not to acknowledge that for some of us the path has been (is) very difficult.

The beautiful thing about this post is that it doesn't blow off those who say its harder here, Tzvi acknowledges that it is.

Its the law of economy: we always trade a lesser good for a greater good and there are certainly more than 50 greater goods we have received in exchange for whateer we may have had in chutz l'aretz. As I once told an Israeli bus driver in answer to his question of why I would give up everything I had in America for "this" - sometimes its more important to do what is right than what is easy.

Anonymous said...

Parnasa is one thing, although it doesn't hurt to think outside the box, but as for his other point, well that is merely an excuse.
“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?”
You may mean well but, this sentence is mind boggling:
- Why would he want to leave a civilized society ( The US has twice the homicide rate than Israel. So where exactly is more civilized? I know that personally I feel much safer here than in the US, and when American friends come to visit, they can’t believe that I walk freely around a capital city at any time of day or night.)
- for a place where social chaos seems to run amok (?????, what are you talking about? B”D I ‘ve been here for over ten years, and I’ve no idea what you’re talking about. Surely not one or two incidents blown out of proportion by the media?).
- where nothing seems to make any sense, (what are you talking about?????)
Whilst you are trying to encourage aliya, the way you write actually gives the opposite message. Westerners in general, and Americans in particular, have a very strong sense of entitlement. Israel is not “inflicting any nick” on you. You are simply adjusting to living somewhere else. Why do you assume that Israel is the problem? The fact that you see your “linguistic frustration” as something inflicted on you shows that you see yourself as the model and Israel as the problem. Well in different countries, people speak different languages. How hard is that?
As a non American, who has lived in America, I can tell you that America is just a country like any other with good points and bad points, but not a garden of eden either. Americans work more hours a year than in most western countries (yet are not more productive per hour), have less vacation days, pay exhorbitant fees for higher education and health care, have laughable maternity leave, (“the United States, Lesotho, Liberia, Swaziland, and Papua New Guinea were the only countries out of 173 studied that didn't guarantee any paid leave for mothers”, good company you’re in), and so the list could go on. And yes one can have bad customer service experience even on the hallowed ground of America.

Bat Aliyah said...

A response to Anonymous: It's not clear to me if this is the first post of mine you've ever read, but you should know that we fundamentally agree with one another on the fact that America has its share of problems.

I chose to leave America because the future of the Jewish people is here in Israel. And there are plenty of ways that America didn't suit me, ways that have become even more extreme since I left.

You're wrong to accuse me of assuming Israel is the problem. I gave up plenty to live here and I did it and do it willingly and lovingly. I don't think everything in America is better. Quite the contrary.

There are very few people (Tzvi Fishman is one of them) who advocate aliyah more strongly than I do. That doesn't mean that it's an easy thing to do. That was my whole point. There is a price to pay. I pay it willingly because I want to be here, but that doesn't make the transitions demanded by aliyah effortless.

People experience very real difficulties adjusting. It's part of the immigrant story. It's part of the spiritual process of earning Eretz Yisrael.

I'm not a fan of blaming olim. I'd rather applaud us.

M A said...

chen, chen!

joshua manevitz said...

Those who willingly jump the hurdle
knowing the obstacles adjusting to
a new life style which is all new ,
will have made the right decision for themselves , despite all objections , the only place for Jews
is Eretz Yisroel , if it's good enough for G-d .. end of discussion
Eretz yisroel is superior , we need
a positive mindset that if we do the right thing then Hashem will give us Siyata Deshmaya !

Anonymous said...

I’m not accusing you, it’s the way you write. Just for example, “Every nick(?) this(?) country inflicts(?) on me” definitely sounds like a grievance against Israel, and suggests that you see yourself as a victim even. If this is not what you truly mean, you should consider your writing style. I’m just saying that on the surface you write as if to encourage aliya, but I find your style and subtext to be saying what a huge sacrifice it was for you, given everything that you have given up. I just wanted to be here because this is where I belong. No cost benefit analysis.
And whilst there are challenges, the truth is that many olim complain way too much. I don’t move in those circles anymore but I do remember hearing the endless complaints of having to go to government offices in order to receive olim benefits. What other country in the world gives new immigrants such help? They should be grateful not complaining. And now with NBN, pervasive English and the internet it’s the easiest it’s ever been. Imagine making aliya and speaking only Hungarian or Dutch. I didn’t even get any benefits because in a complicated story an aliya shaliach gave me the wrong advice, and it couldn’t be rectified. It was “unfair” but I made aliya to be in Israel, and just trust that Hashem will take care of me with or without benefits.
The truth is that the key to a successful aliya is davening and giving up the need to control.
Anyway, good luck.

Anonymous said...

There are some valid points for both sides that I'm reading here. But, you have to be critically honest, a when you bring in a religious perspective. Unfortunately, many not yet olim, in other words, American Jews who would see themselves making Aliyah in the future, defer because their Rav gives them a religious waiver. For many of the reasons stated here by other people. So, one cant use this angle. That leaves the onus on where the difficulty lies in reality, not religiosity, or hashkafa. The criticism should be focused on, (yes criticism is allowed) on Israeli society, and allowing the behavior, the mores of the culture which in essence is not one iota Jewish to be passed foward as normal Jewish behavior. One could accept lower wages, for a better lifestyle in most peoples minds, but in Israel what is really the trade off. Too often one is confronted with a mentality in Israel that is sheep like. Not questioning the foolish political system that they have that leads to pent up anger in the native Israeli worker from being maneuvered. American Jews, frum ones don't like Israelis period. They don't relate to a middle eastern mentality that has nothing and no connection to Jewishness today. It is simply aping from its Arab neighbors, the mores and social behavior Jews should find detestable. Being argumentative, childlike, disorganized as a society, should be something the American olim that know better should denounce very clearly. American Jews know better, whether Israelis like to hear this or not. American principles, were formed strongly on Jewish beliefs, by the founders of America. So too, American morals and ethics. Israel doesn't even mention God in their founding, and its lack of serious thinking about what the country is, should be addressed by people in the know without excuses!

Anonymous said...

There has to be truth, not just idealism.
It is not funny in any way to mock those who say "I cannot make a living in Israel".
Trust me, I tried, and I could not get a job.
There is no sense nor compulsion to just rush to Israel if one has no job to go to, or no skillset to get a job.
One cannot raise a family on thin air
Of course, one should investigate the Israeli economy and train in new skills accordingly before Aliyah, or after Aliyah but whilst living on savings.
But Moschiach is not here yet, and a move to Israel can result in not just poverty but total homelessness.
Think carefully before you go, and plan it economically.
If you are going on a wing and a prayer, it is not enough.
But certainly research, save, and learn as much Hebrew as possible before you go to aid your move.
B'Hatzlachah.

Baruch Eliezer said...

Tzvi is a hero! 4/5ths of the Jews will perish just as they did before Moshe Rabbeinu led Am Yisrael out of Mitzrayim. Our sages tell us that the final redemption will occur just as it did in Mitzrayim. The 4/5ths will ALWAYS find a reason not to make Aliyah, whether it be parnasa, the Erev Rav, NBN, schools, etc. This is very, very sad and it causes HaKadosh Baruch Hu much grief to know his children don't want to have anything to do with their inheritance that HE has prepared, especially when the doors are wide open. They are slaves. Their slavery is their mind, the way they think, their perception of the world. They believe that the world of Shekar is the real world. They haven't learned that this world is only 1% of the true world, and all that they see serves the flesh and their own perception.

May HaKadosh Baruch Hu forgive all of us of all our sins.

Hillel Levin said...

I am truly confused by this discussion. To me it is a very simple belief in HKBH. He gave Eretz Yisroel to Klal Yisroel as a Heritage forever.

Including in our daily prayers is praying for the rebuilding of Jerusalem. Do you have the proper intention when you say these words? I do not think we are talking about skyscrapers, large apartment buildings, a bridge for the light rail. These prayers have been said for thousands of years.

We are talking about the rebuilding of Jerusalem as the connecting point between flesh and blood and G-D. The rebuilding of His house here on Earth.

With that is the re-institution of the Karbanot. Which means that not everything will be sourced on Har HaBayit.

We need fields to raise the grains to be used in the offerings. The groves to raise the oils needed for the oil for the offerings and the Menorah. The orchards to raise the fruits for the Bekurim offering. The pastures to raise the lambs, kids, calves to be offered.

Now since we do not know when we will be blessed enough for the Bet HaMikdash to be re-built (please G-D speedily in our days.)then we need to be ready and cannot rely on miricles.

Therefore we need to have olive trees growing, wheat, barley and other grains planted, fruit trees ready to bear their 4th year of crops (after the orlah period), animals who are between 1 and 2 years old.

So that means that we need to be settled on the Land to show HKBH that our words of prayer are not just lip service. That we are voting with our feet.

We need to recognize that while we have always lived in the hand of G-D, here in Eretz Yisroel it is a lot easier to see this in our daily lives.

One of the obligations that each person has is to make their own will that of HKBH and not the other way around.

One can look and see problems wherever they look, or they can see the challenges that HKBH presents them as growth opportunities to get closer to Him, the source of everything.

No longer have the 2 cars? Now you have an opportunity to get to know your brothers and sisters better, when tremping or getting on a bus with 40-50 of your relatives. Turn to them and say Shalom Aleichem, emulate HKBH - shine your countenance upon your sibling.

HKBH only gives us what is best for us. 2000 years of exile were good for us. But, He also gave us Eretz Yisroel. It is easier now then any other time in the past 2000 years to make aliyah, live and work in Israel.

There are glatt kosher meals on airplanes from just about anywhere in the world, you are just hours away from coming home.

There are neighborhoods of fellow Jews who speak the languages of teh old country, be it English, French, Spanish, Russian, etc.

With internet it is possible to telecommute for sales, teaching, engineering, medicine etc.

Israel has one of the best medical care systems in the world. This is a destination for medical care from all over the world. (Ohr l'goyim?)

There are so many things that HKBH has done for us here in Israel. We are obligated to look to Him and accept everything that He does for us is in our best interest.

It truly is time to say: so is my financial comfort more important then fulfilling G-D's will?

Seems that is the same question that the 80% of Jews who chose to remain in the fleshpots of Mitzrayim asked themselves and failed to make the proper decision.

Don't you think that we should learn something from their mistake?

Please brothers, sisters, it is time to come home to G-D's country.

hillel.leib@gmail.com
Shiloh