The Person Behind The Posts

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Flawed Aliyah

Is there a wrong way to make aliyah? 

Let's say one makes aliyah and lives in Israel but never takes ulpan and never learns the language.  Is that a flawed aliyah?

Let's say one makes aliyah with a family but continues to work in America, sends the kids back to America for the summers, lives in a big house and generally retains lots of aspects of an American lifestyle.  Is that a flawed aliyah?

Let's say one makes aliyah and behaves in his or her religious life, exactly as s/he did in America.  Same amount of prayer, same amount of learning, same amount of chesed, etc.  Is that a flawed aliyah?

I've had this conversation a lot lately.  It seems that a number of olim who have been here awhile harbor strong feelings on this subject.  In general, people seem to feel that the way they made aliyah is the right way to make aliyah and anything different (read: less than) is flawed.

We're coming up on four months here, so I'm hardly the world's biggest expert, but I'm not prepared to judge anyone else's aliyah as wrong or not good enough or not done right.  You made aliyah?  You left another life in another county?  You live in Israel?  You've strengthened the Jewish Homeland by coming and participating in the grandest Jewish experiment in 2000 years? 


So you've been here 5 years and you still can't speak Hebrew well enough to order a pizza?  Or you're still flying back and forth to America twice a month for work?  Or you don't really daven more here than you did back in the Old Country?

But you're here!  And, if you came with a family, you brought other people with you.

Something like two-thirds of American Jews have never even been to Israel and we're nipping at fellow Jews who made aliyah but "didn't do it right"?!

I just don't understand that attitude.


rutimizrachi said...

Ahhhh, I hear the growling and snapping of one of my favorite little bull terriers of the "Get Off Other People's Backs" arena. You go, girlfriend.

Happens to be, I agree. (Surprise, surprise.) There are easier and harder aliyahs. But just being here is HUGE. Unfortunately for your effort, it is a very Israeli and Jewish thing to offer absolute opinions about an array of topics. I don't think you'll change this... but I am happy to cheer you on, nonetheless. :-)

Ye'he Sh'mey Raba Mevorach said...

Way to write! And I've certainly harbored questions about other people's aliyah. Thanks for making me think about it.

bataliyah said...


I've always admired your ability to readily acknowledge where you can improve. Ahh, if only we could all do that as easily...


Yocheved Golani said...

Bless you bless you bless you for your wisdom and for sharing it publicly, Rivkah.

Aliya means changing cultures, languages, mores, monetary systems, schooling, social imperatives etc. It's life-altering. And unforeseen pitfalls are hard to finesse.

It's critically important not to blame "everybody/anybody" for those aliya difficulties. Guilty parties will always exist no matter what issue is the problem. The main focus for olim must be on seeking, creating and implementing solutions. Network with people who might prove helpful, take breaks to unwind, recover and re-energize. And yes indeedy, demand integrity from honesty-challenged pakidim and other citizens.

It's no picnic to earn a BIG mitzva such as aliyat ha'aretz. It involves hard work, tears, fears and sweat. But the spiritual payoff is incalculable.

Blaming olim for their failures is unfair: a 1-man judge, jury, & executioner. Critics might lack necessary facts and can't properly judge. Each of us has unique limits. We do our best and help each other along.

Bracha said...

I had a feeling I'd be reading this :-) For sure, there's no "right way" to make aliyah, and a lot of how you do it depends on the time, "generation" and even the technology that's available at the time. On the other hand, I wonder what kind of message people are giving their kids if they're living here but still have one foot in the U.S. (and I'm not talking about people who need to travel for parnassah reasons). I know several families who have lived here for years, but have seen their children grow up, leave Israel and re-settle in the U.S., one by one - maybe because they don't have the definite sense that they really ever left their American lives.

Tamar said...

Success is so subjective. Probably because I came here before starting a family, successful aliyah for me was raising Israeli kids -- so I felt a definite need to model for them and speak Hebrew, foster close friendships with native Israelis, limit overseas visits, etc. That approach had solid payoffs for me. My ideological leanings lead me to totally reject the label "American" (for myself) -- I think this is because unlike the "Yemenites," "Moroccans," etc., the Americans (or Anglos) as a group are somewhat more stubbornly holding on to their native language and not integrating from the first (and sometimes second) generation.

Bracha said...

Another way of looking at this (yes, I've been doing a lot of thinking!)is really as a generational thing: It's like when your father watches you making toast with butter and tells you, "When I was your age, we had to bake the bread and churn the butter -and you just have to open packages and push a button!" When some of us "vatikim" came on aliyah, there were no ready-made, English-speaking "enclaves" to go to, so we had no choice but to become more integrated (of course, at the same time, we were creating those English speaking communities!). No doubt, those who came before us would tell us that they were the only English speakers for kilometers, so they speak with real Israeli accents now (like we never will) and they never read the Jerusalem Post (like we always will) . So look forward to the day when you'll be able to tell your new oleh friends and neighbors how different it was when YOU came on aliyah! (And I just wanna add that yeah, we're just a little jealous that no one filled out our aliyah paperwork on the plane or met us at the airport with photographers, music and good coffee when we came on aliyah...).

Batya said...

Lech lecha...
Eretz Yisrael isn't New Jersey. But it's better to come the "wrong way" than not at all.

There's another "wrong way," and that's an escape from various personal and marriage problems thinking that just moving to Israel will solve it all. Sometimes it causes much more serious trouble and is bad for the kids.

Still one must come and try one's best to do the most complex mitzvah there is.

Nahum said...

I don't think that the aliyah you describe is in any way flawed. The issue is the klitah - absorption.

No one makes aliyah just to be an oleh. We came here, not only to live in Eretz HaKodesh, but to be part of Israeli society and make our very modest contribution to it.
Successful klitah is a process. It does not mean throwing off every vestige of the culture from which we came and being transformed into the ultimate Israeli (whatever that is). It does mean geting to know your surroundings, Hebrew and Israeli culture - and absorbing these things to a certain degree.It also means importing the best of what you have to offer - and that's usually not the money you spend here.

When klitah doesn't happen,as a rule the olim and their kids just don't find there place here .

Israeli society and culture are in a very exciting place today. Judaism is being re-investigated as a source of creativity and personal growth. It would be too bad to be unconcsious of all the thrilling things that are happening here because we are so immersed in our previous lives.

We (veteran olim) are thrilled that you are here. It validates the decision we made because we see that you realize that Israel is where Jews should live. We want you to stay here, and we want your children to stay here.We want your klitah to be successful and you to feel at home.

A Soldier's Mother said...

Someone wrote, "Aliyah means changing cultures, languages, mores, monetary systems, schooling, social imperatives etc." - no...with all due respect, aliyah means picking yourself up and moving to Israel. End of story.

Learn Hebrew, don't learn Hebrew - doesn't change the fact that you made aliyah.

There is no flawed aliyah unless a person leaves and then I'd say the flaw was in the yeridah.

There is no flawed aliyah; there is no right yeridah.

Sure - it's best if you learn Hebrew; best if you don't have to fly to America every other week to work. Best if if you...NOT because it is flawed, but because you are more likely to be happy here if you acclimate and you are more likely to acclimate if you don't worship all things American, go "back" every summer, learn the language, etc.

But you get on a plane, step off that plane...and your aliyah is perfect, successful, and more.

I'm the first one to rally against the blind-love-America sickness that plagues too many; I can't stand the worship of all things American...but that has nothing to do with the basic of aliyah or not. In my mind - aliyah is black and white. You do or you don't make aliyah - and it all is measured by a simple thing - where you wake in the morning, where you sleep at night. It's best if your heart is with your body, but it doesn't change whether you have made aliyah.