On Shabbat, you announced at your son’s bar mitzvah that you’re making Aliyah, moving to Israel….
Are you crazy? Didn’t you notice the 4,000 rockets Hamas fired at us? Didn’t you learn to run away from rocket-fire not toward it? Moreover: What kind of liberals are you? Good Biden-loving, Trump-hating Progressives know better than to join this right-wing, theocratic, ethno-nationalist Jewish-supremacist project.
To me, you’re the best kind of crazy… crazy for meaning, engagement, community, identity – which Israel delivers in buckets. And you’re the best kind of progressives… real liberals, living your values and fighting for them too. Awake to the possibilities for change, you’re not so “Woke” you are asleep to a world of complexity, engagement, and constructive reform.
Even though you have not been in Israel for long, you’ve become New Jews – true Zionists. Zionists run toward challenges not away from them, no matter how terrifying – because they embrace responsibility rather than shirking it. If we abandoned Israel whenever it disappointed us, what would it be? Who would we be?
While moving your belongings from America you’re importing many of your ideas, ideals, and sensibilities too. I look forward to working with you on projects of mutual concern – and still saluting you when we disagree, because we share common commitments to bettering Israel and the world.
Actually, your timing was perfect: it boosted our Anglo-Jerusalem bubble. Many of us are reeling after this 11-day war: so proud of our kids who fought and our army for protecting us so effectively – while disgusted by the Jew-hating thuggery, the Blame-Israel-First media-bashing. That story, alas, is familiar: the world is acting as usual.
What is unusual, and more painful, is the betrayal of many American Jewish professors, rabbis, students. They sloppily, self-absorbedly, sling insulting analogies, comparing the Israeli-Palestinian national conflict to America’s “racial reckoning” and South African apartheid. They obnoxiously launch lying-libels accusing Israel of “ethnic cleansing” and “genocide.” They self-righteously blast Israel’s Air Force for the few civilian casualties it could not prevent when facing an enemy who cowers behind its children, without taking responsibility for American “collateral damage.” And they naively swallow Hamas’s propaganda without acknowledging Hamas’s desire to annihilate us.
Looking down their noses from their academic perches, their rabbinic podiums, their Peloton bikes, these foul-mouthed fair-weather friends pretend to worry about the “oppressed” — but their empathy and social-justice concerns run out when it comes to fellow Jews Hamas targets or our Palestinian neighbors under Hamas’s dictatorial thumb.
We don’t fit the narrative. Playing their politics of drive-by-shootings, these virtuecrats trash easy targets like Israel-when-attacked to prove they are “good Jews,” nice Americans, not big bad Israelis.
You and your family are the good “spies” in this week’s Torah portion. You don’t see insoluble problems, you seek solutions. You don’t see “Jewish supremacy” – a Neo-Nazi term – you seek Jewish sovereignty, with opportunities and dilemmas. You don’t see Israel-the-broken or Israel-the-perfect but Israel-the-work-in-progress – while appreciating the miracles of Jewish peoplehood, Jewish statehood, Jewish spirituality. And you flip from tourists –latour – to lifers!
You could have moved anywhere. New York’s bagels are better. Paris’s cheese is tastier. Washington’s monuments are grander. But Jerusalem is home: our old-new adventure in Jewish and democratic living.
The spies were outnumbered; today’s anti-Zionist misanthropes represent a small but loud percentage of American Jews. Your presence in Israel proves it’s more nuanced. Americans and American Jews – including most liberals — remain pro-Israel, because America and Israel are sister liberal-democracies.
I have spent these last few weeks confronting the shrill, often-bullying, quite-marginal minority– while comforting the silenced majority, who comfort me too. During one Zoom, a super-hip-looking student described how the Meron deaths, the Jerusalem disturbances, the Hamas rockets, distressed her. Moved, I said “Your distress delights me. I share it. It reminds us all that we have each other’s backs, we are never alone.”
Of course, your Aliyah isn’t just selfless. We can see the glow in your eyes and your kids’ eyes – living here works for you. And we share an understanding of how well so many of our kids turn out despite – maybe because of – some adversity. On Friday, a Tel Avivi friend gleefully told me that an Iron Dome anti-missile fragment crashed into his street, landing perfectly between two parked cars: “We all came out of our shelters excited, eager to inspect it.”
I replied: “You know, you could have told the story differently, traumatized by this terrifying near-miss. Your ear-to-ear grin proves your resilience, and gave your daughters a life-long gift.”
That’s you too.
Some Israelis say “atem olim ” you’re ascending; others call it “la’asot Aliyah ” – making Aliyah. The latter reminds us, as a rabbinic friend noted, that Aliyah isn’t a one-shot deal, it’s a constant process – and it is what you make it. Whenever you and your kids fight for your ideals and improve Israel, you will be making Aliyah. And whenever you all serve the country, pay taxes, shop here not there, host visitors, or have friends from abroad checking up on you, you will be making Aliyah. And whenever you eat cherry tomatoes or enjoy the magic of Shabbat or do whatever you do in Israel that is quintessentially Israeli and you love to do, you will be making Aliyah.
Ultimately, you can’t eat ideology. Your Aliyah isn’t just about doing the right thing but what feels right for you. We Troys feel blessed to welcome you as neighbors, as friends, as fellow Zionist cherry-tomato-eaters, and, as bearers of a proud title that no Jews enjoyed for millennia, fellow citizens of our democratic Jewish state.
Recently designated one of Algemeiner’s J-100, one of the top 100 people “positively influencing Jewish life,” Gil Troy is the author of the newly-released The Zionist Ideas , an update and expansion of Arthur Hertzberg’s classic anthology The Zionist Idea, published by the Jewish Publication Society and a 2019 National Jewish Book Award Finalist.. A Distinguished Scholar of North American History at McGill University,and the author of nine books on American History, his book, Never Alone: Prison, Politics and My People, co-authored with Natan Sharansky was just published by PublicAffairs of Hachette.