Reasons FOR Aliyah to Israel

Many of the articles in this collection mention contrasts between Israel and the countries from which Olim originated, and much of the content here are guarding against painting a too-rosy picture that might be over-encouraging. Don’t let the mention of challenges and downsides fool you, we’re happy to be here and encourage others to consider Aliyah. We just want you to have the most thorough preparation and realistic expectations possible before making this momentous decision. We want you to join us here, but only if it is for you and you will be happy with the results.

Many of the reasons for Aliyah to Israel are more general and have a softer and continuous effect than the annoyance of gruff banking staff or challenges of food labels in Hebrew. In the interest of being fair and presenting balanced information, here is a list of some of the many reasons FOR Aliyah and living in Israel:

It Is Ours – This land was promised given to the Jewish people. Others may make claims, but as David Ben Gurion mentioned when pleading the case for the State of Israel in front of the United Nations in 1947:

Three hundred years ago, a ship called the Mayflower left for the New World… Is there a single Englishman who knows the exact date and hour of the Mayflower’s launch? …Do they know how many people were in the boat? Their names? What they wore? What they ate?

He followed with:

More than 3,300 years before the Mayflower set sail, the Jews left Egypt. Any Jewish child, whether in America or Russia, Yemen or Germany, knows that his forefathers left Egypt at dawn on the 15th of Nisan. …Their belts were tied and their staffs were in their hands. They ate matzot, and arrived at the Red Sea after seven days…

We Won – History has no other example of a people or nation that is conquered, exiled, and persecuted making a comeback and re-establishing a sovereign nation. This was a hard-fought battle that deserves recognition and gratitude, in the form of as many Jews as possible becoming citizens and living in the modern State of Israel.

Israel is the Jewish State – Although imperfect and with a government worthy of criticism, Judaism is basic to life in Israel. Here are some unofficial translations of excerpts from the Basic Law that is the fundamental law of Israel:

  • The State of Israel is the nation state of the Jewish People, in which it realizes its natural, cultural, religious and historical right to self-determination.
  • Hebrew is the State language.
  • The State shall be open for Jewish immigration, and for the Ingathering of the Exiles
  • The Hebrew calendar is an official calendar of the State, and the Gregorian calendar shall serve alongside it as an official calendar.
  • The Sabbath and the Jewish holidays are the established days of rest in the State.

You are in the Majority – Living in any country but Israel, Jews are a minority. They may do very well, but the holidays relate to the majority, the weekdays have a different significance, and you are different. Being “other” cannot be ignored, no matter how proud you are to be Jewish. Being a member of the majority flips that situation over completely, and offers a constant reinforcement and validation of identity that cannot be experienced elsewhere.

We are Family – Israel is home to Jews of a great variety of beliefs and affiliations (or lack of affiliation), but the basic feeling of Jewishness prevails. The most observant Orthodox Jews and most secular non-observant Jews routinely exchange Shabbat and holiday greetings when passing in the street or conducting business. The tattooed young man puts down his skateboard to help the young mother with her hair covering and modest dress maneuver her stroller and children off the bus in safety. At the same stop, the bearded man with the black fedora is helping the older Russian woman get her shopping up the stairs to board the bus. These people are one nation, and while they may have different opinions, dress, and practices – they care about each other and help one another. Unfortunate negative examples can be found, but they are the exception. In daily life, Israelis generally behave as a connected extended family.

Judaism is Everywhere – Shops are keenly aware of every upcoming holiday and people can be heard complaining that the billboards advertising Sufganiot (doughnuts) associated with Chanukah are up before the Sukkah has been taken down. Signs on the bus reminding riders to offer reserved seats to the elderly make use of verses from Tanach (the Bible and holy writings). Common phrases make reference to Jewish culture and history. It is not uncommon to hear the most secular of Israeli Jews saying things like ‘We survived Pharaoh; we will survive this, too’.

Israel is Tough – Although not everybody approves of the way military might is displayed and used in every circumstance, there is no denying the swagger factor associated with having a powerful security presence. Knowing that wars have been won by the same people who were crushed and murdered for centuries, and that they are fighting for you, is a big deal.

Israelis are Patriotic – The Memorial Day and Independence Day holidays are back-to-back here, and they mean much more than barbecue and fireworks. A siren is sounded on Memorial Day and Israel comes to a halt for a minute of silence to honor the fallen. Drivers on highways stand beside their stopped cars on the streets and highways. Students waiting at the bus stops lower their mobile phones and bow their heads. People care about the sacrifices others made for their freedom and security. Yom HaAtzmaut (Independence Day) celebrations are very intense and flags are everywhere. People are really happy to have a country they call their own, and the political bickering stops for a day.

Education – Education in Israel is a unique mix of public, semi-public, and private institutions offering high-quality instruction at every level from Mishpachton and Gan (child daycare) through university levels. Secular and religious education is affordable and accessible, with many institutions offering exceptional quality programs recognized worldwide.

Healthcare – A leader in medical innovation, Israel provides healthcare through publicly funded health providers to every legal resident. Healthcare coverage is universal and required by law, but delivered by HMO-style providers in a competitive market. The result is an accessible and thorough network of providers and facilities delivering high-quality healthcare at affordable prices.

Culture is King – Israel has more museums per-capita than anywhere in the world. Native theater, film, music, and all forms of art are thriving. Festivals for everything from classical music and opera to pasta and beer occur with astounding regularity. Birkat Kohanim (the Priestly Blessing) on holidays at the Kotel (Western Wall) is attended by huge crowds.

Israel Loves to Play – Parks, hiking trails, and sports areas are extremely visible. Playgrounds, nature reserves and other recreation facilities abound, and Israelis love them. While homes in Israel are often smaller than those in the USA, the outdoor space is frequently filled with friends and family enjoying meals and celebrating events.

Being Present – Israelis are much more inclined to live in the moment and be invested in what is happening now. Coffee is very often consumed from a porcelain cup while seated outdoors with friends and enjoying a tasty pastry. Drinking coffee from a disposable cup while driving on the commute may be considered a sign of deeper problems, and is currently against traffic regulations. Not having the comparative huge material wealth more common in other countries makes Israelis more focused on enjoying life now, and less concerned with making payments on cars and such.

Even the Dumb Stuff is Relevant – Petty political feuds, corny advertising pitches, inane arguments about public policy, and all the other silly stuff that one might wish to ignore back home are still about you and your experience. Life in a relatively small and young country populated by people who share a lot of history and culture makes even the really mundane stuff more connected to your real world.

Your Vote Counts – Sure, you may be voting a bit more frequently than you wish, and the debate may be anything but entertaining, but placing that little slip of paper into the envelope matters. Every citizen of age is automatically registered to vote. The lead up to elections features lots of noisy activity, and the approach to the polling station often has booths for each party offering everything from stickers to rugelach. The outcome of elections is important to daily life, and people feel that their vote is important.

Civic Life is Real – Israel has graffiti, but it is seldom impolite. Funny, inspiring, and political statements appear everywhere, but vandalism and foul language are very rare. While Israelis are not known for their ability to form an orderly queue, the custom of the latest to enter a crowded waiting area or shop to ask “Who is last?”, then keep track of following them to be served is universally honored. Streets of major cities are cleaned regularly, and a uniformed person getting into the sidewalk corners with a broom can a regular sight.

The Food and Wine are Great – Not only does Israel offer kosher street food, the country boasts over 400 wineries whose product rivals or exceeds the quality of Europe’s producers. Fruit and vegetables are fresher and tastier than in the industrialized farm factory countries, and locally grown crops are very available. Al Ha Aish (grilled, literal ‘on the fire’) is a national obsession, and the results are definitely worth having smoke issue from almost every balcony. Restaurants, coffee shops, bakeries and other foodie venues often provide a very good experience.

There are many other factors of life in Israel that make Aliyah a popular choice, and although it may be hard to appreciate them without experiencing them firsthand, they are genuinely valuable. It may be hard to put all the social, spiritual, and emotional factors into words, but they are strong enough to make many people very happy that they chose to live in Israel.

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